European envoys join arms to defend Iran deal

“Nothing within the agreement is preventing us from facing the challenges raised by Iran.”

September 26, 2017 02:22
2 minute read.
European envoys join arms to defend Iran deal

AN IRANIAN cleric leads prayers at a uranium conversion facility south of Tehran in 2011 to show support for Iran’s nuclear program. (photo credit: REUTERS)

WASHINGTON – Envoys to the US from France, Britain, Germany and the EU shared a stage on Monday to publicly discourage President Donald Trump from withdrawing from a deal they together brokered with Iran in 2015 meant to govern its nuclear program.

Following private consultations among their leaders at the UN General Assembly last week, the European ambassadors all told the Atlantic Council that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was achieving its intended purpose of preventing Iran from acquiring fissile material for nuclear weapons.

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The EU’s envoy underscored that Iran was in technical compliance with the agreement and the German ambassador said the deal provides for a safer world. But the representatives of Britain and France said their leaders share Trump’s concerns with provisions of the deal that will ultimately expire, allowing Iran to build its nuclear infrastructure to industrial scale.

All four ambassadors insisted that the nuclear portfolio remain separate from their other concerns about Iranian behavior, including its work on intercontinental ballistic missiles, its human rights abuses, its involvement in Syria and Yemen, and its support for terrorist networks worldwide.

The Americans “have legitimate concerns about the behavior of Iran in the Middle East,” said French Ambassador Gerard Araud.

“Nothing within the agreement is preventing us from facing the challenges raised by Iran.”

But the Trump administration argues that the JCPOA was designed to hold world powers hostage to Iran’s nuclear ambitions, preventing them in practice from checking Tehran’s regional activities out of fear such action will affect the viability of the nuclear accord.

Critics argue the JCPOA secures Iran as a nuclear threshold state with full international legitimacy – the very outcome its government sought in pursuing nuclear power in the first place – by providing them with all of the strategic benefits nuclear weapons bestow on states without all of the costs.

Trump officials are suggesting the president may decline to certify Iran’s compliance to the deal before an October 15 congressional deadline. The move would not directly effect the US role in the JCPOA, but would kick off a 60-day review period on Capitol Hill that might lead to sanctions on Iran, and withdrawal from the accord.

“We were not totally satisfied with some parts of the agreement,” Araud said. But he characterized renegotiation as a “non-starter” and claimed the Russians and the Chinese balk at the idea.

“It takes two to tango,” he added.

Meeting with Trump last week, UK Prime Minister Theresa May offered concrete proposals on how to push back against Iran’s regional “malign” behavior while staying in the deal, said their ambassador, Kim Darroch.

May also offered ideas on how the allies could address the JCPOA’s sunset provisions.

The Trump administration, Darroch said, has “changed the climate already on Iran.”

“It is succeeding,” he added.

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