EU Seeks to Bolster Iran Nuclear Deal
EU Seeks to Bolster Iran Nuclear Deal

EU Seeks to Bolster Iran Nuclear Deal

EU Seeks to Bolster Iran Nuclear Deal

European officials are compiling options for tightening the implementation of the 2015 Iranian nuclear agreement, hoping to bolster their case that US President Donald Trump should stick to the accord he has repeatedly criticized.
Officials from Brussels and the European Union countries that helped negotiate the nuclear deal—Britain, France and Germany—plan to present options to US officials in coming weeks, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.  
The Trump administration is carrying out its own review of the nuclear deal. European officials hope that by proactively offering solutions, they can indicate that they are responsive to Trump's concerns.
Options range from stepped-up inspections of Iranian activities to stricter interpretations of key provisions of the accord, which seek to keep Iran from being able to amass materials for a nuclear weapon, an objective that Iran says has never pursued.
However, while European officials are eager to show flexibility, any US push to change the terms of the deal could still place Washington and Brussels on a collision course.
European officials are increasingly confident that the Trump administration will not tear up the agreement. The test of that will come in May when the president must decide whether to extend executive waivers that the Obama administration used to suspend some sanctions.
Meanwhile, the US Congress is working on new legislation that could expand sanctions over Iran's regional activities and charges of Iranian support for terrorism and of human rights abuses.
While European officials agree that the nuclear deal does not preclude sanctions for other issues, they are nervous that some in Congress wish to scuttle the deal by intensifying economic pressure on Iran.
The United Nations atomic agency, which oversees the Iranian nuclear deal on the ground, has said Iran is complying with the agreement, a position the EU and the Obama administration echoed.
Since the deal took effect in January 2016, European diplomats have praised the way it was being implemented. However, there was also recognition, following a series of visits to Washington by top European diplomats that the Trump administration wanted "very strong and tough oversight".

***More Robust Approach
"I think on all the different pieces of the deal, you could really push for … a more robust approach," a senior diplomat said.
Some changes seem relatively clear. There will likely be a tighter grip on the as-yet little used procurement channel that vets exports to Iran of goods that could also be used in a nuclear program.
Britain and France had already aired concerns about an approved Russian export of uranium ore to Iran. A second shipment from Kazakhstan is being held up, officials say.
There will likely be a stronger response to any Iranian violation of the deal's caps on key nuclear materials. Iran twice briefly and narrowly exceeded limits on its stockpile of heavy water, a material that can be used in a process to produce plutonium.
There is also discussion of forcing Iran to do more with excess material than shipping it to neighboring Omani waters.
Some European officials also want more oversight of Iran's research activities. The issue is crucial: If Iran can develop more advanced centrifuges, it can significantly cut the time it would take to amass enough weapons grade fuel. Iran has always said its nuclear program is totally for peaceful, civilian purposes.
There are agreed limits on Iran's research work under the deal and the International Atomic Energy Agency carries out inspections at declared nuclear facilities. But one official said there is "no continuity of knowledge" on Iran's research activities and this could be addressed through the use of cameras, greater Iranian reporting and snap inspections.
There are other ideas circulating in Washington for tightening implementation that European capitals would likely push back on. EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, who presides over the nuclear accord's dispute mechanism committee, has repeatedly said Europe will not accept a renegotiation of terms.
In testimony to Congress last month, David Albright, a former weapons inspector who the Trump administration has consulted on the Iran deal, listed some of the proposals.
These include publishing Iran's confidential long-term nuclear research plans, banning further exemptions of material from the deal's 300-kilogram cap on enriched uranium and demanding regular access to Iranian military sites.

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