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This book investigates the European involvement in managing the nuclear dispute with Iran, shedding new light on EU foreign policy-making. The author focuses on the peculiar format through which the EU managed Iran’s nuclear issue: a ‘lead group’ consisting of France, Germany and the UK and the High Representative for EU foreign policy (E3/EU). The experience of the E3/EU lends credibility to the claim that lead groups give EU foreign policy direction and substance. The E3/EU set up a negotiating framework that worked as a de-escalating tool, a catalyst for Security Council unity and a forum for crisis management. They inflicted pain on Iran by adopting a comprehensive sanctions regime, but did so only having secured US commitment to a diplomatic solution. Once the deal was reached, they defended it vigorously. The E3/EU may have been supporting actors, but their achievements were real.

Inhaltsverzeichnis

Frontmatter

Chapter 1. Introduction: The E3/EU Iran Group

Abstract
Between 2003 and 2015, the European Union and its member states were directly involved in the management of one of the most prominent issues of international concern: how to bring the Islamic Republic of Iran to give verifiable guarantees that its nuclear programme would not be diverted to military purposes. Over the course of this 13-year-long period, a group of member states consisting of the ‘big three’, France, Germany and the UK, supported by the EU (E3/EU), shaped the European Union’s approach. The E3/EU group is the most important instance of a peculiar foreign policy practice of EU foreign policy, the ‘lead group’, which has received scarce expert and scholarly attention. This book aims to fill the gap.
Riccardo Alcaro

Theory and History

Frontmatter

Chapter 2. The Theory: Lead Groups and EU Foreign Policy-Making

Abstract
Lead groups such as the E3/EU team on Iran are crisis management solutions to problems the EU is incapable of addressing through its own institutions and mechanisms. A practice that finds no basis in EU treaties, lead groups invariably create an imbalance between the member states in the lead, the insiders, and those that follow, the outsiders. The compromise underlying lead groups results from an intergovernmental bargaining process that reflects an asymmetry of interest between insiders and outsiders. Yet, lead groups can only form if the terms of the ‘bargain’ between insiders and outsiders are in line with the EU identity layer of all member states. As foreign policy-making machines, lead groups not only give direction and substance to EU foreign policy, but also articulate the type and role identity of the EU and its member states as international agents.
Riccardo Alcaro

Chapter 3. The History: The 2003–16 Iran Nuclear Crisis

Abstract
For the best part of the 2000s and 2010s, Iran’s nuclear programme was a major source of international concern. In spite of Iran’s insistence that it sought the capability to use atomic energy for electricity production, policy-makers and experts in America, Europe and elsewhere feared that the Islamic Republic could in fact be after the technological and industrial capacity to build nuclear weapons. A coalition of six world powers—China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States, along with the EU—determined to bring Iran to agree to verifiable guarantees of the solely peaceful nature of its nuclear programme. Thanks to a combination of diplomacy and sanctions, their efforts were eventually successful. On 14 July 2015, after marathon talks in Vienna, the group and Iran struck a landmark deal that removed the prospect of an Iranian nuclear breakout for an extended period of time.
Riccardo Alcaro

Part II

Frontmatter

Chapter 4. The Bargain: How the E3/EU Came About

Abstract
France, Germany and the United Kingdom (E3) profited from extraordinary circumstances—US unpreparedness to engage Iran diplomatically, the lack of consensus within the Security Council and Iran’s willingness to legitimise its nuclear activities in the eyes of the international community—to take the initiative on Iran's nuclear file. However, alone these permissive conditions do not suffice to explain the creation of the E3 group. All three countries had specific interests in the issue, as did the other member states. The association of the HR with the E3 negotiating team (E3/EU) allowed for an asymmetric accommodation of such interests.
Riccardo Alcaro

Chapter 5. The Discourse: Why the E3/EU Endured

Abstract
France, Germany, the UK plus the High Representative (the E3/EU) shaped their initiative towards Iran’s nuclear issue in ways that were compatible with the EU foreign policy discourse spelled out in the 2003 Strategy against the Spread of Weapons of Mass Destruction and especially the European Security Strategy (ESS). The E3 framed Iran’s behaviour as a deviance from the conduct it was supposed to follow as a non-nuclear party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. This was clearly in keeping with the underlying theme of the ESS that proliferators put themselves “outside the bounds” of the international society. The EU had a responsibility to bring them into the fold of multilaterally accepted rules and practices. Both diagnostic and prognostic frameworks used by the E3/EU to construe the problem (Iran’s behaviour) and the solution (restoration of a rules-based non-proliferation system) were compatible with the established EU foreign policy discourse, whereby the E3/EU group could endure over time.
Riccardo Alcaro

