On Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a televised address that Israel had obtained proof that Iran maintained a nuclear weapons program despite the 2015 nuclear deal, which stipulated that Tehran had to keep its nuclear program peaceful in exchange for lifting international sanctions. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said in response that Israel’s allegations were outdated.
Subsequently, Russia called on Israel to immediately give information on Iran continuing its nuclear program to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which previously refrained from comments on Israel’s findings. However, according to EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, Israel has not called into question Iran's compliance with post-2015 nuclear commitments.
Israel's Revelations Do not Prove 2015 Deal Failure
The documents cited by Israel were not new and were linked mainly to Iran's nuclear weapons ambitions before the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Thierry Coville, a researcher at IRIS think tank in Paris, told Sputnik.
"Those documents are known even to the IAEA. These are old documents, and Iran has probably abandoned the slightest idea of having a military nuclear program … They change nothing on the fact that the agreement of 2015 is respected by Iran. So, in my opinion, it doesn’t change anything in the positions of the Europeans who defend this deal either," Coville said.
Israel did not add anything new to the claims already made by Saudi Arabia or the United States regarding Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program, Didier Billion, the director of the think tank, said.
"They tell us Iran wanted to develop nuclear forces – we all got it, that’s why there is the 2015 agreement. In principle, there is nothing new there besides what we’ve already known. Both in the form and in principle this is a political communication exercise, the timing of which is not random though," Billion told Sputnik.
At the same time, Netanyahu's revelations come at the time when the future of the nuclear deal is unclear. US President Donald Trump is hesitating about remaining party to the deal.
"The agreement passed with Iran must continue to be applied and respected. I am afraid that the USA might be looking for pretexts to use the military option, with the support of Israel," Lebreton said.
US Set on Unilateral Withdrawal
Trump has repeatedly criticized the deal with Iran, indicating that he might withdraw if the agreement could not be improved. Trump is expected to say on May 12 whether the United States will withdraw from the deal or not.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron on Monday held a phone conversation in which they reaffirmed their support for the preservation of the deal. However, Trump seems intent on withdrawing from the deal.
"All evidence seems to indicate that he will pull out, but you know it's Donald Trump, who is very unpredictable, so I can’t say for sure. But from what we are hearing in the way the things seem to be moving forward, it seems that’s what he decided," Mohammad Marandi, a professor at the University of Tehran, told Sputnik.
The expert added that even the United Nations might not be able to change Trump's mind. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stressed earlier in the day that there was a real risk of war if the agreement was not preserved.
"The United States government usually has little respect for the UN and under Trump, it’s almost zero, especially with his current national security advisers. So no, I don’t think the UN secretary general makes any difference," Marandi said.
No Alternative to JCPOA
The United States and France would find it difficult to persuade their partners to conclude a new, expanded, deal, Middle East specialist Alexandre del Valle said.
"In the light of Tehran's refusal to discuss the agreement, Moscow's inflexibility over the statements of Donald Trump and Emmanuel Macron, and the skepticism of Brussels, expressed by the voice of Federica Mogherini herself, we don’t see how the French and American presidents can convince their partners to conclude a much more binding and expanded agreement, knowing that the US side is accused of not having respected the commitment to lift the sanctions," del Valle told Sputnik.
Isolating Iran would be "counterproductive," according to the geopolitics specialist.
"The regime is more and more unpopular. Contacts should be deepened with the opposition," del Valle noted.
Marandi stressed that there was "no alternative to the deal" and noted that the United States was violating the agreement.
"They have been violating the clause 26 to 29 extensively bypassing the laws, bullying banks and insurance companies and other financial institutions do not work with Iran. And under Trump, it has gotten even worse. If the US pulls out the agreement becomes meaningless because the United States was the problem in the first place. So I think Iran will pull out," Marandi said.
Coville noted that Tehran would subsequently withdraw from the deal as well.
"If the deal is abandoned Iran gets back to 20 percent uranium enrichment, and eventually withdraws from non-proliferation treaty. Clearly, the strategy of the Israeli government would be having more sanctions and complete economic blockade of Iran. It’s a radical move, which as we saw gave bad results between 2010-2012. It’s a risky strategy in my opinion," the expert said.
Consequences of Washington's JCPOA Withdrawal
The effect of the US withdrawal would be mostly economic for the Europeans, as the US withdrawal would halt all investment projects in Iran, del Valle argued.
"The full lifting of sanctions would allow access to this new large market of 80 million inhabitants. Many global and European companies are eyeing this with glee. The possibility of a tightening of sanctions would be a catastrophe for international groups that want to invest in Iran and cannot do it in dollars without risking being hit by huge fines imposed by the United States, as we saw in 2014 with BNP Paribas which was fined nearly $9 billion," the expert said.
"Airbus and Total have been pursuing for years very ambitious projects in Iran: energy, road construction, power stations, agribusiness, etc. Total, which is leading a consortium with the Chinese company CNPC, has signed a $5 billion deal for the development of a gas field in Iran. The French car groups Peugeot and Renault have also signed agreements to boost production in Iran, and French agribusiness companies like Danone are present on the retail market," the expert said.
The uncertainty over Iran's nuclear deal fits into other global trends, such as "the antagonism towards Russia, the pressure against China," according to Marandi.
"I think that countries like Russia, China and Iran are moving closer to each other," the expert warned.
Other consequences may include the higher oil prices and damage to US allies in the region, Marandi said.
"The United States is already trying to prevent Iran from having investment," the expert said.
According to Marandi, the withdrawal from the deal might be more damaging to the United States than to Iran, and it might damage consumers across the world, including people in the United States
The views and opinions expressed by the speakers do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.