Dismayed European allies sought on Wednesday to salvage the Iran nuclear deal and preserve their Iranian trade after President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the landmark accord and ordered sanctions reimposed on Tehran.
“The deal is not dead. There’s an American withdrawal from the deal but the deal is still there,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said.
But Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, a pragmatist who helped engineer the 2015 deal to ease Iran’s economically crippling isolation, told French counterpart Emmanuel Macron in a phone call that Europe had only a “limited opportunity” to preserve the pact, the Iranian Students’ News Agency reported.
|Europeans work to save Iran deal, and business, after Trump pulls out.
“(Europe)... must, as quickly as possible, clarify its position and specify and announce its intentions with regard to its obligations,” ISNA quoted Rouhani as telling Macron.
Macron, who like other European leaders had lobbied Trump to keep the agreement that was struck before the Republican president took office in January 2017, urged Rouhani to adhere to the deal and to consider broader negotiations.
Trump said on Tuesday he would revive U.S. economic sanctions, which would penalize foreign firms doing business with Tehran, to undermine what he called “a horrible, one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made”.
On Wednesday, he said Iran would now either negotiate or “something will happen.” It was not immediately clear what actions he was suggesting would take place.
The White House said later that Trump was preparing to impose new sanctions on Iran, perhaps as early as next week, but gave no details.
Iran has drafted a “proportional” plan to cope with the U.S. withdrawal, the official news agency, IRNA, quoted government spokesman Mohammad Baqer Nobakht as saying. He said without elaborating that budgets had been drawn up to handle various scenarios.
The fruit of more than a decade of diplomacy, the nuclear agreement was clinched in July 2015 by the United States, France, Britain, Germany, Russia, China and Iran.
It was designed to prevent Iran developing a nuclear bomb in return for the removal of sanctions that had crippled its economy, not least by Washington threatening to penalize businesses anywhere in the world that traded with Iran.
Trump complained that the deal, the signature foreign policy achievement of his Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama, did not address Iran’s ballistic missile program, its nuclear activities beyond 2025 or its role in conflicts in Yemen and Syria.
His decision raises the risk of deepening conflicts in the Middle East, puts the United States at odds with European diplomatic and business interests and casts uncertainty over global oil supplies. Oil prices rose more than 2 percent, with Brent touching a 3-1/2-year high. [O/R]
In the latest violence, Iranian forces on the Syrian-held side of the Golan Heights shelled Israeli army outposts on the strategic plateau but caused no casualties, an Israeli military spokesman said, saying Israel had retaliated.
Syrian air defenses confronted Israeli rockets on Syrian territory without specifying the location, Syrian state media reported, quoting a military source.
The U.S. pullout could strengthen hardliners in Iranian politics at the expense of moderates like Rouhani who had pinned their hopes on the deal to boost living standards in Iran, with limited success so far.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, a hardliner, said: “Mr Trump, I tell you on behalf of the Iranian people: You’ve made a mistake. ... I said many times from the first day: Don’t trust America.”Reuters