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Growing differences over Iran

Jul 17,2019 - Last updated at Jul 17,2019

It is obvious by now that EU nations are not on the same wavelength as the US on how to end the stand-off with Iran. The bloc seeks to salvage the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran while President Donald Trump wants to expand its scope to cover other regional flashpoints attributed to Iran.

The EU-US differences can be easily felt by Iranian officials who are busy capitalising on them in order to drive a wider wedge between the allies. President Trump and Israel, in particular, are concerned about Iran’s direct and proxy activities in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen and across the Strait of Hormuz. Recently, Iranian gunboats allegedly threatened to intercept a British oil tanker navigating across the Gulf of Oman. 

Last month, four ships were also attacked off the coast of the UAE. This explains in part, at least, London's apparent decision to ease tensions with Tehran by offering to release the oil tanker, Grace 1,  seized last week off the coast of Gibraltar, upon the receipt of assurances that its destination is not going to be Syria. 

Britain also fears that further escalation with Iran could jeopardise its own shipping lines in the Gulf region. 

Iranian officials would welcome this split between the US and its allies by driving a hard bargain on the survival of the nuclear deal between it and six other major powers of the world, namely the so-called P5+1 countries. 

On balance though, Trump continues to call all the shots on the stand-off with Iran and is not about to lift the crippling sanctions on Iran any time soon. The US president is committed to Israel's agenda on Iran and would not want to jeopardise his reelection prospects in 2020.

He is also sensitive to the concerns of Saudi Arabia and other Arab Gulf states over hostile Iranian  activities in the region and beyond, especially in Yemen. This means that, at the end of the day, the conflict with Iran will continue as long as Tehran is in no mood to accommodate Trump's regional concerns.

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