As the first anniversary of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nears, there are no shortages of assessments about the agreement and Iranian behavior since coming in from the cold. There have been far fewer assessments of European behavior.
The process which culminated in the JCPOA began in 1992, when German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel launched a “critical dialogue.” On December 12, 1992, European officials explained:
The European Council reaffirms its belief that a dialogue should be maintained with the Iranian Government. This should be a critical dialogue which reflects concern about Iranian behavior and calls for improvement in a number of areas, particularly human rights, the death sentence pronounced by a Fatwa of Ayatollah Khomeini against the author Salman Rushdie, which is contrary to international law, and terrorism.
In short, the whole point of using trade to bring Iran back into the community of nations was not simply to finance the world’s worst state sponsor of terrorism, but rather to begin a process to tackle continuing issues of concern.
Among the most enthusiastic European parties in the run-up to the JCPOA was, ironically, Europe’s Green parties. Here, for example, is a video of the head of Germany’s Green Party giving a high five to Iran’s ambassador. Alas, Europe’s Greens should get the award for most hypocritical. They lifted barriers on Iran yet do not speak up on critical environmental issues in Iran.
For example, it’s all well and good to normalize Iran’s nuclear program if officials believe it constrains Iran’s military ambitions and if genocidal rhetoric and state sponsorship of terrorism are not concerns. Those who prioritize environmentalism, however, should make no such moral or political compromises with regard to Iran’s nuclear program.
Firstly, consider the nuclear program itself and assume for a second that Iran’s intentions are peaceful and its motivation really is civilian energy generation and medical research. Here, for example, is a map of earthquakes in Iran over the past 16 years. Bushehr, where Iran’s civilian nuclear reactor lays? Over a fault. Not every earthquake is major, however, so here’s a list over the last 45 years. And, in the last century, there have been 20 earthquakes in Iran measuring six or above on the Richter scale. Keep in mind that the Iranian government aspires to maintain eight nuclear reactors and that the trade winds would put any radiation leak out over the Persian Gulf, over Qatar, and up into Iraq. In Japan, Fukushima was an outlier; in Iran, it would be almost guaranteed. Yet the Greens are silent.
Second, there are few countries in the region with a record of mismanagement of waste and pollution worse than that of Iran. Here are a few photos of Tehran on what should be sunny days. What advocacy have European Greens undertaken to reduce pollution in Iran? Have they worked with—let alone even demanded—that German and other European firms insist that Iranian companies with whom they partner clean up their act?
Iran is an environmental time bomb. Tehran’s water system is good, largely because it drains mountain streams, but the Islamic Republic has depleted groundwater throughout the country. Yale University’s Environmental Performance Index ranks Iran 105 out of 180, just slightly above China. When it comes to protection of habitats, it falls to 133.
European Greens might talk a good game about the environment but their approach to Iran shows that environmentalism is just a cloak for unrelated political agendas. Iran may very well be the issue that shows that the emperor has no clothes when it comes to European Green leaders.