Despite launching SPV, EU warns Iran about ballistic missiles, hostile activities

“Iran continues to undertake efforts to increase the range and precision of its missiles, together with increasing the number of tests and operational launches,” the EU said in a rare joint statement.
Tuesday 05/02/2019
A handout picture released by Iran's Defence Ministry on August 13, 2018 shows Defence Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami standing by the next generation short-range ballistic missile "Fateh Mobin", during an unveiling ceremony in Tehran. (AFP)
A handout picture released by Iran's Defence Ministry on August 13, 2018 shows Defence Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami standing by the next generation short-range ballistic missile "Fateh Mobin", during an unveiling ceremony in Tehran. (AFP)

LONDON - Despite launching a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) which aims to insulate Tehran from US sanctions, the European Union (EU) said it was “gravely concerned” by Iran’s ongoing missile launches and tests on Monday.

"Iran continues to undertake efforts to increase the range and precision of its missiles, together with increasing the number of tests and operational launches," the EU said in a rare joint statement. "These activities deepen mistrust and contribute to regional instability."

The EU also called on Iran to end its espionage and assassination plots in Europe, after France, Denmark and the Netherlands accused Iranian intelligence apparatus of seeking to launch attacks against Iranian opposition figures. 

“[The EU is] deeply concerned by the hostile activities that Iran has conducted on the territory of several Member States,” the statement added. 

While the EU also criticized Iran's "provision of military, financial and political support to non-state actors in countries such as Syria and Lebanon." 

Despite all this, Brussels ended by expressing its "unwavering" resolve to saving the Iran nuclear deal - also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) - which has come under huge pressure after Washington unilaterally withdraw from the agreement last year. 

Tehran was quick to bat away the European criticism, with Iran’s Foreign Ministry saying it would never negotiate over its missile program.

“Clear threats against the Islamic Republic are not constructive, efficient or helpful, and they are not in line with regional security and the real interests of Europe,” Iran’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

“Raising such baseless and hollow accusations while known terrorist and criminal groups are free in Europe, is not constructive at this stage and is in line with the goals of enemies who seek to undermine Iran’s relations with Europe,” the statement added.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry’s allusion to “known terrorist and criminal groups” is likely a reference to the MEK – a major Iranian opposition group that is outlawed in Iran. An Iranian diplomat – Assadollah Assadi – is currently being held in Belgium awaiting trial for a terrorist plot targeting an MEK rally in Paris last year. Assadi, who had been a diplomat based in Austria, is alleged to have tasked two would-be bombers to attack the rally, including providing them with explosives.

Subsequent espionage and terrorist plots reportedly involving Iranian agents have been uncovered in Denmark, Bulgaria, the Netherlands and Germany, with a number of European countries imposing unilateral sanctions on the Iranian regime, its intelligence apparatus and specific senior intelligence officers.

The latest back and forth between the EU and Tehran came less than one week after Europe announced the launch of INSTEX (Instrument for Supporting Trade Exchanges), the SPV which aims to assist Iran to circumvent US sanctions. While the current financial understanding is only regarding food and medicines, INSTEX could be expanded to include other trade items.

“It is astounding that Britain, France and Germany have collaborated on a deal to help companies that wish to continue trading with Iran avoid American sanctions,” said Struan Stevenson, co-ordinator of the Campaign for Iran Change (CiC), during a visit to the European Parliament.

“It is clear that Iran uses its embassies as bomb factories and terror cells, plotting atrocities in Europe and America and yet here we have three EU nations, who were signatories to the failed nuclear deal with Iran, willing to ignore Iran’s terrorist plots, overlook their appalling human rights record, disregard their aggressive exploitation of proxy wears in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Lebanon and seek to continue to sign trade deals as an act of craven appeasement of the vile Iranian regime,” he added.

However while many criticized the EU for launching INSTEX at a time that Iran’s behaviour on the continent remains problematic, some in Tehran complained that the SPV did not go far enough.

Iran’s Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Sadeq Amolie Larijani described INTEX as imposing “humiliating conditions” on Tehran, according to Iran’s state-run Press TV.

“After nine months of dawdling and negotiations, European countries have come up with a limited-capacity mechanism not for exchange of money with Iran, but to supply food and medicine,” Iran’s top judge told a meeting of high-ranking judicial officials.

“These [European] countries must know that the Islamic Republic of Iran will by no means accept these humiliating conditions and will not give in to any demand in return for a small opening [in sanctions] like INSTEX,” he added.