The Biden administration's approach to Iranian foreign policy has left a void that the European Union must urgently fill. If not, global instability and terror is on the cards once again, argues Emir Gürbüz.

In a recent interview with Saudi Arabia's Arab News, former Secretary of State and CIA Head Mike Pompeo attacked the Biden administration's foreign policy stance. Particularly, Pompeo criticised Biden's response – or lack thereof – to the Iranian threat and insisted the E3 (Germany, France and the UK) must intervene and address the chasm formed by Biden's hesitancy. Pompeo asserted that if the EU does not swiftly and concisely act, the Iran threat will lead to further instability in the Middle East and, possibly, nuclear warfare.

Biden has misjudged the Iranian threat; originally, he wished to reenter the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), a contentious pact introduced by the Obama administration and otherwise referred to as the Iran nuclear deal. However, since his inauguration Biden has not ended the sanctions imposed by his predecessor, Donald Trump. Biden's Iran policy is in limbo, but as Pompeo states this has its benefits – there is evidence the strict sanctions carry weight.

Since Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal in 2018, his hard-hitting sanctions cost Iran's economy a whopping $1 trillion. This damage has been a point of contention since Biden won the election, Iran has been keen to demand financial compensation from the Biden administration in order to reverse the sanctions and renew the nuclear deal – a request Biden rapidly rejected.

Biden has made a couple things clear: the US will not compensate Iran for losses incurred during Trump's presidency and the US will not rejoin the nuclear deal unless Iran stops enriching uranium, a mainstay of the JCPOA. Sanctions have proved a powerful tool, a successful method of persuasion which avoids nuclear warfare, but sanctions alone will not resolve Iran's machinations for terror. Crucially, they will have little effect if implemented in isolation.

On the other hand, Europe has demonstrated it can take a staunch approach with Iran. Only last month a Belgian court found an Iranian diplomat guilty of an unsuccessful 2018 bomb plot targeting world leaders and Iranian dissidents in Paris. This groundbreaking trial proves the EU is capable of ignoring diplomatic immunity and precedent if it involves combatting Iranian-backed terror.

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The EU's action is long overdue but well-timed. Biden's foreign policy position is retreating from the Middle East. A prime example was the removal of the Houthi militia from the US foreign terrorist orgnanisation (FTO) list. Although intended to better direct financial support to suffering Yemenis, the move has drawn criticism – most of this aid ends up lining the pockets of Iranian-backed extremists. Further, this U-turn leaves our allies in the Middle East vulnerable to attack. Since Biden removed the Houthi's from the FTO list last month, Saudi Arabia has been targeted by drones and ballistic missiles 48 times.

Instead, Biden is directing foreign policy initiatives towards Russia and China but as Pompeo states this is not only an example of appeasement, but a grave mistake.

Iran's scope of influence cannot be considered without including Russia and China. Ultimately, power, specifically in regard to Iran, does not exist in a vacuum. It is no secret China plans to partner with the region, and in what could be a sign of a deepening friendship, recently donated 250,000 doses of its Sinopharm vaccine to Covid-struck Iran. China and Russia have long been friends of Iran; throughout the era of sanctions, both countries loaned financial, military and defence support.

Western world leaders must take a hardline approach and address Iran's threat to national and global security. Without strategic intervention Iran will continue to engage and collaborate with less desirable, foreign powers. Trump may have sanctioned punishment rather than foreign policy and Biden may be tentative to do either. But now the EU must assume its leadership role and confront what will be one of the greatest global security threats post-Covid.

As Pompeo bluntly asserted, "Iran knows how to drive a truck through American weakness." Yet, American weakness translates to global weakness, a problem which requires globally conspired solutions.

Neutralising Iran could be possible through tougher more coherent sanctions, or via a stricter and more enforceable nuclear deal, or could be through diplomatic discussions. Whatever the case, the EU needs to realise what is happening in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iran and the rest of the Middle East will send ripple effects throughout the rest of the world.

The Biden administration's approach to Iranian foreign policy has created a chasm that urgently needs to be filled by the EU. If not, the world stands vulnerable to more instability and terror.

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