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Letter to our American friends: don't give up on the Iranian nuclear deal!

(B2) In a rather unprecedented approach, approximately 500 parliamentarians (1) from three European countries (French National Assembly, Bundestag german and Commons British), from all political persuasions, have just sent a joint letter to their counterparts in the American Congress, abjuring them not to break the international agreement concluded with Iran on nuclear non-proliferation.

A final attempt from the three European countries that have signed the agreement (the 'E3'), to try to make American parliamentarians bend, while on May 12, American President Donald Trump could refuse to certify the good performance of the agreement and give a new penalty waiver. The hand will then return to Congress, which will have to decide whether or not to reinstate all the sanctions (2). This certification procedure is regular, every three months. And the Trump administration has made no secret of its negative view of the July 14, 2015 agreement between Iran and the six countries representing the international community (members of the Security Council + Germany).

(1) The list of signatories. This figure is not chosen entirely at random, the US Congress (House of Representatives and Senate) has 535 members.

(2) According to US law (theIran Nuclear Agreement Review Act), in the event of non-certification of the agreement by the president, the Congress (House of Representatives and Senate) have 60 days to decide on the reinstatement of the sanctions. If they do not decide anything during this period, the sanctions are not reinstated. This is what had already happened in December 2017.

The letter in English and French

* * *

To the members of the United States Congress:

For more than a decade, we – Europeans, Americans, and the international community - have feared the imminent threat of a nuclear-armed Iran. To counter this threat and make the Middle East a safer place, the international community came together, using the might of diplomatic negotiations and the force of sanctions, agreed upon by most of the major economic powers.

Then, after 13 years of joint diplomatic efforts, we reached a major breakthrough and signed the JCPOA. With that, we were able to impose unprecedented scrutiny on the Iranian nuclear program, dismantle most of their nuclear enrichment facilities, and drastically diminish the danger of a nuclear arms race. Not a drop of blood was spilled. Furthermore, these controls will not cease after the ten years of the JCPOA: Iran will continue to be subject to the strict controls prescribed by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which will continue to limit enrichment.

The only reason why we were able to achieve this breakthrough is that we stood together. Together, Europeans and Americans, we have proven that a strong and united transatlantic partnership can bring about a coalition extending to Russia and China, endorsed by the international community.

This coalition is now at risk, as the US government moves towards abandoning the JCPOA without any evidence of Iran not fulfilling its obligations. The short term effect of this abandonment would be the end of controls on Iran's nuclear program, resulting in another source of devastating conflict in the Middle East and beyond. The long-term risk is even more serious: lasting damage to our credibility as international partners in negotiation, and more generally, to diplomacy as a tool to achieve peace and ensure security. Abandoning the deal would diminish the value of any promises or threats made by our countries.

Our credibility is all the more urgently needed when we look at the instability in many parts of the world today. With regards to Iran it is an essential ingredient in our much-needed efforts to curb the country's aggressive regional and domestic policy. As much as we share the concerns expressed by many vis-à-vis this Iranian behavior, we are deeply convinced that these issues must be treated separately (as we are doing already) – and not within the context of the JCPOA.

It is the US's and Europe's interest to prevent nuclear proliferation in a volatile region and to maintain the transatlantic partnership as a reliable and credible driving force of world politics. We are open to dialogue on the best ways to tackle these challenges together. But let us be clear: if the deal breaks down, it will be well-nigh impossible to assemble another grand coalition built around sanctions against Iran. We must preserve what took us a decade to achieve and has proven to be effective.

Building coalitions and winning consensus is one of our main tasks as members of our respective Parliaments. We therefore urge you to stand by the coalition we have formed to keep Iran's nuclear threat at bay. This would not only be a powerful sign of the durability of our transatlantic partnership, but also a message to the Iranian people.

Together, let's keep the JCPOA alive and protect the fruits of successful diplomacy.

* * *

To Members of the United States Congress:

For more than ten years, Europe, the United States and the international community have feared the imminent threat of a nuclear-armed Iran.

To deal with this threat and ensure the stability of the Middle East, the international community has mobilized by combining the use of diplomacy with that of sanctions, supported by the majority of the major world powers. After 13 years of efforts joint diplomatic efforts, the signing of the nuclear agreement on July 14, 2015 in Vienna enabled a historic breakthrough. This agreement establishes an unprecedented system of verification of Iran's nuclear program, requires the dismantling of uranium enrichment facilities and significantly reduces the risk of nuclear proliferation - - without resorting to force. Moreover, this verification system will not cease after the end of the validity of the agreement. Iran will continue to be subject to strict controls under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which restricts uranium enrichment capabilities.

It is only through the joining of our forces that this progress has been made possible. Europeans and Americans, we have been able to prove – together – that a solid transatlantic partnership is capable of bringing together an international coalition including Russia and China, and supported by the entire international community.

This coalition is now in danger. The United States is preparing to leave the Vienna agreement, even though Iran has respected its obligations under this agreement. In the short term, the collapse of the deal would end the International Atomic Energy Agency's controls over Iran's nuclear program, paving the way for a potentially devastating conflict in the Middle East. In the long term, the risk is even greater. The end of the agreement would have a lasting effect on our credibility as international partners and more generally on diplomacy as a tool for peace and security. Abandoning the agreement would thus diminish the scope of the commitments or threats that our respective countries use as tools of diplomacy.

However, in view of the instability of many regions of the world, it is urgent to strengthen our credibility, an essential element of our action to put pressure on Tehran's aggressive regional and national policy. While we share concerns about Iran's attitude in the region, we are convinced that this subject must be dealt with separately from the Vienna agreement (as we are currently doing).

Preventing nuclear proliferation in an unstable Middle East is in the interest of the United States and Europe. For this, our transatlantic partnership must remain a driving force, reliable and credible on the international scene. We are of course open to dialogue on ways to deal with these challenges. But let's be clear: if the deal falls apart, it will be next to impossible to reunite a grand coalition to impose sanctions on Iran. It is up to us to preserve this diplomatic success, the fruit of a decade of effort, which has proven its effectiveness.

As parliamentarians, we are used to forming coalitions and seeking consensus. We therefore call on you to support the coalition that we – Europeans – have formed with you – Americans – to reduce the threat of a nuclear Iran. Maintaining this coalition will be a symbol of the durability of our transatlantic partnership, but will also send a strong signal to the Iranian people.

Together, let's maintain the Vienna agreement, a historic victory for diplomacy.

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).