The economic sanctions against Iran that are meant to stop Iran from gaining nuclear capability have been widely accepted by the EU since October the 15th. In fact, EU countries such as Germany, France and the UK are pressing for stronger sanctions and the Iranian economy is definitely hurting.
And yet, there are still numerous loopholes that Iran is using to circumvent sanctions. The obvious loopholes originate in numerous Non Aligned Movement (NAM) countries who side with Iran. Other loopholes were discovered in Iran’s relations with China and Russia who want to cash in on Iran’s situation.
These points of weakness are originated in the global system, and cannot be controlled (and hardly even manipulated) by the European Union. But other loopholes are in fact originating in the EU and its neighbors.
Sweden has stated that is does not support the sanctions and there are speculations as to whether this results from Sweden’s wish to stay neutral (as in WW2), because of Swedish business with Iran. Some European businesses are eager to cash in as well – a money laundering ring was discovered in Austria, German companies still ship sensitive equipment to Iran, Italian auto manufacturers are not ready to give up their businesses in Iran and the Dutch Shell company is trying to workaround the sanctions through grain barters.
And let’s keep in mind some high-profile EU neighbors such as Switzerland who want to retain their age-old neutrality regardless of the fact that a nuclear powered Iran will not distinguish between “neutral” or EU countries. Iran’s current regime does not, in fact, debate with European countries as separate entities – It treats them as a unilateral player.
Whether sanctions can stop Iran’s nuclear ambitions or not is still to be seen. What is certain is that while sanctions are implied, loopholes such as direct or by proxy economic cooperation, are stabbing the efficiency of these sanctions in the back: Stabbing as they are emptying the sanctions of meaning and effect, In the back as this is not done by transparent, public diplomacy style decisions but in the dark, where citizens and politicians alike are hardly aware of it.