Germany thinks the nuclear deal has achieved its objectives of pushing Iran farther away from a nuclear bomb, but it does not accept Iran’s continued threats against Israel’s existence, the German ambassador said Tuesday.
Ambassador Clemens Von Goetze made the comments at an “Iran Nuclear Deal, One Year On” INSS conference in Tel Aviv in the context of differentiating between the deal achieving its objectives, which only targeted Iran’s nuclear program, even as it did not set Iran back in a number of other areas Germany views as problematic, but which were not part of the deal.
He said the deal reduced Iran’s uranium stockpile, its number of centrifuges and set in place sanctions that should be able to track whether Tehran follows the deal.
The ambassador said the deal did not try to “influence Iran’s regional policies, change the character of the regime, and we remain very well aware of the internal situation, the human rights situation.”
He added that whether Iran’s regime becomes more moderate “remains to be seen and we are monitoring closely.”
In contrast, former Israeli Atomic Energy Agency head Gideon Frank listed off a number of questions about whether the deal will work out.
He referred to the “Parchin affair,” when Iran collected soil samples on behalf of the IAEA from one of its nuclear sites as problematic, since only an experienced IAEA inspector on the ground could make sure to get soil samples that would reveal Iran’s activities.
He said the world’s weak response on this had undermined its credibility.
Frank was also troubled by the world’s weak efforts at getting Iran to explain its nuclear programs past military dimensions, including confidential agreements, which he said may be kept confidential because they are weak.
In an expert panel, the Arms Control Association director for nonproliferation policy, Kelsey Davenport, whose think tank supported the deal, said Iran had “absolutely” complied with the deal, explaining that the answer was clear when comparing the current situation to “where we were at the end of [former president Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad’s” reign.
At that point, Iran’s nuclear stockpile was increasing, its plutonium reactor at Arak was moving forward and it was enriching uranium at newly high levels, she said.
In contrast, Davenport said that now Iran’s program has been “dramatically restricted,” its uranium stockpile has been lowered, its Arak reactor has been modified to not present a danger and there are intrusive monitoring inspections, all the while qualifying that the deal was not perfect.
INSS Arms Control director Emily Landau, who has been critical of the deal, took an opposite view.
“Iran came to the table to get sanctions lifted, Iran was hurting and it agreed to minimal nuclear concessions,” she said. “So the fact that it is complying with the nuclear aspects is not a surprise...
but there are serious weaknesses to the deal.”
Landau said the main weakness was the deal has an expiration date that is not tied to Iran presenting evidence that it has walked back from its nuclear ambitions.
Also, the deal emboldened Iran in the region with negative behavior in Syria, fiery rhetoric to the US and ballistic missile tests, which question its long-term commitment to nonproliferation.
“Ultimately the test will be a political test of will of the international community to confront Iran and hold it to its commitments” because if Iran can continue to manipulate the international community as she said it had, “it will be a very serious situation.”
Wisconsin Project executive director Valerie Lincy took somewhat of a middle ground position, while leaning toward having doubts about the deal.
She divided the deal into parts, saying the nuclear restrictions and sanctions relief “are mostly functioning,” but that a “number of other important aspects, such as detection and enforcement have not been tested.”
“I can’t say they are working when five to six months into the deal, they have not been tested,” and that the failure of the West to test Iran’s compliance on these “cornerstone” issues is a problem.
Asked by The Jerusalem Post how China and Russia had and would impact the deals dynamics, the panel split again.
Landau said the West could have held out longer for a better deal even without full Russian and Chinese commitment because of the power of US sanctions.
Davenport said that if Iran violated the deal, Russia and China would be ready to crack down on it as they still did not want it to get a nuclear weapon, even if they were less committed than the US.
Lincy said it was unclear whether China and Russia would be ready to stare down Iran, but that she had her doubts.
In the next panel, Foundation for Defense of Democracies executive director Mark Dubowitz said that a major problem with the overall picture involving the deal was that the US had failed to use non-nuclear sanction to pressure Iran to improve its behavior.
In fact, he cited Boeing’s recent deal with Iran Air as the US improperly giving into an Iranian argument that essentially it needed to help Iran gain US business, to “dollarize,” or it could accuse the US of violating the deal.