EU Should Continue to Implement JCPOA in Case of US Future Repudiation

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Exclusive Interview with Peter Jenkins
By: Sara Massoumi

Peter Jenkins was a British career diplomat for 33 years, following studies at the Universities of Cambridge and Harvard. He served in Vienna (twice), Washington, Paris, Brasilia and Geneva. He specialized in global economic and security issues. His last assignment (2001-06) was that of UK Ambassador to the IAEA and UN (Vienna). Since 2006 he has represented the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership, advised the Director of IIASA and set up a partnership, ADRgAmbassadors, with former diplomatic colleagues, to offer the corporate sector dispute resolution and solutions to cross-border problems. He was an associate fellow of the Geneva Centre for Security Policy from 2010 to 2012. He also writes and speaks on nuclear and trade policy issues. Etemad Persian daily journalist, Sara Massoumi has interviewed with him about nuclear-weapon-free zone Middle East, political pressure on Israel to accept the NPT, US strong political and security alliance with Israel, P5+1 and Iran nuclear deal, JCPOA enforcement, EU guarantee of  JCPOA enforcement, IAEA’s concerns and assurances. The following is the full transcript of the interview:

Q: In one of your recent articles you talked about nuclear-weapon-free zone Middle East. According to your suggestion, how do you think it is possible to persuade Israel to accept the NPT?

A: I have to admit to you that the article to which you refer was written as a provocation to American readers. I do not see the remotest possibility, at this time, of US politics creating space for President Obama’s administration to put Israel under pressure to adhere to the NPT. It is of course a scandal that for fifty years the US has pretended to be unaware of Israel’s nuclear weapons, and has indulged the weapons’ existence. But it is a scandal to which there is no end in sight. Both Republicans and Democrats have convinced themselves that they would suffer electorally if they attempted to persuade Israel that it has no need of these weapons, and that their existence is one of the darkest clouds hanging over the nuclear non-proliferation regime.

Q: Israel has never been under political pressure to accept the NPT by the EU Countries. Do you think that the security and political situation in the Middle East has changed in a way that the EU Countries can now enter the process of pressuring Israel to accept the NPT?

A: When I wrote the article, in August, I was hopeful that circumstances might have prepared EU members to be less tolerant of Israel’s nuclear weapons. Since the turn of the century Israeli aggression and the indiscriminate killing of civilians in Gaza and the Lebanon have turned European public opinion against Israel. Add to which, Europeans have finally grasped that a majority of Israelis have no intention of withdrawing from the occupied territory on the West Bank. Since 2010 Israel has blocked progress towards a WMDFZ in the Middle East, thwarting the efforts of an EU member state, Finland, to fulfill the mission entrusted to it by the 2010 NPT review conference.  And Israel’s Prime Minister has done his very best (or worst?) to sabotage a nuclear agreement with Iran that is in the EU’s interest.

But I was wrong. At this year’s IAEA General Conference, in September, the EU once more voted against an Arab League resolution which called on Israel to adhere to the NPT and place all its nuclear material under comprehensive IAEA safeguards. I fear that in Europe as well as the US politicians are reluctant to annoy Israel. And of course some EU governments are always hesitant to risk US displeasure.

Q: You spoke about the P5+1 talks with Israel about nuclear disarmament. Do you think that a country like the US, with strong political and security alliance with Israel, would basically go through the process of exerting pressure on Tel Aviv?

A: No, not the slightest chance. I suggested Israel as the next nuclear challenge for the P5+1 only to draw attention to a huge anomaly in US leadership in relation to nuclear proliferation risks. I have a weakness: I find hypocrisy and double standards distasteful.

Q: Do you think Iran’s PMD agreement deal will be achieved by the end of December?

A: I am unsighted as to the time Iran needs to implement its initial commitments under the agreement. I suspect that some of these tasks will only be completed in January or February. But my understanding is that the P5+1 will be ready for the next phase of implementation by the end of the year if Iran is; and I am hopeful that by then the Director General of the IAEA will have been able to assure the P5+1 that Iran has provided all necessary cooperation in relation to outstanding IAEA concerns.  

Q: To what extent do you think the commitments between Iran and P5+1 is effective and sustainable for the next ten years?         

A: What worries me most is that the limited political support which the agreement enjoys in the US may dwindle to the point at which the agreement becomes the victim of Israeli hostility to Iran. What I don’t know is how Europe, Asia and Iran would react to a future US administration repudiating the agreement. I hope they would agree to ignore the US and continue to reap the reciprocal benefits that the JCPOA offers. It looks to me that this would be both feasible and wise.  

Q: How would the EU guarantee JCPOA enforcement, in case the Americans ignore the provisions in the future?

A: Europe could not guarantee anything. It could try to persuade a future US administration that repudiating the JCPOA would jeopardise European enthusiasm for US leadership. But US politicians would know that Europe is so dependent on the US for its security that repudiating the JCPOA would not pose a lasting threat to trans-Atlantic relationships. So the most Europe would be likely to obtain is tacit US consent that on this point the US and EU would go separate ways, the EU continuing to implement the JCPOA unmolested by the US. 

Q: Do you think that the JCPOA prevented the Middle East countries from obtaining nuclear weapons or encouraged them?

A: If Iran were to acquire nuclear weapons, there would be a risk, although by no means a certainty, that over time two or three other Middle East states would also acquire them. So it is Iran’s determination to remain a Non-Nuclear-Weapon-State, in accordance with the NPT, that will best inhibit other NPT parties in the region from acquiring nuclear weapons, not the JCPOA. That said, the JCPOA will build confidence that Iran’s commitment to the NPT, and obedience to the fatwa prohibiting nuclear weapons, is sincere.

Q: Do you think that the IAEA will reach a point where it can provide a credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, in the light of JCPOA?

A: I can only say that if Iran has declared all the nuclear material in its possession, and all the activities to which reference is made in the IAEA’s Additional Protocol, then I am very confident that the IAEA will provide a credible assurance as soon as it can. Past experience, however, in many other states that are parties to the NPT, suggests that several years will elapse before the IAEA acquires sufficient knowledge to feel justified in offering that assurance.

Key Words: Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone, Middle East, Political Pressure, Israel, NPT, US, P5+1, Iran, JCPOA, Enforcement, Repudiation, EU, IAEA, Additional Protocol, Jenkins

More By Peter Jenkins:

*Are US Sanctions an Obstacle to a Nuclear Agreement?:

*An Acceptable Nuclear Deal With Iran:

*With Rouhani as President, Time for US to Try New Approach on Iran:

*Photo Credit: IRNA

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