Why Europe Backs Obama on Iran

PARMA – Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu seems close to ordering a general mobilization of his country’s military, and Republicans in the United States are preparing for a ferocious battle with President Barack Obama’s administration, in the wake of the framework nuclear agreement with Iran. And yet the framework deal has been almost universally welcomed in Europe. What accounts for this disconnect within the West over a key regional and global threat?

Several factors are at work. One, certainly, is that Europe – or, more precisely, the United Kingdom, Germany, and France – has been engaged in the talks with Iran for more than a decade. Even as former President George W. Bush branded Iran a part of an “axis of evil,” the key European Union members insisted that diplomacy was better than war.

And, step by step, the European approach has been vindicated. Critical to that outcome, of course, was the US intelligence community’s reports that all the evidence pointed to Iran having long ago – in 2003 – abandoned concrete plans to develop a nuclear weapon.

It is easy to see why the Iranians would have done so. So long as Saddam Hussein, who had launched a brutal eight-year war against Iran in the 1980s, and whom influential Westerners openly accused of seeking to acquire nuclear weapons, remained in power, the Iranian government’s plan to develop nuclear weapons followed a certain realist logic. Once the US military ousted Saddam’s regime in 2003, Iran’s most acute security threat vanished.