The Special Purpose Vehicle has been conceived back in spring of 2018, it was expected to be launched by November and then by the end of December. It was announced finally that it will be launched on Monday, January 28. However, a cart is still in the garage. The cart is the Special Purpose Vehicle that the European Union promised to Iran. This mechanism should give the Islamic Republic of Iran a possibility to make foreign trade payments bypassing the imposed American sanctions.
Having withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the United States introduced the harshest restrictions on the export and transportation of Iranian oil, as well as again the Iranian banking sphere, on November 4.
The Special Purpose Vehicle should have started protecting Iranian interests on the same day ensuring the implementation of EU obligations under the JCPOA.
But why is the process losing momentum, and who is behind this?
It is already known that the payment channel will be based in France. It will be headed by a German citizen. Shares will be distributed between the United Kingdom, France and Germany.
In 2017, Emmanuel Macron, on the one hand, stated that the nuclear deal with Iran is not subject to alterations, but on the other hand called for international negotiations on Iranian missiles. If Tehran had refused from the talks, Europe would have had to impose sanctions because of the Iranian ballistic missile program. French Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian has recently confirmed France's position. "We are ready, if the talks don't yield results, to apply sanctions firmly, and they know it," threatened the French foreign minister.
This "double consciousness" of the French leadership has become even more apparent ahead of an international meeting on Iran convened by the United States and Poland. The meeting will take place in Warsaw on February 13-14. Russia, by the way, refused to attend the meeting. The conference's obvious goal is to bring European states together on the anti-Iranian ground. And if this fails, then at least to drive a wedge between EU countries and deprive Iran of their consolidated support. Moreover, it is very important for Washington to convince Europeans that the growing influence of the Islamic Republic in the Middle East and Central Asian regions jeopardizes international and regional security. Secretary of State of the United States Mike Pompeo honestly said that the Warsaw meeting will "focus on Middle East stability and peace and freedom and security in this region, and that includes an important element of making sure that Iran is not a destabilizing influence."
The Trump administration is in a hurry. It has to unite anti-Iranian positions in Europe ahead of the first meeting of foreign affairs ministers of the EU and the League of Arab States that is to take place shortly after the Warsaw conference, on February 24-25. Not all members of the League of Arab States that brings together 22 Arab countries are ready to follow the leash of Washington and such Iranophobes as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Pressure on Iran is colossal. Allegations that Iran was involved in preparing terrorist attacks against the opposition People's Mujahidin Organization of Iran in France and Denmark formed the background for ballistic missile demands. Iran considers the organization as terrorist, and there are reasons for that. Tehran resolutely rejects these allegations saying that they are unsubstantiated and far-fetched. However, the EU has already introduced sanctions against Iran showing no evidence. It is well-known that new legal rules in Europe require no evidence. It is enough to suggest who can profit from a crime and then the "highly likely" principle takes effect instead of the presumption of innocence.
According to Reuters, France, the United Kingdom and other EU members are considering new economic sanctions against Iran. These restrictions may include freezing assets and banning foreign visits of the elite military unit, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, that supervises the Iranian missile industry, as well as people involved in the development of ballistic missiles.
Apparently dragging on the launch of the Special Purpose Vehicle, France, the United Kingdom and Germany are thus trying to exert pressure on the Islamic Republic and to make it discuss its missile industry.
Responding to Le Drian threats, spokesman of the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Bahram Ghasemi reminded that the Iranian missile program and its military potential are a part of "its legitimate defensive agenda and the guarantor of national security, which is based on the doctrine of deterrence." He also said that Iran is forming its defense capabilities based on a real evaluation of current threats and that it would bolster them to the extent it considered necessary. "Our missile capability is not negotiable," Ghasemi reiterated Iran's well-known position that was first stated at the nuclear talks. Back then France tried to lobby the issue and include the missile topic on the agenda of the talks. But Iran firmly defended its position. Ghasemi said that any news sanctions by European states would convince Iran of the need to revise its interaction with these countries.
The UN Security Council Resolution 2231 adopted in support of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in 2015 does not prohibit Iran's developing ballistic missiles. The document only calls on Tehran not to carry out activities relating to ballistic missiles designed the way that they are capable of delivering nuclear weapons.
Iran gave up the development and possession of nuclear weapons and joined the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. All of its nuclear activities are under full control of the IAEA.
Moreover, the regional agenda is no more a topic for discussions in the context of the nuclear deal or the UN Security Council resolution.
Leading Iranian media are directly accusing France of dragging on the launch of the Special Purpose Vehicle. "French support for terrorist and anti-Iranian groups, helping Saddam during the war, imposing various economic sanctions against Iran, non-lifting of Iran’s sanctions after a nuclear deal, and opposition to Iran’s missile program, all indicate that the French government is the enemy of the Iranian nation," Mohammad Ghaderi, a political analyst and observer of Iran's Mehr news agency, wrote.
Paris, London and Berlin have repeatedly stated that they disagreed with the withdrawal of the United States from the JCPOA and called to preserve the nuclear deal. However, in reality their position looks much more casuistic then Washington's direct refusal from the nuclear deal. Trump at least did not hide that he did not like it and did what he had promised – withdrew from the deal.
There is a feeling that Washington and the European 'troika' are acting as one man. And there is an indirect proof for that. On January 30, the Swiss payment channel for Iran was launched allowing Tehran to make payments for imported food products, medicines and medical equipment. Prior to that Tehran had transferred its funds from Japan to the Swiss-based Banque de Commerce et de Placements. Washington did not mind the launch of the Swiss channel. And the Swiss channel was launched just within one month. A cosmic speed compared to the launch of the Special Purpose Vehicle that Tehran is apparently tired of waiting for.