It’s painful to acknowledge one’s own impotence. But besides appealing to the leadership in Tehran to continue to adhere to the nuclear deal, the Europeans can do precious little.

What can the Europeans do to keep the nuclear deal with Iran from failing - it is an agreement on which much depends for them, and rightly so. Honestly, other than appealing to the leadership in Tehran to continue to adhere to the nuclear deal, they can do precious little. Attempts to protect the Iranian economy from the consequences of renewed U.S. sanctions (and its own companies from secondary U.S. sanctions) achieve nothing.

It’s painful to acknowledge one’s own impotence. But such is reality. The recent escalation of the conflict with Iran reminds European protagonists of the constellation before the invasion of Iraq and its fundamental dilemma: many considered the actions of the alliance’s leader to be wrong, but they couldn’t stop them. Should they openly oppose or go along with them?

In terms of political power, the Europeans can dictate just as little today as they could then. And who seriously wants to risk the U.S. punishing the Europeans in trade, for instance, if they do comply with Iran’s demands? They can’t. The path to becoming a world power is still very long.