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British Nuclear Expert Says U.S. Has Put Europe In A Tough Spot On Iran


The U.S. abandoned the Iran nuclear deal last year, reimposing sanctions on the country and stifling trade. And yesterday, Iran announced it had exceeded the limits that deal placed on its uranium stockpiles, so the deal seems to be falling apart. But France, Britain and Germany also signed that landmark 2015 agreement, and they don't want it to die. I spoke earlier with Sir Richard Dalton. He's the former British ambassador to Iran, current president of the British Iranian Chamber of Commerce. And he says the U.S. has put Europe in a tough spot on Iran.

RICHARD DALTON: The Europeans have been put in a position where, after more than a year of patience by Iran, it's inevitable that they won't be the only country observing the agreement in full. They are bound to negotiate to try and improve the position in which the United States has left them. But the trouble is that the United States is not showing any interest in putting forward terms that would be negotiable. Iran would, for example, go back into compliance if some of the restrictions on its sale of oil were permitted, thus allowing the Europeans to put more funds into the special purpose vehicle which they've put in place to facilitate trade in humanitarian goods.

CORNISH: And you're referring to INSTEX. This is this financial system that allows some trade to happen between European and Iranian companies. It was proposed earlier this year. It sounds like you have doubts.

DALTON: It is going to facilitate some business that is, at present, unable to be completed, even in drugs and medical equipment - strictly humanitarian goods - because banks are being bullied by the United States into not accepting any transactions from Iran, even transactions that are fully consistent with U.S. law. So the trouble is that it's taken the Europeans a very long time to get this far because of their difficulties with the United States. And naturally enough, after more than a year, Iran is running out of patience.

CORNISH: At the British Iranian Chamber of Commerce, you're interacting with companies who want to do business between Iran and the U.K. Can you describe to us some of the conversations you've been having with them lately? What are their concerns?

DALTON: Well, most British companies that were interested in trading with Iran are now no longer interested in doing so. There are some maintaining their links in the hope of profitable deals in future when the situation improves. What is needed now is a diplomatic effort involving not just the European Union but also the United States to take some of the heat out of the situation and set the stage for meeting some of the United States' long term objectives for its diplomacy with Iran.

CORNISH: You used the term bully earlier in talking about the U.S. effort when it comes to Iran. Do you see this as a test of European power, whether it's strong enough to oppose the U.S. and enforce this deal?

DALTON: European companies and the European Union recognize that the dominance of the dollar in international trading gives the United States very considerable power. And I believe that the Iran episode is going to be a turning point. It will show Russia, China, India, the European Union the value of building up alternative mechanisms for concluding international trade that do not use the dollar in any shape or form.

So I think the United States is set maybe to use their excessive power on this occasion but, over the long term, to lose power. And I think that's right. It should be my country that decides what is lawful trade with any other country not the United States. And the United States' use of its dominance in international trading is totally intolerable when it seeks to place U.S. law above the law of my country as to what my businessmen can do.

CORNISH: That's Sir Richard Dalton, former British diplomat now president of the British Iranian Chamber of Commerce. Thank you for speaking with ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

DALTON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.