Nuclear agreement with Iran on the tightrope awaiting Trump’s decision

Ⓒ AFP/Archivos – JOHN THYS – | The Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohamad Javad Zarif, greets his Belgian counterpart, Didier Reynders (right), on January 11, 2018 in Brussels

The historic agreement on Iran’s nuclear program, defended by Tehran and other signatory powers, was once again subject to President Donald Trump announcing whether he will reestablish economic sanctions against that country.

The Republican millionaire was to make the decision on Thursday during a meeting with his advisors, according to a member of his government. But a senior official of the State Department let it be known that the announcement was postponed for this Friday.

Trump refused in mid-October to “certify” before the US Congress that Tehran respected the terms of the pact signed in 2015, sowing confusion over the fate of the text that was negotiated for two years between Iran and Germany, China, the United States, France, United Kingdom and Russia.

Until now, the lack of certification was symbolic and did not reestablish the US sanctions, which had been lifted in exchange for Tehran’s commitment not to develop an atomic bomb.

– Europe after the agreement –

The sanctions were temporarily suspended and must be renewed regularly by the president.

According to US officials, Trump could extend-with reluctance-that suspension, which expires this weekend. But in parallel it could impose new punishments linked to other problems beyond the nuclear, such as human rights or the support of extremist groups abroad.

“I think new sanctions can be expected,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters on Thursday.

Ⓒ AFP – Vincent LEFAI – | The 2015 agreement on Iran’s nuclear program

Could the consequences of new sanctions weaken the 2015 agreement even further, even if theoretically they are not linked to the nuclear issue?

On Thursday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned that “any act that undermines the nuclear agreement is unacceptable.” Tehran also threatens reprisals, saying it is “prepared for all scenarios.”

That same day, the French president, Emmanuel Macron, said during a telephone conversation with Trump “the determination of France in favor of a strict application of the agreement and the importance of being respected by all its signatories.”

Meeting on Thursday in Brussels, the European Union again defended the Vienna Pact to confront Washington en bloc.

“The agreement works, fulfills its main objective is to keep the Iranian nuclear program under control and under close surveillance,” said the head of European diplomacy, Federica Mogherini.

The pact “makes the world safer and prevents a potential nuclear arms race in the region,” said the head of European diplomacy Federica Mogherini.

“The French chancellor, Jean-Yves Le Drian, indicated in this regard that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)” regularly confirms the good application “by Iran of the agreement, so there are no” doubts “currently about the respect of their commitments.

Moscow also estimated Friday that it was “extremely important to preserve the viability of the document,” which “is the result of a consensus among several participants.”

– Other controversial issues –

But in Brussels, European ministers also raised other controversial issues against Tehran that they share with the United States.

They told the Iranian foreign minister of his “concerns about other issues, such as the development of ballistic missiles” by Tehran, “the tensions in the region” and even the recent anti-government demonstrations that left 21 dead, Mogherini stressed.

The Europeans evoke Iran’s support for the president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, the Lebanese Hezbollah and the Houthi rebellion in Yemen. A way to show the Trump government that their criticisms on these issues are heard on the other side of the Atlantic.

“If we want to build global support for this agreement, it is clearly necessary for Iran to show that it can behave like a good neighbor in the region,” said British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson, while his German counterpart Sigmar Gabriel used an agreement on principles of part of Zarif to start a “dialogue” about a “behavior change in the region”.

“That has nothing to do with the nuclear agreement (…) but it is necessary to make it urgent,” he explained.

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