Tensions mount between US and Europe over war threat against Iran
By Stefan Steinberg
Feb 7, 2007, 06:12
As Washington steps up its campaign of propaganda and aggression against Iran, some leading European politicians and sections of the media have expressed their concern during the past week over the increasing danger of a US military provocation plunging the entire Middle East into chaos.
Parallel to preparations for a US military strike—or an Israeli provocation with US support—Washington is also increasing pressure on European companies and governments to break commercial and financial relations with Iran.
Under strong pressure from the US, European governments supported a United Nations Security Council resolution in December 2006 giving Iran 60 days to halt its uranium-enrichment program or face economic sanctions. Now, the US is stepping up the ante and demanding firm and rapid measures by European companies, banks and governments to cut their ties with Teheran.
According to a report in the New York Times, one senior US administration official declared, “We are telling the Europeans that they need to go way beyond what they’ve done to maximize pressure on Iran.” The official went on, however, to complain about the European reaction: “The European response on the economic side has been pretty weak.”
The US administration is particularly targeting loans made by European governments to Iran. According to the International Union of Credit and Investment Insurers, European loans to the Iranian government in 2005 amounted to US$18 billion. The biggest donors were Italy (US$6.2 billion/4.7 billion euros), Germany (US$5.4 billion/4.17 billion euros), France (US$1.4 billion/1.08 billion euros) and Spain and Austria, each with US$1 billion dollars (772 million euros).
In addition, US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has sent European governments a list of 30 Iranian companies, which, according to Washington, are involved in terrorism or armaments production, and should no longer be treated as trading partners. Iranian banks with branches in Europe have also been targeted for sanctions.
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