Two American satellite imagery companies captured pictures of Iran’s Imam Khomeini Space Center on February 5. The photographs released on February 7, hint that Iran had attempted to launch a second satellite; the country had failed in its first try in January.
On January 15, USA strongly condemned Iran’s rocket launch attempt, with the Trump administration issuing a warning that it “will not stand for Iran’s blatant disregard for international norms.” President Donald Trump believes Iran’s satellite program is a cover for testing ballistic missiles, which defies the UN resolution that prohibits any activity related to delivering nuclear weapons. Washington is concerned Iran’s program is going against the UN Security Council resolution that asked the Islamic nation to not indulge in any activity related to ballistic missiles, which can off carry nuclear weapons.
However, Iran has refrained from affirming a second satellite launch. The images, released by DigitalGlobe and Planet, display visual proofs of a blast off, although Iranian President Hassan Rohani said the satellites had no military intention, but would collect information on environmental change in Iran.
Iran has reiterated that its rocket tests have no military component, and that it has not violated the UN resolution. Notwithstanding the rebuttals, US has been increasing pressure on Iran in various forms. In May 2018, President Trump revoked the nuke pact signed by Barack Obama, and reimposed sanctions on Iran. The US has threatened strict actions against any nation who breaches the ban.
However, three European nations have found a way to circumvent the US sanctions, by offering Iran a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) – a separate legal payment route in September 2018. After months of dillydallying, on January 31, the SPV with the name of Instex was rolled out by the three European countries — France, Germany and the UK (known as E3). This EU-supported mechanism will facilitate European trade with Iran. The E3 foreign ministers declared in a joint statement that initially, Instex will support “pharmaceutical, medical devices and agri-food goods”.
However, it is highly probable that Instex would not be operational for the next few months. The E3 foreign ministers announced that at the outset, the vehicle will support pharmaceutical, medical devices and agri-food goods.
Europe’s decision to stand by its ground against an aggressive US sanction is noteworthy, for in the past, the EU has been loyal to most of USA’s foreign policies. The Iran nuke deal gave an opportunity to Europe to rise from the shadows of the US and make a mark as a global player. Although the EU had permit to trade with the Islamic nation on non-sanctioned goods, most European banks with US ties avoided Iranian dealings. With SPV, European companies can now open business with Iran, without getting intimidated by US threats.
The relevance of Instex is limited at present, but it will benefit Iran in lot of aspects. And with such a vehicle to bypass US sanctions, there could be a lot of trade benefit for all the parties involved.
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