The idea of INSTEX was initially meant to provide a legal basis for sanction circumventing trade of non-sanctioned goods. In general, there is and was no need for INSTEX, had it not been for the vague hope that eventually INSTEX may be used for oil deals with Iran. French president Macron even agreed to a 15 billion credit for INSTEX deals in return for future Iranian oil supply, but this initiative was stopped early on a small gesture by the US government.
There have been a lot of news items concerning INSTEX, especially mutually accusations from E3 and Iran’s government, claiming that the other is responsible for the failure of the institution and only one so-called success.
The thing is, that at the time it seemed like a good idea for both sides. EU wanted to show that it doesn’t cave under US pressure without risking an economic breakdown and Iran had to calm down its merchants and showing some hope for the future to avoid another green revolution. The price was supposed to be neglectable, but in fact most of the activity of INSTEX was making it seem as if there is a reason to pay salaries to useless technocrats, handling a useless apparatus. Soon after UK, France and Germany founded the stock company INSTEX SAS in France, most of the officials took a step back and were replaced by sleek diplomats who know their way around limitations and Baksheesh.
Very soon Michael Bock and his friends understood that no-one expects them to provide a real alternative, they started to charge expenses for their efforts. As the expenses grew, they became an icon for Iran-EU relations, inevitable, a part of the deal now and in the future, for no good reason at all.
Now, as JCPOA is reconsidered by all sides, INSTEX is promoting its role as mediator on the economic level, the only reason being that they need someone to pay their salaries. One should consider the possibility, that keeping INSTEX alive could turn this apparatus into a self-indulgent monster, very much like the 1995 “oil for food” initiative, paying itself expenses for non-existing and unneeded business transactions.
INSTEX did do something positive: It provided proof that US sanctions are effective, that there is no real way around them and that even Iran doesn’t want them. It’s time to cut the losses, send the whole cast of this farse to play a part in another drama, or in this case, another comedy.