Yochanan VisserThe writer is director of Missing Peace Information an Israeli public diplomacy organization operating in The Netherlands and Belgium. He is a frequent publicist for the main Dutch paper De Volkskrant and for several other media outlets in The Netherlands.
On October 21st 2003 the EU and Iran signed an agreement called the Tehran Declaration which stated the following:
"The Iranian authorities reaffirmed that nuclear weapons have no place in Iran’s defense doctrine and that its nuclear program and activities have been exclusively in the peaceful domain".
Last week's publication of the latest IAEA report not only showed the futility of signing this kind of agreement with a fanatical Islamist regime but it also delivered the ultimate proof of the bankruptcy of European policy towards Iran.
That policy has always been based on dialogue and was the result of wishful thinking and Western conceptions about the Middle East. Even now, after the publication of the devastating evidence of the Iranian attempts to build a nuclear weapon, the EU continues this policy.
During a recent meeting the Foreign Affairs Council of the EU issued a call on Iran to enter into ‘constructive and substantial talks with the EU 3+3 committee in order to achieve a negotiated long term solution of the nuclear question’.
As if nothing has changed since the publication of the IAEA report.
At the same meeting the EU foreign ministers issued conflicting messages about the so called 'military option' by signalling on one hand that a military attack on Iran is impossible (France and Germany) and on the other hand by stating that the military option is still on the table (The Netherlands).
However, the Dutch statement about the military option does not reflect the position of the Dutch Government and a large majority in Dutch parliament. Just last week the last proponent of military action against Iran in the Dutch government, Wilders' Freedom Party (PVV) reversed its position. The party no longer backs military intervention against Iran at this point in time.
A couple of days later the Foreign affairs spokesman of the ruling liberal party (VVD) wrote an op-ed in the Dutch paper De Volkskrant in which he called upon the EU 'to show its teeth' but stopped short of discussing military intervention. He said that widening te sanction regime would be effective.
At the same time the Iranian FM Al Akhbar Salehi announced that EU imports from Iran grew with a staggering 28% in the period May-June this year, to1.708 billion Euro. The same day Mahdi Ghazanfari the Iranian minister of Industry and commerce announced 'the implementation of various methods to bypass the sanctions'.
Everyone who studies the IAEA report cannot escape the conclusion that Iran has succeeded in deceiving much of the world community, apart from Israel.
Already years ago Israeli analysts such as Ronen Bergman in his book ‘The secret war with Iran’ (2008) and Dore Gold in ‘The rise of nuclear Iran’ (2009) revealed much of what was written in the IAEA report.
Bergman for instance wrote about Parchin, where conventional high explosives needed to detonate an atomic bomb were tested by Dr. Majid Abbaspour’s department 105. The same tests are now part of the IAEA report.
Iran has succeeded in deceiving much of the world community, apart from Israel.
Gold wrote in his book how Iran’s former chief nuclear negotiator Hassan Rowhani, during a closed-door meeting in Tehran, bragged about the Iranian deception of the Europeans.
“ When we were negotiating with the Europeans, we were installing equipment in parts of the facility in Isfahan”, Rowhani reportedly said. He also boasted that, as a result of what his diplomacy had accomplished “ the world would face a fait accompli”. In an interview with the Daily Telegraph he said that the Americans had repeatedly warned the Europeans about the Iraninan deception but they used to respond, "We trust them".
This was not the first time Europeans were denying the facts and refusing to act on intelligence pointing to the development of a nuclear weapon by an Islamic regime.
Something similar happened when Pakistan intended to build a nuclear weapon.
In fact much of the current mess with Iran has its origins in what happened then.
Here is how that could be:
The new IAEA report mentions that Iran obtained plans for the development of P-1 centrifuges to enrich uranium from a clandestine nuclear supply network in 1987.
That network was headed by Dr.Abdul Qadeer Khan, the director of Pakistan’s atomic project.
Khan stole the blueprints for the development of a Pakistani nuclear bomb in The Netherlands, when he worked as a student at the Urenco plant in Almelo.
However, what few people know is that Khan received help from a Dutchman after he stole Urenco’s nuclear secrets.
That Dutchman was Henk Sleebos, a Dutch engineer and an expert on uranium enrichment and exploding bridge wire detonators (EBW’s): a detonator described for use in a nuclear device.
Sleebos set up a giant network of European companies which illegally provided Khan with al sorts of parts, materials and know-how for the production of a nuclear weapon.
Sleebos also helped Khan in Pakistan with the development of the Pakistani nuclear bomb.
All this happened while the Dutch secret services, and later also the Dutch government, were fully aware of the network and the goal of its activities.
Former CIA agent Richard Farlow, who was in charge of following the covert programs of weapons of mass destruction, told Dutch TV in 2005 that the CIA had been in frequent contact with both the Dutch secret services (BVD and AID) and the Dutch government regarding Sleebos and his network.
He said he had warned the Dutch authorities on numerous occasions.
Farlow was perplexed when he saw that the Dutch- and other European governments did next to nothing to stop the Sleebos network from smuggling nuclear and other parts to Pakistan.
Former IAEA inspector David Albright even called the Dutch help to Pakistan 'critical'.
A few years later Iran obtained Khan’s blue prints.
The same pattern of denial, inactivity and foot dragging is visible in the way in which Europe has been dealing with the Iranian nuclear program.
Europe refused to back sanctions in 2003 and instead opted for the dialogue which resulted in the Teheran Agreement quoted above.
European attempts to lure Iran into a deal with incentives wasted another three years.
Only then some European countries showed willingness to back a regime of sanctions.
But despite these sanctions Europe’s trade with Iran surpassed 25 billion $ again last year.
Diplomatic contacts are taking place as if nothing has changed and the EU still thinks it can solve the crisis by conducting negotiations.
At the same time the EU does not seem to apprehend the nature of the Iranian nuclear program.
The aim of the program should have been clear when Ahmadinejad told three EU ministers of Foreign Affairs back in 2005 that " he wished for chaos at any price because after chaos the greatness of Allah would be visible". Last week Ahmedinejad made a similar comment when told a crowd of supporters that 'the final confrontation is approaching fast'.
Ahmadinejad was referring to his stated belief that apocalyptic events are a prerequisite for the coming of the Mahdi (Shia messiah).
But in Europe the people pointing to the Mahdi doctrine of the Iranian regime are often ridiculed as war mongers. This ignores the fact that Ahmadinejad’s advisers often explicitly link the fate of the Iranian dossier to the need to prepare the ground for the return of the Mahdi.
Now that the IAEA has publicized the evidence Iran is indeed working on a nuclear weapon, Europe should finally take responsibility for the current mess and stop dragging its feet on tough measures against Iran.
The EU has to understand that there will be no 'peace in our time' when it continues to deny the reality and to conduct business as usual with Iran.
The EU should also know that sanctions and diplomatic isolation alone will not help because the nuclear program is more than a ‘program’ to
this regime. It has become an essential part of the Islamic revolution and is treated as a sacred.
Former CIA agent Richard Farlow told Dutch TV back in 2005 that "the genie is totally out of the bottle. There was a time we could have prevented the nuclear proliferation of rogue states but we are way past that time".
Farlow might have been right, but doing nothing is not an option.
More biting sanctions and a diplomatic boycott should be accompanied by a credible military threat in the form of a military build up led by European NATO countries. The Netherlands should take the lead here.
After all the existential threat to Israel posed by a nuclear Iran is mainly the result of an European problem.