European Agreement Will Fail To Stop Iran From Getting WMDs, Critics Warn

By Marc Perelman

Published November 19, 2004, issue of November 19, 2004.
  • Print
  • Share Share

This week’s nuclear deal between Iran and three European countries has triggered a wave of criticism from Israeli and Jewish communal officials, who warn that the pact will fail to halt Tehran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Iran’s agreement with France, Germany and England requires Tehran to immediately freeze its uranium enrichment activities pending negotiations on a final accord. A final deal would reward Iran with political and economic benefits if Tehran provides verifiable guarantees that its nuclear program is solely for peaceful purposes.

This week’s deal all but sinks American and Israeli hopes of quickly getting the United Nations Security Council to slap sanctions on Iran for allegedly violating its obligations under the nuclear nonproliferation treaty. The Bush administration, which has relied on European diplomacy to slow Tehran’s efforts, voiced cautious support for the agreement. Israel and Jewish organizations, however, say that the interim deal simply will allow Iran to buy time.

Jerusalem is “obviously very disappointed” with the deal, Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom told reporters following his Monday meeting in Washington with outgoing Secretary of State Colin Powell.

On Wednesday, an Iranian opposition group announced that Tehran was covertly enriching uranium at a military site. Given that the group’s previous disclosures of Iranian nuclear activities have been confirmed, the claim seemed certain to bolster Israeli concerns.

“It is clear to us that they are trying to develop nuclear weapons and that it should be prevented,” he said. “The Europeans are all the time talking about carrot and stick, but we see only the carrot, not the stick.”

Shalom argued that Iran had purposely timed the latest deal to head off discussion of its nuclear program at the November 25 meeting of the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency. Iran is promising to suspend its uranium enrichment program starting November 22, three days before the atomic agency’s board of governors was expected to debate the Iranian nuclear dossier and the possibility of sending the matter to the Security Council.

“I told [Powell] that each time before a vote [the Iranians] do something,” Shalom said. “This time they announced the suspension of enriching uranium. But we demand not suspension but full cessation.”

While officially pushing for a tougher stance, the Bush administration has quietly supported the negotiations between the Europeans and Iran. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said at a daily briefing Tuesday that the pact was a useful step but needed to be implemented and verified.

Last year, Iran and the so-called “Euro-3” reached a similar agreement. But Tehran reneged after several months, fueling convictions in Israel and in hawkish American circles that Iran is in fact determined to acquire nuclear weapons.

While this week’s deal is more sophisticated and leaves less room for interpretation, Israel and its supporters say that for Iran, the new pact is simply a delaying tactic. Tehran is just “buying time,” said Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, an umbrella group of 52 national organizations generally viewed as the community’s consensus voice on Middle East affairs.

Hoenlein said that the deal failed to provide a mechanism for the verification and dismantling of Iran’s nuclear weapons production infrastructure. He also complained about possible rewards that the Europeans are prepared to bestow on Iran, pointing to news reports suggesting that Europe offered Iran a role in addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The text of the interim agreement announced this week did not provide any details regarding the package of rewards Iran would get in return for giving up its nuclear program.

The negotiations over a comprehensive agreement are expected to start next month.

Jewish organizational officials also complained that the interim agreement does not contain long-term guarantees that Iran would not seek to master the technical means to manufacture nuclear weapons. Hoenlein said that Iran could reach that stage within six months to a year, an estimate confirmed by an Israel official on condition of anonymity.

One Jewish communal leader who has been in touch with Bush administration officials said that “the Americans are very unhappy with the deal.” The communal leader predicted that American officials would push for a final pact requiring the complete suspension of nuclear activity before May or June 2005, when Iran fully develops the ability to produce nuclear weapons.

For now, Jewish organizations are calling for heightened vigilance in holding Iran to its commitments.

“Given Iran’s previous history of deception of the IAEA, we hope that this time, it is different,” said Andrew Schwartz, a spokesman of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, the pro-Israel lobbying powerhouse that has aggressively been warning lawmakers on Capitol Hill about Tehran’s nuclear activities. “This agreement must be carefully monitored by the U.S. and the [U.N.’s atomic agency] in order to ensure Iranian compliance.”

Pooya Dayanim, president of the Iranian Jewish Public Affairs Committee, a Los Angeles-based group with close ties to the Bush administration and opposition forces in Iran, noted that Iranian officials were already stressing that the suspension of its nuclear activities was temporary.

“My advice to the U.S. and other wise nations,” Dayanim said, “is to assume the worst and draft their contingency plans accordingly.”

— Ori Nir contributed to this report from Washington.






Find us on Facebook!
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.