WASHINGTON – French President Emmanuel Macron believes President Donald Trump will withdraw the US from the Iran nuclear deal next month “on his own for domestic reasons,” he said on Wednesday.
Briefing American reporters in Washington, Macron cautioned that he is unsure what the US president will ultimately decide. But in a joint press conference at the White House on Tuesday, Trump said he had given Macron a good idea of what he was planning.
“When people say President Trump is not predictable, I think the opposite: He is very predictable,” Macron said. “I think the US will decide very tough sanctions.”
Earlier this year, Trump gave France, Britain and Germany until May 12 to come up with “fixes” to the nuclear accord, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or else he would allow harsh US sanctions on Iran to snap back into effect. The sanctions would affect European businesses engaged in Iran. But more broadly, they would violate core provisions of the 2015 nuclear deal, effectively withdrawing the US from its commitments.
Trump campaigned for the presidency on a promise to shred the deal apart. He believes the agreement has emboldened Iran region-wide, failed to stop its ballistic-missile work and does not address Iran’s nuclear enrichment in the long term.
Macron agreed with these criticisms publicly during his Washington visit. But in an address to Congress on Wednesday, he said: “We should not abandon it without having something substantial, and more substantial, instead.”
The French proposal would have Trump, and the rest of the world, retain the existing nuclear agreement in its current form while negotiating a more ambitious agreement that addresses the other “pillars” of international concern.
“Nobody knows what I’m going to do on the 12th,” Trump said at the press conference. Turning to Macron, he quipped, “You have a pretty good idea.
“But we’ll see also if I do what some people expect. Whether or not it will be possible to do a new deal with solid foundations,” Trump said.
Germany’s position on the French proposal is thus far unclear, although Berlin’s foreign minister began to clarify the government’s stance on Wednesday.
“For us, the position stays clear – the highest priority is keeping the nuclear agreement and full implementation on all sides,” the Foreign Ministry said through its spokesman. “The nuclear agreement was negotiated with seven countries and the EU and can’t be renegotiated... but it is also clear that beyond the nuclear agreement we want to make sure that Iran’s nuclear program serves exclusively peaceful purposes.
“We must look at this proposal carefully,” the statement said, referring to the Macron plan. “The question is under what circumstances would Iran be prepared to let this process happen? We are in close and constructive exchange within the EU-3 and the US.”
Macron told the reporters he would be in touch with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to discuss diplomatic options. And he warned of possible war. “If you just kill the JCPOA without another option, you will open Pandora’s box,” he said.