European powers are making a last-ditch attempt to save the Iran nuclear deal, which President Trump has threatened to scupper later this month by refusing to renew a sanctions waiver. Trump has denounced the deal made by his predecessor, Barack Obama, and the other permanent members of the United Nations Security Council – China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom – plus Germany.
With the deadline for renewal nearing, France, the UK and Germany have put together a draft supplementary deal in an effort to dissuade Trump from pulling out. The Financial Times, citing a person familiar with the discussion, reported that the three European powers had agreed with the US to penalise Iran if it develops intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBMs) as part of a draft “supplementary agreement”.
The US, reported the FT, wants a second initiative to address the rest of Iran’s existing shorter-range ballistic missile capabilities, which the Trump administration claimed had spread throughout the region and some of which could theoretically be adapted to deliver nuclear weapons.
In addition to limiting Iran’s arsenal to missiles with a range of only 300 kilometres or below, Trump also wants to see Iran’s influence in the region reigned in as well as assurances that Iran’s nuclear programme would not be restarted after the expiration of the deal in 2025.
Iran strongly opposes any new limitations. It’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, while refusing to make any further concessions, told the FT last month “Neither the range nor the performance of our missiles are longer or more extensive than those of our neighbours so it is basically a violation of our right to self-defence to ask us to abandon our means of self-defence.”
Concerned over Trump’s unilateral withdrawals from the multilateral deal, European leaders have been lobbying hard in Washington. They say the deal is vital to preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
While it’s not yet clear how Iran or the non-western parties to the deal will react to new demands placed on Tehran, there is a growing consensus between Washington and European powers of the need for a mechanism to contain Tehran’s ballistic missile programme, its influence in Syria and Yemen, the terms by which inspectors visit suspect Iranian sites, as well as the sunset clause.
“We’re trying to find the right formulas that respond to the expectations of the Americans, but at the same time do not go against the deal,” said a senior European diplomat.
European news agencies also quoted another diplomat who explained that some of Trump’s concerns are not entirely valid. “There’s a US view that the inspection provisions aren’t strong enough, which is not a view that is shared by the Europeans,” said a diplomat involved in the discussion according to euractiv. The diplomat explained that this was already implicit in the original deal and no new provisions are needed.
A third diplomat told European news agencies that he was not “overly optimistic” that the supplementary agreement will be able to save the nuclear deal.