EU Warns Trump: Don't Sabotage Iran Deal

EU Warns Trump: Don't Sabotage Iran DealEU Warns Trump: Don't Sabotage Iran Deal

European governments are quietly warning the incoming Trump administration that the US will get the blame if any new economic sanctions on Iran lead to the collapse of the 2015 nuclear deal.

European officials have told the Trump team and Republicans in Congress that there would be little appetite within the EU for a new campaign of international pressure on Iran, if the US took steps that precipitated the end of the agreement, the Financial Times reported.

The warnings underline the potential for the Iran deal to become a sharp point of contention between the Trump administration and its western European allies.

France, Germany and the UK were all involved in the negotiations, which saw Iran receive sanctions relief in return for limitations on its nuclear program.

US president-elect, Donald Trump, was sharply critical of the nuclear agreement, calling it "the worst deal in history" during his election campaign, although he has said little about how he will approach the issue after becoming president.

At the same time, leading Republicans in Congress have said they will push a series of new sanctions bills next year, which would impose penalties on Iran over its ballistic missile program, its alleged support of terrorism or its human rights record. At least, some of the proposals will have bipartisan support.

However, Iran views new sanctions as a breach of the nuclear agreement and European governments are worried that new US steps could scuttle the deal.

"If there is some sort of major provocation from the Iranians, then we might be able to get behind new sanctions," said one senior European official.

"But if new American sanctions cause the deal to collapse, then most people in Europe will say it is the Americans' fault."

There has been a series of European delegations in recent weeks, which have met Michael Flynn, a controversial retired general and the incoming national security adviser, and other Trump transition officials, and have raised European countries' concerns about preserving the Iran deal.

The delegations have also met senior Republicans on Capitol Hill, including members of the foreign relations and armed services senate committees.

  Different Interpretations

One of the reasons the issue could come to a head is that Iran and the US have different interpretations of what the nuclear deal actually says about sanctions.

For the Americans, the deal only covers sanctions related to Iran's nuclear program but leaves open scope for sanctions related to its ballistic missile program, for instance. However, Iran believes that any sanctions that restore broad penalties on its economy are a breach of the deal.

For the Europeans, new sanctions on specific individuals or entities might be acceptable but they are wary about targeting sectors of the Iranian economy.

"In the current climate, new economic sanctions on Iran are a non-starter," said another European official.

Supporters of new sanctions, which include many Republicans in Congress and some Democrats, believe there will be a way to pressure Iran into making concessions on other issues in the Middle East, such as its support for resistance groups. Congress could potentially take up the issue in the first months of next year before the Trump team has appointed some of the key officials who will be involved in the area.

The discussion about sanctions has been playing out in the final weeks of the Obama administration, which sees the nuclear deal as one of its main strategic achievements.

Earlier this month, Congress renewed the legislation that gives the authority to impose sanctions on Iran for another decade with veto-proof majorities. In a symbolic show of disapproval, however, President Barack Obama did not sign the bill before it became law.

The administration argues it already has the authority to "snap back" sanctions on Tehran, if it violates the nuclear deal.

Iran complained that the legislation was a violation of the nuclear deal and called for an emergency meeting of the six-nation commission that monitors implementation of the agreement.


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