EU Applying Leverage to Ensure JCPOA Survival

The secretary-general of the European External Action Service says Europeans will do everything to make sure the nuclear deal will stay
EU Applying Leverage to Ensure JCPOA Survival EU Applying Leverage to Ensure JCPOA Survival

With a US decertification of Iran's compliance with the nuclear deal looming, its European partners in the landmark international pact are lobbying furiously to ensure the 2015 accord does not unravel.

The agreement, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, went into effect in January 2016 to curb Iran's nuclear work in return for lifting international sanctions.

Since then, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN watchdog tasked with monitoring Iran's nuclear program, has periodically certified the country's compliance with the deal.

Still, the controversial US President Donald Trump seems set to stop confirming Iran's adherence to its deal commitments, what he has done twice since coming to power in January 20, albeit reluctantly.

The US administration has frequently leveled criticisms at the pact, the most significant of which came last month, when Trump called the deal "an embarrassment to the United States".

On Oct. 15, Trump must declare to Congress whether Iran is complying with the landmark nuclear deal, as he is required by US law to do every 90 days.

According to a Washington Post report on Thursday, which cites unnamed people familiar with the matter, the US president has decided to announce in a speech scheduled for later this week that he would indeed decertify Iran's compliance.

They also said Trump is expected to roll out a broader US strategy on Iran that would be more confrontational. He is also anticipated to let loose all the suppressed hostility and bellicosity at Iran's historical refusal to submit to American arrogance.

Trump's refusal to certify would not automatically mean that unilateral anti-Iran US sanctions will snap back into place, which would make Washington in violation of the international deal that has been endorsed by the United Nations.

In that case, Trump will throw the ball into the court of the US Congress, which should decide within 60 days whether or not to reimpose sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

Trump and other opponents of the deal claim that it gives away too much to Iran in exchange for too little in return.  

They say the deal does not go far enough in countering Iran's ballistic missile program and its conduct in the Middle East, including support for groups that the US considers terrorists, such as Lebanon's Hezbollah.

More importantly, they say, the deal leaves Iran free to resume its pursuit of nuclear weapons in 2025, an objective Tehran says will never pursue.

But other signatories to the deal show no sign of toeing the US line and following its call to renegotiate the deal.  

Many of Trump's foreign policy advisors, and all of his European partners, have urged him to stay in the deal because, in their view, the deal is working and walking away from it would deal a heavy blow to US credibility, the Atlantic reported on Friday.

They maintain that Iran is clearly in compliance with the multilateral agreement and it will be unable, under the deal, to pursue nukes after 2025 when parts of the deal expire—and will be subject to countermeasures if it does.

They say this is because Iran is a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and has agreed to abide by the pact's additional protocol, which would, among other things, give international inspectors access to more sites, including any undeclared installations, for perpetuity.

Europeans are concerned that the reimposition of US sanctions on Iran would hit their business interests in the Islamic Republic.

Trade between Iran and Europe has grown strongly after the pact was implemented, as reports indicate a 94% increase in their trade in the first half of 2017 from the same period in 2016.

***Europe Firm on Stopping Trump

European officials and business executives are quickly mobilizing a counter effort to the expected US rebuff of the Iran nuclear accord, encouraging companies to invest in Iran.

They hope the 60-day period will provide them with a diplomatic buffer zone in which they can convince the US Congress to salvage the agreement.

Helga Schmid, secretary-general of the European External Action Service, told a Europe-Iran Investment Forum in Zurich on Wednesday that the EU was committed to the accord, saying that "as Europeans we will do everything to make sure it stays".

Also on Wednesday, the British, French, German and European Union ambassadors to the US went to Capitol Hill to make their case for preserving the pact directly to US lawmakers.

They participated in a meeting with at least 30 Democratic senators to explain why Europe believes the deal is working and should be kept in place.

According to a CBS News report on Friday, they pointed out that though the Europeans want to keep the deal, they are willing to consider strengthening the monitoring of Iranian nuclear sites by the IAEA.

"It's impossible to reopen the agreement, but we are open to talk about issues not covered by the deal," explained one of the western diplomats in describing talks in the US Congress last week.

The report also said Europeans have already planned meetings with members of the US Congress later this month.

EU leaders have also said they are prepared to do everything they can to protect the nuclear deal in the event of a US withdrawal.

They have declared their intention to protect European companies from American sanctions by blocking them in the green continent.

The question is how far Europeans are ready to go to keep the outcome of two years of painstaking multilateral talks intact. This will become clear within the next few weeks.

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