Europe continues to be soft on Iran’s nuclear defiance
The International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) board of governors held its quarterly meeting last week. The meeting was one of several events taking place simultaneously that provided outlets for recommendations about how the international community should approach the Iranian regime’s nuclear development and other malign activities.
Meanwhile, without regard for the unresolved tensions over matters such as the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, European political and business leaders this month met virtually with their Iranian counterparts for the Europe-Iran Business Forum, a three-day event sponsored by the EU and aimed at expanding bilateral trade relations.
In spite of the fact that the Iranian regime has reduced its cooperation with IAEA inspectors, top leaders from Britain, France and Germany have refrained from condemning Tehran. A former member of the European Parliament, Struan Stevenson, rightly criticized European governments for seeking to do business with the regime as it continues to pursue nuclear weapons. He last week told a meeting of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI): “There must be no lifting of sanctions until all clandestine nuclear activity, involvement in foreign wars, and domestic repression have ended.” He also called explicit attention to the Europe-Iran Business Forum as an example of a policy that makes Western leaders seem “oblivious” to Tehran’s threats.
The soft policies carried out by the EU and the IAEA toward Tehran are definitely good news for the Iranian leaders, who are desperate to return to the flawed 2015 nuclear deal and have all current sanctions against their government lifted. The lifting of sanctions will provide the cash the theocratic establishment needs to increase its hegemonic ambitions and military adventurism in the Middle East.
It is critical to point out that not only has the Iranian regime reduced its cooperation with the IAEA’s inspectors, but it is also more than likely concealing information about all aspects of its nuclear program. For instance, new information was last week released about a major Iranian nuclear site called Abadeh in a news conference organized by the NCRI. The opposition group had previously been the first to reveal Iran’s clandestine nuclear activities at two other major sites, Natanz and Arak.
The Abadeh nuclear site was built in the mid-1990s by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and managed by the Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research (SPND), the main entity in charge of the regime’s nuclear weapons program. Abadeh was the venue for a project known as “Marivan,” according to the NCRI’s Ali Safavi. These findings were reportedly obtained from the social network of the NCRI’s biggest constituent organization, Mujahedin-e-Khalq, which apparently has assets inside regime institutions.
The IAEA must take Iran’s activities at the Abadeh site more seriously. This nuclear site was built specifically for an SPND subsidiary, METFAZ, which specializes in research into and the building of high-explosive detonators.
After the IRGC discovered that information relating to the site had been leaked in July 2019, it abruptly destroyed the facilities there. The regime only made the site accessible to the IAEA in August 2020, more than a year after sanitizing it. A report released by the IAEA last month says that it found anthropogenic uranium particles at two sites in Iran.
The regime is more than likely concealing information about all aspects of its nuclear program.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
The Iranian regime has set up multiple front companies to procure technical components, carry out development and testing, and raise money for exclusive use as part of the nuclear program. In other words, it has laid the foundations for the continuation of activities related to Iran’s nuclear weapons program and the objectives of the SPND.
Robert Joseph, the former US Special Envoy for Nuclear Nonproliferation, noted that one of his main policy takeaways from the new revelations about Abadeh was that the US and Europe “simply can’t do business with this regime,” because “hoping for a change in its behavior is nothing but a false hope.”
This sentiment is, of course, at odds with the Iran-Europe Business Forum, where delegates heard a message from EU head of foreign policy Josep Borrell. While the NCRI and its international supporters will be able to point squarely at the IAEA’s findings when arguing that Tehran is inherently untrustworthy, it remains to be seen what evidence anyone will be able to bring to bear on the other side of the debate.
- Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh