Risky Business: Trump to Meet EU Leaders at G20 as Threat to U.S. Security Interests Looms

This weekend, President Donald Trump will travel to Buenos Aires to attend the Group of Twenty (G20) gathering, where the theme will be “building consensus for fair and sustainable development.” A rumored item of discussion on the agenda will be the European Union’s (EU) efforts to set up a special purpose vehicle (SPV), a tool to help Iran evade U.S. sanctions, which the French and German governments are reportedly preparing to host. President Trump should take this opportunity to make it clear that no nation that hosts the SPV is immune from U.S. sanctions.

Both France and Germany initially “ruled themselves out” as potential SPV hosts, but have been embarrassed into reversing course after a seemingly endless carousel of EU countries, including Austria, Belgium and Luxembourg, refused to expose themselves to potential U.S. sanctions.

Austria decided that it “wouldn’t be feasible” to host the SPV, stating that doing so would lead to “many open questions for which there are no final answers at the moment.” Both Belgium and Luxembourg “expressed strong reservations” as well.

For Luxembourg, hosting the SPV wasn’t feasible with U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg Randolph Evans stating the country “would be at the highest risk of sanctions from the U.S.” and “undoubtedly be subject to the full load of sanctions from the U.S. Treasury,” putting a staggering $5.3 trillion of the country’s investment funds at risk.

“France and Germany are making a brazen attempt to skirt U.S. sanctions against Iran with the SPV. It’s also a solution without a problem, because international businesses have made it clear that doing business with Iran isn’t worth the risk,” said UANI President David Ibsen. “The threat of funding terrorism – even unknowingly – is significant. Developing a system that would enrich Iran in the name of security will make security more elusive. Iran has not changed its behavior and if its actions over the past six months haven’t convinced European leaders of that, maybe nothing will.”

Beyond its well-documented financial support for terror groups such as Hamas, Hezbollah, the Houthis and the Assad regime in Syria, Iran has also been implicated in plots to commit assassinations and bombings on European soil this year, even as European businesses were still conducting business in Tehran.

In October, Iranian Ambassador Assadollah Assadi was identified as the handler for would-be bombers who were apprehended by French, German and Belgian law enforcement. Assadi, who was subsequently arrested and extradited to Belgium to be tried for his role in the failed attack, is suspected of being a station chief for Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence (MOI). The MOI, Iran’s espionage-oriented spy agency, has been described by the Federal Research Division of the U.S. Library of Congress as “the most powerful and well-supported ministry among all Iranian (cabinet) ministries in terms of logistics, finances, and political support.”

Even within 2018 G20 host country Argentina, Iran has a long-documented history of supporting terrorism. Iran provided logistical support for Hezbollah’s bombing of the Embassy of Israel in Buenos Aires and the AMIA center, a Jewish community building, which was the deadliest attack in Argentinean history. Less than two weeks ago, Argentina arrested two of its citizens on suspicions of plotting a Hezbollah attack on Israeli targets in the country.

“Angela Merkel stood before the G20 last year and made fighting international terrorism a top priority – but no nation is responsible for more terrorism worldwide than Iran. It would be a tremendously misguided and dangerous move if her government and the Macron government hosted the SPV. It would also threaten U.S. national security, which the Trump Administration cannot ignore. It’s time for Washington to prepare a significant response to stop the SPV from getting off the ground.”