Britain, France and Germany have embarked on an attempt at persuading Donald Trump to stick with the nuclear deal by assuaging the US president with fresh EU sanctions targeted at Iran over its ballistic missiles programme and role in Syria’s war, a confidential document seen by Reuters indicates.
The news agency reported on March 16 that the document was sent to European Union capitals on Friday to sound out support for such sanctions, given that they would need the backing of all 28 EU member governments to go into effect.
Trump delivered an ultimatum to the European signatories of the nuclear deal—formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—on January 12, saying he was providing a “last chance” to “fix the terrible flaws of the Iran nuclear deal”, sealed under his predecessor Barack Obama. By May 12, Trump must decide whether or not to keep the US in the nuclear deal by renewing waivers that presently shield Iran from crippling sanctions on its vital oil exports and central bank activities and other areas.
Trump is unhappy that the JCPOA, designed to stop Iran from moving towards the development of a nuclear weapon in return for the sanctions relief, has “sunset clauses” meaning that its provisions expire in 2025, while it also does not prevent Iran from running a ballistic missile development programme or from exerting itself in regional conflicts such as those in Syria and Yemen.
EU foreign ministers are to discuss the proposal for new sanctions at a closed-door meeting on March 19 in Brussels.
Iran insists its ballistic missile development programme should in no way be related to the JCPOA as it is not seeking to develop missiles capable of carrying a nuclear payload.
However, Reuters noted that the obtained document expresses concern at “transfers of Iranian missiles and missile technology” to Syria and allies of Tehran, such as Houthi rebels in Yemen and Lebanon’s Iran-backed Shi’ite Hezbollah.
“Such a proliferation of Iranian missile capabilities throughout the region is an additional and serious source of concern,” the document reportedly states.
All the major power signatories to the nuclear deal except the US are happy that Iran has complied with its provisions since it took effect at the start of 2016 but with Trump insisting that the JCPOA is so inadequate that it is “an embarrassment to Amercia”, London, Berlin and Paris have been forced to look hard at moves that could be made to persuade the US president to tolerate the retention of the accord.
Whether their plan will wash with Tehran, however, is highly questionable, especially given the first reaction of the Iranians to the European manoeuvring.
“In case some European countries are following steps to put non-nuclear sanctions against Iran in order to please the American president, they will be making a big mistake and they will see the direct result of that on the nuclear deal,” Iranian deputy foreign minister Abbas Araqchi responded, according to state media.
“It’s better that European countries continue their current action to persuade America to keep its promises in the nuclear deal and for that country to effectively execute the deal in all its parts with good will and in a productive atmosphere,” he added.
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