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The dangers of refusing to link nuclear agreement to Iran’s behavior

The wait for US President Donald Trump to announce his position on Iran’s nuclear agreement was a nail-biting moment for many. Trump, as several leaks had indicated he would, chose to decertify the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — the agreement Iran signed with the US, the EU, Russia and China. And while many were expecting him to do so, his decision drew immediate responses from around the globe.
In the Middle East — the region most concerned about Iran’s nuclear plans — contrast in reactions could not have been greater. While Iranian President Hassan Rouhani angrily condemned Trump’s position, widespread applause came from Arab countries disadvantaged not only by Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but also its political exploitation of the international community’s silence toward it.
It is that same silence that has allowed Iran to expand in the region, thanks to its militias and conventional weapon strength.
Indeed, in the Middle East, and specifically in the Gulf, there are two serious threats posed by Iran’s ambitions of hegemony. The first is political, the second is nuclear.
The political threat is clear for all to see in the armed sectarian agitation, aided and sponsored by Tehran, of geographically dominant militias such as the Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) in Iraq; the Fatemiyyoun, Zaynabiyyoun and Hezbollah militias in Syria and Lebanon; and the Houthis in Yemen. But there are also the more subtle threats of clandestine activities and terror groups in Bahrain, other Gulf states, and North African countries.
Sure enough, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), which plays a vital role in Iran’s political and economic life, continuously highlights its interventions and has openly boasted of its “control of four Arab capitals.”
Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the IRGC’s Quds Force, never misses an opportunity to appear in front of the media inspecting the front lines in Iraq and Syria, despite the fact he is sanctioned by several governments and listed as a known terrorist by the US.
As for Iran’s nuclear threat, it is no less dangerous. The fact that Iran straddles highly unstable seismic faults means Iran’s nuclear installations pose a serious risk to the safety of the Gulf region — only a short distance separates the port of Bushehr (home to one of Iran’s major installations) from the eastern shores of the Arabian Peninsula. We can all imagine the disaster that could befall the Gulf should a leak like that witnessed in Fukushima, Japan, in 2011 occur.
Of course, the governments of Germany, France and the UK have every right to oppose Washington’s policies, but their insistence on defending the nuclear deal with Iran is based, in large part, on economic interests.
These governments, spurred by corporations and banks eager to enter Iran’s market of 90 million customers, refuse to acknowledge the link between the agreement and Iran’s harsh treatment of opposition at home, or its aggressive interventions in neighboring Arab countries.
Those interventions have already been central causes of two major problems:
1. The refugee crisis afflicting the countries of Western and Central Europe.
2. Extremist terrorism under Sunni Muslim slogans, provoked by Iran’s Shi’ite Muslim slogans.

Of course, the governments of Germany, France and the UK have every right to oppose Washington’s policies, but their insistence on defending the nuclear deal with Iran is based, in large part, on economic interests.

Eyad Abu Shakra

According to reliable statistics, Iran’s exports to EU countries have risen by 375 percent between 2016 and 2017. European companies have invested heavily in the virgin Iranian market, and there has been rapid progress in banking facilities, running parallel with these investments.
Thus, the three European governments’ positions look no different from that of Barack Obama’s administration, which sponsored Tehran’s rehabilitation, accorded it all kinds of excuses, and gambled on making it a regional ally.
Just like the previous Democratic administration, Obama’s intentionally drew a distinction between nuclear technology and political repercussions. The three governments have ignored the fact that Iran ranks second in the world (after China) in the number of executions (and first per capita), and that many of these are of a political nature, mostly targeting ethnic and sectarian minorities.
Furthermore, while claiming to defend human rights, these governments have done nothing in regard to Tehran’s maltreatment of figures that were part of its regime’s elite, including former Prime Minister Mir-Hossein Mousavi, former Speaker Mehdi Karroubi, and the Islamic Republic’s first President Abolhassan Banisadr, who is still living in exile in France.
Berlin, Paris and London are repeating Obama’s excuses; attributing Muslim terror only to Sunnis, and refusing to acknowledge Tehran’s active role in aiding and abetting even extremist Sunni Muslim groups worldwide, including Al-Qaeda.
They want us to accept the inverted logic of former US Secretary of State John Kerry, who stated time and time again during the US-Iran nuclear negotiations that they focused solely on the nuclear side and never included any other issues. In other words, they ignored Iran’s political, military, and intelligence interventions in Arab countries.
Kerry reiterated that logic this week as he criticized Trump’s refusal to certify the JCPOA while taking a tough line against the IRGC.
Germany, France and the UK, who have claimed the moral high ground in welcoming refugees from the Middle East, would do better if they adopted the maxim “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
The ounce of prevention, in this case, is simply ridding the world of the evils of extremism, destruction and hatred, all of which create and fuel terrorism.

• Eyad Abu Shakra is managing editor of Asharq Al-Awsat, where this article is also published. Twitter: @eyad1949