EU Renews Vow to Retain Nuclear Pact

Iran will abide by the nuclear deal as long as the country finds it useful, while Tehran is prepared to face the aftermath of any decision by Trump on the UN-endorsed agreement
EU flags fly in front of its headquarters in Brussels.
EU flags fly in front of its headquarters in Brussels.

The European Union on Tuesday reaffirmed its commitment to stick to the Iran nuclear deal ahead of decisive deadlines facing hawkish US President Donald Trump to re-sign Iran sanctions waivers.

"It is bearing fruit and we continue to support this agreement and its implementation," Catherine Ray, spokeswoman for European Union foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, was quoted as saying by the Kuwaiti news agency Kuna.

Iran signed the nuclear agreement in 2015 with the P5+1 (the US, China, Russia, France and Britain plus Germany) to curtail its nuclear program in exchange for getting relief from international sanctions.

In the coming days, Trump is up against another consequential deadline on the pact, just months after vowing to tear it up if congress did not move to fix it.

By Friday, the US president must either once again sign waivers on Iranian sanctions and keep the nuclear accord alive or refuse to sign, effectively terminating US participation in the agreement and setting off an international crisis.

Despite the past recommendations of his national security team, it is something he has threatened to do repeatedly.

Ray declined to comment on reports over a potential US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal.

"We are not going to start speculating on any kind of scenario; our position in Europe on the nuclear deal is well known. It should be preserved and maintained," she told a news conference.

***Readiness for Any Decision  

Deputy for political affairs at the presidential office, Majid Takht-Ravanchi, reiterated Iran's stance that it would abide by the deal as long as it finds it worthwhile and said the Islamic Republic has been preparing for months for the aftermath of any decision by Trump on the UN-endorsed deal.

"If Trump pulls the US out of the JCPOA, we will show response so fast that the Americans will be shocked," Takht-Ravanchi warned in an interview with IRNA, without elaborating what that response would involve.

The waivers are on the nuclear sanctions the US agreed to lift as part of the landmark agreement.

Under a US law codifying its participation in the deal, the waivers must be re-signed periodically for varying lengths of time; some come up every 90 days, others 120 or 180.

Trump has reluctantly done so nearly half a dozen times so far, usually while slapping Iran with new, non-nuclear sanctions that do not violate the deal.

But this will be the first time he is faced with the decision since announcing his new Iran strategy in dramatic fashion last October—when he threatened to terminate the deal unless congress made some "fixes".

The sanctions waivers must be signed by close of business on Friday, according to ABC News.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said no final decision has been made yet.

In that big October speech, Trump refused to certify the Iran nuclear deal, telling congress that the sanctions relief to Iran was greater than the advantages to US national security.

But certification is a requirement of US law, not the JCPOA itself —so nothing changed in the deal as, despite Trump's tough words, the US still kept its commitments to it.

Instead, Trump threatened to "terminate" the deal if congress did not make changes, such as addressing Iran's ballistic missile program, which the agreement does not cover, or the expiration of certain limits on Iran's nuclear program.

The challenge, however, is that congress did not write the deal and cannot now change it.

Any changes they agree with Trump to put into law could end up putting the US in a material breach of the agreement —with European allies already warning that certain changes would be unacceptable.

Either way, there’s been almost no movement toward a legislative fix since that speech, according to sources on Capitol Hill.

Even if congress does somehow come up with legislation that both appeases the president and does not violate the deal, it certainly will not be ready by the end of this week.

Instead, the US president will have to make a decision before Friday—sign the waivers and keep the deal alive with no fix in sight, or put the US in violation and threaten an international crisis.

If the US breaches its commitments, Iran might resume its uranium enrichment programs, sparking new concerns about a nuclear stand-off in the Middle East.

Iran could also complain to the European signatories to the deal, who support its continued implementation and have advised the Trump administration against tearing it up or making any changes to it—further driving a wedge between the US and its historic European allies.

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