This is a hugely consequential question. Iran's main trading partners are China, the EU, India, S Korea and Turkey. S Korea may have little option but to toe the US line. However, China, India and Turkey will not do so. This means that US sanctions on Iran cannot actually bring that country to its knees. They will just push Iran more firmly into the China-Russia camp, which is very good news for Russia which has built a strategic alliance with Iran in Syria.
It looks as though US actions are forcing a degree of polarisation in world affairs and this is putting the EU in a very difficult position. If the EU defies the US on this issue it will damage EU-US trade relations and set a precedent for further estrangement. Were this to happen it would put the UK in an even more difficult position. Having cast off some of its ties to Europe it desperately needs US support which, at best, is likely to be highly conditional. UK has put itself in a weak position just as the tectonic plates of international politics may be on the point of a major shift.
On the other hand, if EU toes the US line and consolidates the Western alliance, this will have the effect of solidifying the Russia-China-Iran alliance and perhaps drawing India into it also, thus creating a powerful Asian counter to US power.
As far as I can see, we are heading for some kind of breaking point. Sooner or later the EU is going to wake up to the fact that the US is not its best friend any more and that will have big consequences. This could be the crucial issue. Much hangs in the balance.
It is also an important and relevant question why the US needs to push this issue so hard. We saw the end of the Cold War but much US action since has seemed designed to reinstate it. The US military-industrial complex is something of a backbone to that country and to stay in its dominant position it needs an enemy.
The US military-inustrial complex needs more than an enemy. It needs War. Not a single theatre of combat, but unrelenting, endless violent warfare on the largest possible scale. The Middle East is reaching that point, new military ventures are increasing in Africa. For the moment. SE Asia is peaceful, though there is talk of a looming confrontation between the US and China.
Since 1945, the world has largely relied on a global rules-based system to foster trade, engagement in the belief that the creation of a complex web of intersecting mutual interests that enhanced prosperity all-round would make it more difficult to use war to resolve international disagreements.
Single-handedly, Trump is pulling the rug from under everyone’s feet, encouraging conflict and disorder, destroying the ties that once seemed to bind nations together.
I think thekey question for the EU is how successfully can it hold together and play a decisive role in securing peace and harmony. The EU is almost the world’s only federation of nations. If this collapses, we may yet again enter a world of warring nation-states in which the US and Russia compete as rival arms suppliers to constantly warring nations.
Yes, although the amount of war in the world has diminished somewhat in the 21st century, it does seem that we are in a dangerous phase again now.