Iran is a Direct Threat to Europe

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Hamas’ attacks against Israel on October 7 have laid bare an uncomfortable reality for the West: The threat from Islamic extremism is as real as ever.

A long effort by the United States, Europe and Israel to “manage” rather than solve security problems in the region has proven an utter failure. And Israel’s approach of occasionally “mowing the lawn” with limited raids against terrorists in Gaza is the most immediate example of a policy that’s no longer viable.

Thus, to protect its citizens, Israel must now deal with Hamas once and for all. The U.S. and Europe should give the country all the backing it needs to do so, and this includes applying diplomatic pressure to deny Hamas sanctuary in places like Turkey and Qatar.

Behind Hamas, however, lurks a much greater, existential threat to Israel that’s also a direct threat to the West’s security on the whole — and that is Iran.

The Iranian regime, which supports Hamas and never seems to miss an opportunity to call for “death to Israel” or “death to America,” continues on its path toward nuclear weapons. And while the foreboding chants in Tehran may be more focused on the U.S., Europe is comparatively much more exposed to Iran’s missiles, drones, terror proxies and threats to oil and gas supplies.

And the country’s hostile actions have been directly impacting Europe already. Russia has been deploying Iranian drones against Ukraine for over a year now, keeping Ukrainian air defenses and civilian infrastructure under stress. Tehran is also actively assisting Moscow in building up indigenous drone production capacity, potentially enabling Russia to build over 6,000 new attack drones by the summer of 2025. And these drones aren’t just a threat to Ukraine — they’re a threat to every NATO country bordering Russia.  

Then, on top of that, there’s the severe economic danger that Iran’s threatening posture and support for terrorist proxies across the Middle East poses to Europe.

The October 7 attacks led Israel to shut down production at the Tamar gas field in the Mediterranean, as it was located within range of rocket attacks from Gaza, leading in turn to an immediate price spike in Europe. This price spike pales in comparison to the likely economic effects of an escalation by other Iranian proxies — such as Hezbollah in Lebanon or the Houthis in Yemen — let alone any attempt by Iran itself to shut down the Strait of Hormuz, where over a fifth of the world’s oil supply passes on a daily basis.

Europe can’t ignore the Iranian regime’s extreme ideological hostility against fundamental Western values such as freedom of speech, religious tolerance and women’s rights either. Openly cheering at last year’s attack on author Salman Rushdie — who has had an Iranian fatwa hanging over his head since 1989 — and carrying out kidnappings and assassinations of dissidents in Europe and the U.S., the Iranian regime’s targeting of specific individuals will have a chilling effect on our culture of free speech if it’s allowed to continue.

Finally, possession of a nuclear weapon combined with advanced missile technology for delivery would empower and embolden the Iranian regime to turn up the heat, threatening nuclear Armageddon not just against Israel but against Europe as well.

And Iran is now closer than ever to building a nuclear weapon. David Albright, my colleague at the Institute for Science and International Security, estimates Iran could build a crude nuclear weapon in just six months, while the estimated time it needs to build the infrastructure for mass-produced missile-deliverable nuclear weapons is two years.  

The 2015 nuclear deal with Iran — the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — was the West’s attempt to “manage” this nuclear threat and avoid a major crisis. But the deal was based on the assumption that the Iranian regime was a rational actor, susceptible to an appropriate blend of carrots and sticks — not an apocalyptic one.

Iran’s support for Hamas’ barbaric attacks on Israel has disproven this assumption.

Economic incentives won’t trump the ideological fanaticism motivating the mullahs in Tehran, and this leaves Israel, Europe and the U.S. with only one option: A “stick-only” approach that maximizes military, economic and diplomatic pressure on Iran.

But while the U.S. and Israel are better positioned than Europe to deal with Iran militarily, European countries hold significant power to economically and diplomatically pressure the country.

As parties to the JCPOA, France, Germany and the United Kingdom have the power to trigger a “snapback,” restoring the pre-JCPOA United Nations sanctions regime against Iran.

Importantly, such a snapback would reinstate the missile embargo against the country that expired in October, preventing Russia and others from legally helping Iran’s development of advanced missiles. It would also jeopardize Iran’s support for Russia’s drone program. Moreover, a snapback would pave the way for imposing crippling European sanctions on Iran’s shipping, banking and energy sectors, many of which were in place before the JCPOA.

Such a sanctions offensive could then be combined with the decision to classify the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and the political leadership of Iran’s Lebanese proxy Hezbollah as terrorist organizations, which would then align European and American policy.

For their part, U.S. lawmakers just introduced what has been described as “the toughest Iran sanctions package ever proposed by Congress.” Similar European measures would help counter the threat from Iran, and they would also be a welcome sign of transatlantic unity and solidarity with Israel at a time when our adversaries are doing their best to fracture the West.

Source : Politico