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Op-Ed

A Transatlantic Front: United Against Iranian Nukes

Charles Grant and Philip H. Gordon

Last February, a group of European and American foreign policy experts issued the “Compact Between the United States and Europe,” a detailed proposal for trans-Atlantic cooperation on the key foreign policy issues of the day (IHT Feb. 17, 2005). The premise of the compact was that the split that had emerged between the two sides of the Atlantic in recent years was deeply damaging to the interests of both sides, and that agreements on common policy challenges were both necessary and possible.

In that light, we were deeply disappointed by Iran’s rejection of the offer in August by Britain, France and Germany to provide Iran with support for a civilian nuclear energy program, as well as far-reaching political and economic incentives, in exchange for Tehran’s agreement not to develop its capacity for nuclear enrichment and reprocessing.

The European proposal, which had explicit support from the United States, would have made it possible for Iran to acquire Western nuclear reactors and fuel for the civilian nuclear energy program Iran claims to need. Iran rejected it out of hand, removed International Atomic Energy Agency seals at its nuclear facility in Isfahan and resumed the process of uranium conversion.

We believe an Iranian nuclear weapons capability would be dangerous and destabilizing. It could lead to further nuclear proliferation in the region, provide cover for Tehran to pursue a more aggressive foreign policy and deal a fatal blow to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

The European Union and the United States have a strong common interest in bringing Iran back to the negotiating table and persuading it to change course. The best way to do that is to make clear to Iran that it can win significant political and economic benefits if it forgoes a nuclear weapons program, but that it will pay a very big political and economic price if it does not. Such an effort will only work if America and Europe stand united.

Therefore, the United States and the European Union should endorse the following:

  • The United States and the European Union call upon Iran to renew the suspension of nuclear conversion activities and to send overseas all materials produced since the breaking of the seals at Isfahan as a basis for resuming nuclear discussions with Britain, France and Germany. Only a permanent and verifiable end to Iran’s nuclear fuel cycle program can guarantee that Iran is not working on nuclear weapons.

  • The United States reiterates its support for the EU nuclear dialogue with Iran. If Iran permanently and verifiably ended its fuel cycle programs, the United States would support Iran’s right to import technology for a civilian nuclear energy program, and it would not impose sanctions against European companies that engage in civilian trade and investment with Iran.

  • The United States declares its willingness to explore other issues directly with Iran, including bilateral diplomatic and economic relations, U.S. economic sanctions against Iran, Iranian support for terrorist groups, Iran’s opposition to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and Iran’s membership in the World Trade Organization. The United States and the EU will continue to support the efforts of the Iranian people to secure basic human rights and build a functioning democracy in Iran.

  • The EU reiterates its willingness to support Iran’s civil nuclear energy program, but declares its readiness to impose meaningful penalties on Iran if it refuses to end its fuel cycle programs or withdraws from the NPT. If Iran refuses to renew the full suspension of all enrichment related activities, EU leaders will support asking the United Nations Security Council to adopt a resolution requiring Iran to do so or face economic and diplomatic sanctions, including a ban on new foreign investment in Iran’s energy sector. EU countries would seek consensus at the Security Council, but Russian or Chinese opposition would not prevent them from imposing sanctions on their own, together with the United States and Japan. The EU will consider additional steps should Iran proceed with nuclear enrichment, withdraw from the IAEA Additional Protocol or withdraw from the NPT.

This article is based on a “U.S.-Europe Statement on Iran,” which was signed by a group of prominent experts and former officials from the United States and Europe.

This group of experts and former officials includes: Urban Ahlin, Giuliano Amato, Gerassimos Arsenis, Samuel R. Berger, Richard Burt, Jean-Claude Casanova, Ivo H. Daalder, Marta Dassu, Thérèse Delpech, Lawrence Freedman, Francis Fukuyama, Leslie Gelb, Robert Gelbard, John Gibson, Nicole Gnesotto, Ulrike Guérot, David Hannay, Douglas Hurd, Robert Hutchings, G. John Ikenberry, Josef Janning, Géza Jeszensky, Robert Kagan, Daniel Keohane, Ivan Krastev, Mart Laar, Anthony Lake, Mark Leonard, Andrew Moravcsik, Kalypso Nicolaidis, Joseph S. Nye, Jr., Michael O’Hanlon, Soli Özel, Ana Palacio, William J. Perry, Thomas Pickering, Susan Rice, George Robertson, Gary Samore, David Sandalow, Simon Serfaty, Narcís Serra, Jeremy Shapiro, Stefano Silvestri, Anne-Marie Slaughter, James B. Steinberg, Strobe Talbott, Antonio Vitorino and Joris Vos.

Authors

P

Philip H. Gordon

Former Brookings Expert

Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, U.S. Department of State

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