Richard Grenell
The EU mechanism meant to help facilitate trade with Iran and circumvent US sanctions is disrespectful to Washington’s policies and an inadvisable course of action, US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell has told the Welt am Sonntag.

US President Donald Trump is using sanctions to force Iran back to the negotiating table and to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons, and advancing its missile programme, he told the newspaper in remarks published yesterday.

The European move was “open defiance”, Grenell said. “Going around US sanctions is not advisable.”

“Generally, I do believe that Americans and Europeans have the same goals in regards to Iran,” he added. “But while we agree on the goals, we disagree on the tactics it will take to achieve those goals.”

Germany, France and Britain launched their mechanism, known as Instex, at the end of January, in a bid to uphold the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which already placed curbs on Iran’s ability to develop nuclear weapons.

Instex will allow trade to take place without direct financial transactions.

Iran could, for example, deliver oil or other products to Europe and the money would be offset and, rather than paid to Iranian banks, would go to European companies selling drugs or food to Iran.

It is not the first time that Grenell has violated diplomatic etiquette with controversial statements.

Shortly after taking up the role of ambassador in May, he demanded that German companies stop doing business in Iran, following the US withdrawal from the nuclear agreement.

He later caused anger by telling news website Breitbart he wanted to “empower other conservatives throughout Europe”. Most recently he threatened German companies, helping build the German-Russian gas pipeline Nordstream 2, with sanctions.

Acknowledging that his style was “pushy,” Grenell told Welt it “helps to reform our relationship and make it deeper and stronger”.

He also said that those who thought transatlantic relations were in crisis were “missing a very important point”.

“We are in fact deepening our relationship by recognising that it needs to be reformed in some areas,” he said.

“If you take a black-and-white view on this, believing things are either entirely good or entirely bad, you ignore the obvious. If you care about something, you confront problems openly.” dpa