European envoys defend Iran nuclear deal in DC

EU, British, German, and French ambassadors to the US seek to preserve Iran nuclear deal amid criticism of agreement by US president.


Washington, DC
Washington, DC

Ambassadors to Washington for America’s four European partners in the Iran nuclear deal said they opposed reopening it to negotiation, but were open to increasing pressure on Iran outside the deal’s framework.

“Iran is fully living up to its commitments,” David O’Sullivan, the European Union ambassador, said Monday at a forum convened by the Atlantic Council, a liberal foreign policy think tank. “This agreement is delivering on a very, very important objective, which is to make sure Iran does not develop nuclear weapons. I can think of no issue we have with Iran that would not be more difficult without the agreement.”

Chiming in with agreement at the sessions were the French ambassador, Gerard Araud; the British ambassador, Sir Kim Darroch; and the German ambassador, Peter Wittig. The three countries and the EU, together with the United States, Russia, China, and Iran are signatories to the deal.

President Donald Trump has strongly criticized the 2015 deal, which trades sanctions relief for a rollback of Iran’s nuclear program. He has called it among the worst deals ever negotiated, and Israeli Prime Minister Binyaamin Netanyahu agrees with him.

“Iran just test-fired a Ballistic Missile capable of reaching Israel,” Trump said on Twitter on Sept. 23. “They are also working with North Korea. Not much of an agreement we have!” (Trump was apparently was referring to a broadcast on Iranian TV over the weekend of footage of a failed missile launch eight months ago, Haaretz reported.)

Trump has said he will decide next month what to do about the deal. Among his options: He could pull out of the deal altogether; he could continue to abide by it; or he could declare to Congress that Iran is not compliant, which would leave whether to pull out of the deal up to Congress.

Absent a full scrapping of the deal, Trump and Netanyahu have said it should be renegotiated, with a focus on extending the “sunset clauses” which end some of the nuclear development restrictions in about a decade.

The envoys at the Atlantic Council event appeared frustrated at times at having been subject to intense lobbying by the Trump administration, by some Republicans in Congress, and by anti-agreement think-tanks to amend the deal.

“Neither the Iranians nor the Russians nor the Chinese” would agree to reopen the negotiations, Araud, the French ambassador, said. “It’s a dead end.”

“This was a deal with difficult partners,” agreed Wittig, the German ambassador. “Most prominently Iran, but also China and Russia.”

The British ambassador, Darroch, said that Trump’s complaints about the deal have had a salutary effect in focusing world attention on bad Iranian behavior outside the constraints of the deal, including ballistic missile testing, and military adventurism and backing for terrorism.

“What the administration has said since it came in has changed the climate on Iran,” he said. “It’s succeeding, but let’s keep the JCPOA,” he said, using the acronym for the deal’s formal name, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.