Leading expert: ‘European policy guided by arms sales to Iran’

Leading Israeli expert on Iran says Trump moving in the right direction but urges new strategy to bring Europe on board.

By: Steve Leibowitz, World Israel News

Dr. Emily Landau is arguably Israel’s leading expert on Iran and its nuclear ambitions. As head of the Arms Control and Regional Security Program at the INSS, her views are carefully listened to by Israeli and foreign policy makers. Her message to the Trump administration is to “sharpen” its demands while remaining flexible with its May 12 deadline to “nix or fix” the nuclear agreement between Iran and the world powers.

On Tuesday, Dr. Landau briefed visiting American Jewish leaders from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, who are in Israel for their annual conference. While her words were heard by American Jewish leaders in Jerusalem, her message was meant for the Trump administration in Washington.

A longtime opponent of the Obama administration’s policy, Landau reminded the gathering that the countdown is underway toward the Trump declared deadline for the Iranian nuclear deal “to be fixed or eliminated.” Landau is firmly in the camp of those advocating changing, rather than cancelling the nuclear deal. According to Landau, if the US pulls out of the agreement it will do so “alone” and Washington will lose any remaining influence on other world powers.

In order to preserve the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Landau advised that President Trump “continue threatening” Europe until it is committed to fixing the “disastrous flaws” in the agreement. Landau said she favors another delay of the deadline over unilateral US action which she says would “kill the pact and eliminate American bargaining power to prevent Iran from eventually building nuclear weapons.”

Is Europe addressing Iranian threat?

“The good news is that Europe is moving to address some of the Iranian issues, but that may not happen before the May 12 deadline,” Landau said, adding “having a bit more time is not a bad thing.” Landau says the Europeans remain a difficult problem. “They currently demonstrate a total unwillingness to address the blatant flaws in the nuclear deal.

The Iran nuclear deal is highly problematic for a number of reasons and the Trump administration recognizes that. It won’t be easy because part of the legacy of the Obama presidency was to make the agreement hard to change,” Landau said.

Landau suggests that Trump keep the threat of cancelling the agreement, while lobbying for change. “Europe’s guiding principal is making economic deals with Iran. They don’t care about nuclear non-proliferation or human rights issues. They even failed to support the Iranian people and their anti-government protests. The only positive sign was French President Macron’s sudden declaration that ‘there are problems with the deal.’”

Landau did have some advice regarding a few aspects of US policy which she considers to be flawed.

“They speak of more inspections of nuclear facilities, but that is not the problem. The problem is gaining access to military facilities,” she warned.

According to Landau the US must also sharpen its demands regarding ballistic missile testing. “The US is talking about long range missiles, but the Europeans are interested in the medium range missiles that can reach the continent.”

Landau maintains one of the few areas of agreement between the US, Europe and Israel is that all are opposed to Iranian ballistic missile tests that are not part of the nuclear agreement. To get all on the same page Landau says the US must start talking about Iranian medium range ballistic missile testing.

There is also the issue of transparency. “There is one issue that Trump is not talking about and it’s probably the easiest problem to deal with, and that is the lack of transparency that we have with Iran’s current nuclear activity and plans since the agreement was signed. Remember how the deal was presented as ‘the most transparent ever,’ and that it will have intrusive inspections? The US must demand full reporting from the IAEA. We received information indicating that Iran is planning to install thousands of centrifuges once the deal runs out. The Iranians were granted ‘confidentiality.’ As a result we now know less about their activities than we did before the nuclear agreement was signed. The US is a major contributor the IAEA. Trump can make demands for transparency. This must be on top of his list of demands,” Landau said.

“The key is political will,” says Landau adding “The negative Obama legacy on the nuclear deal is tough to overcome, but the stakes are high and it can be achieved.”