One year has passed since Iran and the P5+1 group reached an agreement on Tehran's nuclear program known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA); an agreement, which put an end to more than one decade of tension between the two sides over Iran’s nuclear program and turned into an important model for peaceful resolution of a difference. Etemad Persian daily journalist, Sara Massoumi has interviewed Dr. Pierre Goldschmidt in this regard and other issues such as Iran and P5+1 commitments under the JCPOA, implementation of the agreement, EU commercial transactions with Iran, survival of the JCPOA, and… Pierre Goldschmidt, a Belgian nuclear scientist, retired June, 2005, as Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Safeguards at the International Atomic Energy Agency, (IAEA), succeeded by Olli Heinonen. Mr. Goldschmidt is currently a researcher of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Goldschmidt is a member of the European Nuclear Society’s High Scientific Council and has headed numerous European and international committees, acting as chairman of the Uranium Institute in London (now the World Nuclear Association), the Organisation des Producteurs d’Energie Nucléaire in Paris, and the Advisory Committee of the EURATOM Supply Agency.
The following is the full transcript of the interview:
Q: A year has passed since the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was agreed upon between Iran and the P5+1. Even though Iran has implemented all its commitments under the JCPOA, Iranian officials say the implementation of the agreement is too slow on the other side. Why do you think the other party, particularly the US, is acting like this?
A: Iran has indeed complied so far with all its obligations under the JCPOA, and so have also the US and the EU by lifting all nuclear-related sanctions. One must nevertheless recall that sanctions imposed by the EU and the US in view of the human rights situation in Iran and its support for terrorism are not part of the JCPOA and remain in place.
As a result of the lifting of sanctions the Iranian economy is slowly picking up. For instance Iran has received $3.4 billion in foreign investment since January and has boosted oil production and now exports 2.3 million barrels per day, more than twice the figure at the time of sanctions.
It is clear however that the impact on the Iranian economy will be progressive and not as fast as was anticipated by many in Iran.
Q: The Europeans have organized several visits, signing commercial contracts and memorandums with Iran in the past six months since the implementation day. Since the US is failing to meet its own commitments, or in a way sabotaging the deal, it seems that Europe is drifting away from the US in dealing with Iran? Isn't it?
A: The EU is very keen to increase its commercial transactions with Iran. A lot of contacts are taking place and a lot of major contracts have already been signed. In January Iran signed a contract to buy 118 Airbus planes, and the French carmaker Peugeot-Citroen (PSA) has recently announced its return to Iran under a €400 m joint venture with its old partner Iran Khodro in Tehran.
In early May Iran’s vice president and nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi paid a visit to the Czech Republic to develop bilateral nuclear cooperation between the two countries, specifically aimed at bolstering Iran’s civilian nuclear program and the Iranian Nuclear Regulatory Authority. I can only encourage Belgian firms and authorities to do the same, since Belgium has a huge expertise in this area.
For instance, the Belgian firm IBA, a world leader in proton therapy, should be able to deliver equipment to Iran that offers the possibility of treating cancer with a lower integral radiation dose to patients.
There is no such thing as US sabotage of EU efforts to trade with Iran. It is true however that many European firms have been wary of business with Iran because of huge fines levied in the past against banks such as BNP Paribas and Credit Suisse for sanctions violations. With more experience this perceived risk should progressively disappear. US Secretary of State John Kerry has personally made a large effort to engage with banks and businesses who are reluctant to move without fully understanding what they are allowed to do or not.
Q: A year after the JCPOA, the risks of the agreement have come to light more than ever. Do you think we can hope the deal survives amid storms of political events in the 9 years to come?
A: The JCPOA will survive any political storm as long as it is in every party's best interest to pursue its full implementation. The future is unpredictable but as of today I can't see which state-party could reasonably have a real interest in scuttling the deal during the coming 9 years, even if opposition groups will likely try to undermine its implementation.
Q: Iran, US and Israel are among those who didn’t ratify the CTBT yet. Do you think that, after the conclusion of the JCPOA, the international community now has the ability and strong will to work on putting into force that treaty too?
A: Since 2007 I have repeatedly advocated that one of the most urgent practical and balanced regional confidence-building measures in the Middle East, would be to establish a Nuclear-Test-Free Zone (NTFZ) in the region.
A coordinated ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) by Egypt, Iran, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Syria would, de facto, establish a NTFZ in the Middle East since all the other countries of the region, including Turkey, have already ratified the CTBT.
The merit of a Nuclear-Test-Free Zone in the Middle East is that it would be a first concrete step in building confidence in the region without waiting for the recognition of the state of Israel by Iran and Arab states and the conclusion of a peace treaty between Israel and Syria.
This approach has the advantage of first implementing win-win measures for all states in the region, rather than pursuing a course that might single out one state, and thus, have the potential to block any progress.
It is of course as important for the credibility of the nuclear non-proliferation regime that the United States and China ratify without further delay the CTBT as the three other nuclear-weapon states (Russia, the UK and France) have done more than 15 years ago.
Q: With the conclusion of Iran's nuclear dossier, North Korea is the most dangerous file on the international level regarding nuclear arms. Do you think the global community can get involved in technical and political negotiations with Pyongyang following Iran's example?
A: North Korea is the only state in the history of the Non-Proliferation Treaty which has withdrawn from the Treaty (in 2003) and has thereafter tested nuclear devices. As your question (rightly) suggests, the only reasonable way to deal with the threat posed by North Korea's nuclear weapons program is through a combination of negotiations and sanctions. Negotiations have been going on under the so-called "six parties talks" (United States, Russia, China, Japan, South Korea and North Korea) for more than 10 years without tangible results. The only peaceful way to induce North Korea to negotiate in good faith seems therefore to be by increasing the level and effectiveness of international sanctions. This very much depends on China which has been reluctant so far to apply crippling sanctions on its neighbor.