Europe Must Resist Iranian Nuclear Blackmail

May 10, 2019 | Eli Lake
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Since America’s withdrawal from the 2015 agreement with Tehran, the latter has continued to present itself as abiding by its terms. But on Wednesday, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani threatened to cease its (alleged) compliance and to begin stockpiling enriched uranium, along with other steps prohibited by the deal—unless Europe, Russia, and China can give his country relief from U.S. sanctions. Some EU officials have already declared that this threat shows the failure of President Trump’s policies. Eli Lake disagrees:

Iran has been threatening the stability of the nuclear deal . . . pretty much since it was concluded. Remember Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif’s complaint in 2016 that the U.S. was not doing enough to encourage foreign banks to invest in Iran’s economy? “The United States needs first to show that it is implementing the [deal],” Zarif said.

So why hasn’t Iran pulled out of that agreement, given President Trump’s decision to re-impose the crippling sanctions that his predecessor lifted? One reason is that despite everything Trump has done in the last year, the agreement remains a sweet deal for Iran. If it complies with the deal’s limits for the next seven-to-thirteen years, [after which those limits will be lifted], it can stockpile as much low-enriched uranium as it wants. In the meantime, it can install more efficient centrifuges and keep its once-illicit infrastructure.

Trump’s campaign of maximum pressure offers a way out of this flawed bargain. By waging economic war on Iran, the president is using the same tactics that pressured the regime into nuclear negotiations in the first place. . . . This time around, Trump and his cabinet have vowed that any negotiations will also address Iran’s support for terrorism and its missile proliferation, along with its regional meddling.

So instead of scrambling to come up with another special financial mechanism or a series of bribes to keep Iran in the deal, Europe’s great powers should respond to Iran’s latest threats with some threats of their own: if Iran abrogates its commitments to the deal, Europe will begin enforcing its own sanctions on Iran’s banks and oil sector. . . . Slowly and surely, the maximum pressure is building. Instead of trying to relieve it, the Europeans should use that pressure to get a better nuclear bargain with Iran.

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