INSTEX, really an alternative for Iran?

(To Andrea Gaspardo)

After a preparatory work lasting months, and preceded by an announcement dated 31 January 2019, the so-called "Trade Exchange Support Tool" (INSTEX) has finally come into operation.

Established as a joint Anglo-Franco-German effort to honor European commitments in the context of the JCPOA, the nuclear non-proliferation treaty signed by Iran before the international community, INSTEX should guarantee payment transactions otherwise closed to Iranian banks since the SWIFT-based financial messaging service in Belgium decided to give in to American pressure following the sanctions introduced by the Trump administration by cutting off Iranian banks from all international financial circuits.

Hailed by a large part of the uninformed press as the "long-awaited recovery of Europe's economic independence vis-à-vis the United States", INSTEX looks much more like a facade move than a real attempt at a careful look. put sticks in the wheels of the White House's geopolitical designs.

First of all, the spectrum of fields of use of INSTEX reduces it exclusively to the trade in medicines, agricultural products and food in general; however these same sectors are already excluded from the sanctions regime approved by the White House! Secondly, European states have simultaneously announced that a full operation of the INSTEX system is subject to Iran's acceptance of two very special conditions:

  • joining the "International Financial Action Group" (FATF);
  • enter into a negotiation process related to the Iranian missile program.

Obviously the government of Tehran has vigorously rejected these requests. In the first case, in fact, if the country were to join the FATF, all the banks, as well as the credit institutions headed by the so-called “bonyads” (the charitable foundations) would be forced to adapt to the international transparency and control rules, and for a country to an opaque economy like Iran this represents an anathema.

As for the second condition, even here the possibility of cooperation by the Iranian authorities is almost nothing given that Tehran has repeatedly stressed already at the time of nuclear negotiations that its military programs aimed at strengthening its military capabilities in the field conventional law would never have become the subject of discussion and negotiation. The Iranian armed forces have been engaged for years in a slow but constant process of strengthening and modernization in order to increase their capacity both in symmetrical and asymmetrical war contexts. One of the pillars of this strategy is precisely to create an adequate missile force to carry out "saturation attacks" against highly paying targets throughout the Middle East so as to dissuade the United States and its allies in the region from the carry out an attack against the Islamic Republic. Given the extreme importance of both ballistic missiles and long-range artillery rockets as instruments of containment in the country's political-diplomatic-military doctrine, it is therefore unthinkable that the Iranians move back even a centimeter in this field.

It remains therefore to understand what is really behind all this bizarre INSTEX creation maneuver.

The answer is very simple, actually. The European countries have simply surrendered to Trump's strategy and, absolutely do not want to incur the ire of the president in stars and stripes and indeed they are preparing the stage for the withdrawal of Iran from the JCPOA, to then have free hand to take all responsibility to the Iranian regime and thus also formally align with Washington's positions.

Photo: IRNA