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Iran Nuclear Row: Should Europe Just Stay The Course?

Israel's offensive against the Iran nuclear deal could be an opportunity for European leaders to improve it.

Long-range missiles on display in Tehran
Long-range missiles on display in Tehran
Clemens Wergin

-Analysis-

WASHINGTON — After the revelations made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about Iran's nuclear program, Europeans are on the defensive. The material seized by the Israelis shows that Tehran has lied massively about its nuclear bomb program. And the very existence of the archive stolen from Iran also proves that Tehran still sees itself as a nuclear power in the waiting, that it retains its know-how and an open path to the bomb.

Nevertheless, major European players are refusing to see this as a new situation. EU Foreign Affairs Commissioner Federica Mogherini says, for example, that based on what is known so far, Iran hasn't violated the nuclear agreement. What we hear from London and Paris is that the revelations only show how important it is to maintain the nuclear deal and its control mechanisms.

The Iran nuclear deal is only a supplement.

In reality, though, these reactions are technically questionable — and politically dangerous. It's true, for example, that in making the deal, the negotiators made the controversial choice not to force Tehran to disclose its military nuclear research. But the Iran nuclear deal of July 2015 is only a supplement, and not a replacement, of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, which Tehran has signed. That's why Iran — if it keeps large parts of its program secret — continues to be inconsistent with its international obligations.

Israeli PM Netanyahu at a press conference in Tel Aviv on April 30 — Photo: Jinipix/Xinhua/ZUMA

Furthermore, the existence of the archive shows how dangerous it is that important provisions of the deal — the so-called "sunset clauses' — will expire in 2025. Why, after all, would Iran have kept all the documents about its research on warheads and the planning for nuclear tests, etc., if it doesn't plan to reactivate the program, at some point, when the conditions allow it?

Iran continues to be inconsistent with its international obligations.

The Israeli revelations show, in fact, that the critics were right: the deal has serious flaws. And if Europeans want to maintain the agreement, they must offer the Trump administration more than the same old salesman phrases. Iran must be forced to fully reveal its military nuclear activities, even over the period not covered by the archive documents. The expiration dates for the restrictions of the Iranian nuclear program must be removed.

The program to develop long-range missiles, an integral part of Iran"s nuclear bomb efforts, must also be stopped. The Israeli revelations offer a lever to undo and renegotiate the agreement. Europeans should not miss the chance of getting a better deal.

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