WES Exclusive: The European Neighbourhood Council (ENC) on the Japanese Oil Tanker Attack and its consequences for Europe

On June 13th, a Japanese tanker was attacked off the Gulf of Oman, provoking accusations by the US of Iranian culpability. Numerous conflicting reports have cast doubt on the US’s accusations and ignited uncertainty of how Europe should best respond to prevent the situation escalating further.

WES had the exclusive privilege of receiving comment on the matter from the European Neighbourhood Council (ENC), an independent think-tank focused on European, Central Asian, and Middle Eastern regional policy.


The recent attack against the Japanese tanker off the Gulf of Oman puts world trade and regional stability in danger. The Strait of Hormuz transports 17 million barrels of oil per day, or approximately 30% of all oil trade by sea. 

It also heightens US-Iran tensions at a time in which the US is trying to punish the UK, France and Germany for upholding a commonly agreed UN Resolution (2231), which was signed under former President Obama and has been described as “the best agreement ever reached on proliferation”.

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly referred to as the Iran Deal, denied Iran the right to develop nuclear military capabilities (to enrich uranium) under strict UN-led supervision and conditions. In return, it was granted trade and better relations with the West, notably the European Union (EU). Unfortunately, President Trump’s ‘America First’ policy reprioritises European concerns (from unlimited migration and poverty to environmental degradation and conflict) with the consequence of fuelling more tension and wars on Europe’s doorstep.

Within this very divisive context, the three super-powers of today (the US, China and Russia) want Europeans to pick a side, going back to the Cold War mentality of ‘Us versus Them’. Within this context, any speculation about who is to blame for the attack in the Gulf is pointless.

The only credible European solution is to call for:

  • An independent UN investigation of the attack(s);
  • Veto (militarily, politically and economically) and counter any attempted aggression by the US in Iran;
  • Continue having talks and dialoguing with each of the three superpowers, including Iran, to seek de-escalation and avoid war;
  • Pursue the original and independent European foreign policy vision, including the strengthening of the Euro (to independently trade with Iran). Moreover, taking advantage of the newly-formed legal Special Purpose Vehicle INSTEX*, will help Europe (including the UK) trade with Iran while avoiding US sanctions that punish European businesses, citizens and institutions.
  • Talking to European citizens (universities, youth organisations, scientists, demonstrators etc.) about the risks of a conflict, or war, with Iran.

In a nutshell, the consequences for Europe (seen in Iraq and Syria) are practically always the same: the destruction of people’s local livelihoods is followed by uprooted and forced violent migration which leads to regional insecurity for the whole Middle East and Europe. This means more societal disunity across Europe; followed by lowered trade, prosperity and much less dedication to the things that really matter: innovation, education, the environment and local society.

*The Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX) is a European-government-controlled Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), a legal entity created specifically to allow companies based in the EU- and in the future, potentially elsewhere- to continue to engage in business with Iran without running afoul of U.S. sanctions.

Information about the ENC

The European Neighbourhood Council (ENC) is an independent think tank that conducts research and implements projects with the aim of strengthening a common European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and the promotion of a Global Strategy for the European Union’s Foreign and Security Policy. The ENC conducts research that aims towards improved dialogue and neighbourhood coordination among EU member states alongside European Neighbourhood Policy (countries), including the ‘Neighbours of the Neighbours’ (Central Asian Republics, Gulf Cooperation Council, Iraq, Iran, and Sahel Countries).

Link to the ENC website: http://www.encouncil.org/about-enc/

Comment by: European Neighbourhood Council

Edited by: Thomas Kurian

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