Part III

Frontmatter

Chapter 6. The Premise: The Underneath Continuity in the E3/EU’s Iran Policy

Abstract
The intra-EU policy convergence on Iran effected by the E3/EU group (France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the High Representative) was a consequence of the pre-eminence of the nuclear issue. Nuclear proliferation had been a prominent item in EU-Iran exchanges already in the 1990s. Hence, it came as no surprise that the issue climbed the list of priorities in the EU’s agenda when Iran’s nuclear programme turned out to be far more advanced than previously anticipated. Thus, when the E3 engaged the Iranians, they were pursuing an established EU non-proliferation objective. The E3 adopted an approach based on engagement, dialogue, the promise of improved EU-Iran relations and the promotion of rules-based regimes, all elements already contained in the pre-existing EU Iran policy. Even though the E3/EU narrowed down the remit of EU-Iran relations to the nuclear issue, they presided over an adaptation of and not a break with the pre-existing EU policy.
Riccardo Alcaro

Chapter 7. The Action/1: E3 Leadership and EU Ownership

Abstract
Intra-EU leadership on Iran always remained the product of a bargain. France, Germany and the United Kingdom (E3) had to strike a balance between two potentially conflicting needs: first, ensure that they remained in control of the EU Iran policy; second, promote a sense of EU-wide ownership of their action. Being in the Iran group gave the E3 obvious advantages: exclusive access to Iran (at least on nuclear matters), selective intra-EU information sharing, intra-EU alliances and the endorsement of the Security Council. The E3’s policy-making capacity, however, ultimately rested on the ability to promote an EU-wide sense of ownership of their initiative, which the E3 achieved by giving the group’s outsiders a degree of participation and representation through the involvement of the High Representative in the negotiation.
Riccardo Alcaro

Chapter 8. The Action/2: The E3/EU and the United States

Abstract
Intra-EU unity and transatlantic convergence on Iran’s nuclear issue were intrinsically tied. On the one hand, EU unity resulted from transatlantic convergence. France, Germany and the United Kingdom (E3) used the ‘US factor’ throughout the nuclear dispute to defend themselves from intra-EU criticisms, build support for their policy line or persuade the other member states to take difficult decisions. On the other hand, EU unity facilitated transatlantic convergence. During the Bush presidency, the E3 managed to moderate US requests for tougher action by insisting that the European Union would only support coercive measures if they were incremental, reversible and had a legal basis in Security Council resolutions. When Obama took office and steered US policy closer to EU preferences, the E3/EU could argue that EU-sanctioned coercive measures were a way to strengthen Obama’s hand in forcing Iran back to the negotiating table and fend off criticisms from America’s Middle Eastern allies and their supporters in the US Congress.
Riccardo Alcaro

Chapter 9. The Outcome: The E3/EU as Identity Shapers

Abstract
France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the High Representative () enabled the European Union to play multiple roles: initiator of a major diplomatic initiative, vigilant member of a rules-based international system, supporter of multilateral institutions and cooperative crisis management, committed transatlantic ally and non-proliferation norm-enforcer. The E3/EU experience also contributed to articulating the type identity of the European Union as a multi-actor foreign policy system encompassing both EU institutions and member states. Furthermore, the E3/EU effected a process through which the identity of member states was channelled through their EU membership. In the case of the outsiders, this happened because the management of Iran’s nuclear issue reflected an interest informed by EU membership. In the case of the insiders, this happened because the ‘EU option’ (i.e. acting through and along EU institutions) was internalised as a foreign policy practice that substantiated the E3’s self-representation as international agents.
Riccardo Alcaro

Chapter 10. Conclusion: The E3/EU and EU Foreign Policy

Abstract
Lead groups are interest-based bargaining processes unfolding in the intersubjective normative context constituted by EU membership. As such, they are not only a theoretically consistent pattern of EU foreign policy-making but an empirically effective foreign policy practice. The experience of the E3/EU group (France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the High Representative) lends credibility to this claim. The E3/EU set up a negotiating framework that worked as a de-escalating tool, a catalyst for Security Council unity and a permanent forum for crisis management. The E3/EU inflicted pain on Iran by adopting a comprehensive sanctions regime in coordination with the United States, but did so only having pre-emptively secured US commitment to seeking a diplomatic solution. Once the deal was reached, they defended it with deeds and not only with words. If President Trump were indeed to reverse course, the EU can still defend the deal by refusing to cooperate. The E3/EU might have been supporting actors, yet their achievements were real.
Riccardo Alcaro

Backmatter

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