The Trump administration's decision to reimpose economic sanctions on Iran has presented U.S. allies with a dilemma. Earlier this week, U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted that "anyone doing business with Iran will NOT be doing business with the United States." This threat rang alarm bells not just in Turkey, which is dependent on Tehran's natural gas reserves, but also in Europe, whose economic powerhouses, encouraged by the Iran nuclear deal, have invested billions of dollars in the country's unsaturated markets.
Iran's exports of oil and oil products to the EU rose from a lowly 74 million euros in 2013 to 9 billion euros last year. There is without a doubt a burgeoning energy trade between Iran and the EU.
The decision that the U.S. forces the world to make isn't just about politics. It is about independence and sovereignty.
The Turkish people care about their country's economic interests and the need to maintain sound and mutually beneficial trade relations. Europe wants the same thing. Germany and France, in particular, are unsettled by the fact that the world's former sole superpower, the United States, wants to harm their interests. Millions of Germans and Frenchmen are unhappy to see the White House acting like an elephant in a china shop. As Washington seems eager to abandon its traditional role in the international arena, U.S. allies in Europe have less reason today than in the past to comply with American requests and ultimatums.
Speaking in May when Trump first announced the U.S. withdrawal from the accord, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said his country's intention is not to allow the U.S. to become the economic policeman of the world. German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier also said authorities would be doing everything in their power to lessen the consequences of the U.S. decision.
It is important to note that Turkey and the European Union proved capable of defusing crises by working together in the past. The conclusion of a historic refugee deal between Ankara and Brussels, which effectively stopped illegal immigration from the Middle East and Central Asia to the Greek islands and the European mainland, immediately comes to mind. Today, we must stand together once again to protect our shared political and economic interests.
To be clear, the point isn't to protect Iran or to oppose the United States. In recent years, the Iranian regime undermined regional peace and stability through its proxies and endangered the safety of its neighbors by starting a nuclear program. Tehran's expansionist foreign policy fueled sectarian tensions in the Middle East, destabilized key countries in the region and created a toxic environment that made it possible for terrorist organizations to thrive.
This is not about Iran, instead, this is about protecting Turkish and European interests. It is an investment in the future of our countries and the welfare of our citizens. It is about standing up for ourselves and making the point that we won't be pushed around by the world's self-proclaimed economic policeman. Together, we must counterbalance Washington's recklessness, which translates into policy decisions that invariably hurt the interests of U.S. allies without harming its own.
Although the Europeans were unsettled by the Trump administration's decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal and Washington's efforts to undo the progress of the past decade, a lack of leadership prevented them from speaking up and being heard. In recent months, European leaders have been putting up low-profile resistance against America's insults and humiliation.
At this point, the United States cannot seem to appreciate its long-term interests. Legal issues faced by Trump, coupled with the immense domestic problems the nation is facing, are putting both the U.S. and its allies at risk.
Today, America's true allies must join forces to send a clear and strong warning to Washington.
Despite temporary setbacks and misunderstandings that may affect diplomatic ties, when it comes to commercial relations, it should always be business as usual among strong allies. When politics intervenes, all economies suffer, as do ordinary people. The long-term economic cost of such U.S. impositions on allies can hardly be calculated. However, it is clear that unilateral U.S. bravado on such important matters is hurting ordinary Turks, Germans and Frenchmen, who are needlessly succumbing to growing anti-Americanism.
Still, our cautionary message to the U.S. administration need not be aggressive. We must be friendly, vocal and determined to bring our old ally back in line and that is something we can only accomplish if we stand together.