EU committed to nuclear deal with Iran, refrains from addressing its military build-up in Syria
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EU committed to nuclear deal with Iran, refrains from addressing its military build-up in Syria

Slide from Prime Minister Netanyahu's presentation of Iran's nuclear archive

While the world awaits president Trump’s fateful decision on 12 May concerning the nuclear deal with Iran, business seems to go on as usual in Brussels. Asked at a press briefing last Friday whether EU planned any measures in case the US would leave the deal, a spokesperson repeated Trump’s own reply “we’ll see what happens in the future”. The European Commission was asked again today whether any discussions were going on within EU or with the US about amending the nuclear deal following the recent meetings between Trump and French President Macron respectively German Chancellor Merkel. Both had come to Washington to convince Trump to adhere to the deal.

Macron who seemed to get along with Trump supported the deal despite its weaknesses but explained that it needed to be “fixed” or amended to address issues which had been overlooked in 2015 when the deal was signed. He referred to the so-called sunset clauses in the deal, Iran’s continued missile program and its destabilizing activities in the Middle East.

It was not clear whether Macron favoured new negotiations with Iran, something which the country probably would reject. Today its supreme leader Khamenei stated that Iran would adhere to the deal even if the US would leave it, as long as the European and other powers would continue to respect it.

Without clarifying whether there were any discussions or not the spokesperson referred to previous statements by EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini that EU continues to be committed to the full implementation of the deal, especially since the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has confirmed that Iran is complying with its commitments.

The Israeli government has been arguing against the flaws in the deal. Last Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, in an apparent attempt to influence Trump, revealed a cache of documents or what he labelled Iran’s “atomic archive” on its nuclear program in the past. Israeli intelligence had captured the documents last January in a location in Teheran.

While the documents seem to show that Iran lied about never having a nuclear weapons program (something which IAEA was aware of) and that it preserved its nuclear weapons knowhow for future use, Netanyahu draws a more far-reaching conclusion.

“Iran didn’t come clean about its nuclear program,” he said and claimed that the nuclear deal was based on lies and therefore should be revoked. Mogherini responded that, while the documents needed to be studied, there was no evidence that Iran had violated its nuclear commitments under the deal.

“The deal was put in place exactly because there was no trust between the parties, otherwise we would not have required a nuclear deal to be put in place,” she summarised. She did not refer to the sunset clauses whose existence she has denied in the past.

The immediate danger in the Middle East is not what will happen if Iran, despite all assurances, would restart its nuclear program after the deal expires in the future, but the mounting tension in Syria, where Iran has started to entrench itself and build military bases which recently have been hit by air strikes by Israel.

Both sides are trading threats and it might be only a matter of time – after Trump’s announcement of his decision – when the situation escalates out of control.

EU has close relations with Iran and only last Thursday the E4 countries (France, Germany, Italy and United Kingdom) conducted political consultations in Rome with Iran on regional issues. According to a statement issued by the European External Action Service (EEAS) the talks were “productive” and focussed on the political and humanitarian situation in Yemen.

But apparently the situation in Syria was not on the agenda. Asked by The Brussels Times whether EU or EEAS intended to raise the issue with Israel and Iran to prevent a likely military eruption, the spokesperson evaded the question and simply replied that regional issues had to be addressed outside the nuclear deal.

The spokesperson added afterwards that EU expects Iran to respect its international commitments and that there are sanctions in place in case they don’t but whether they cover Iran’s dangerous military build-up in Syria and transfer of weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon with the Syrian regime’s permission is another matter.

M. Apelblat
The Brussels Times