Hook Says US Sanctions More Effective than Nuclear Deal as EU Scrambles to Salvage it
The United States’ sanctions policy on Iran is a more effective non-proliferation tool to force Tehran to negotiate a broader deal than the 2015 nuclear deal, US special representative for Iran Brian Hook said on Friday.
“Iran can never acquire a nuclear weapon, it would be catastrophic for the Middle East,” Hook told reporters in a conference call. “Now that we are outside of the Iran nuclear deal, we are in a much better position to deny Iran a nuclear weapon.
“It allows us to then forcibly respond to Iran’s regional aggression and that is what we have done with our sanctions,” Hook said.
His remarks stood in stark contrast to European minsters, who on Friday reiterated their support for the nuclear deal and expressed concerns Friday that the escalating tensions in the region could lead to a resurgence of the ISIS group.
The EU's top diplomat Josep Borrell called the urgent meeting in Brussels after the US killing of Iranian general, Qassem Soleimani, in a drone attack in Iraq on Jan. 3. Tehran responded earlier this week with missile strikes at US bases and announced it would no longer respect limits set under the 2015 nuclear deal on how many centrifuges it can use to enrich uranium.
“We need to understand that the fight against ISIS is not over," said NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg, who attended the meeting in the EU capital. “We have made enormous progress but Daesh can return."
In an attempt to avoid an escalation between Iran and the United States, EU leaders have intensified diplomatic activities, trying to keep alive the nuclear deal while making sure the US-led anti-ISIS coalition continues to operate in Iraq. In the wake of the killing of Soleimani, Iraq's parliament called for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from the country.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas reiterated Germany's position that the fight against ISIS in Iraq needs to continue.
"I can't rule out that, if the anti-ISIS coalition leaves Iraq then ISIS will regenerate so much that it can carry out attacks in Europe again," said Maas, speaking to German broadcaster n-tv.
Despite calls from US President Donald Trump to break away from the nuclear deal, the European Union remains committed to the treaty.
Iran struck the deal in 2015 with the United States, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Russia and China.
“We are of the opinion that this agreement makes sense because it holds Iran to not developing nuclear weapons, and so we want this agreement to have a future," Maas said upon arrival at the meeting. “But of course, it only has a future if it is complied with, and we expect that from Iran.”
Speaking on French radio RTL ahead of the meeting, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian continued to insist the accord "is not dead" and said it is essential to salvage it. Blaming the US decision to withdraw, Le Drian said Iran could get access to atomic weapons within “one or two years" if the deal continues to lose its substance.
In a phone call with Iranian president Hassan Rouhani, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson also reaffirmed his support for the deal.
Borrell has invited Iranian Foreign Minister Mohamed Javad Zarif to Brussels for talks, but a date for his visit has yet to be set.