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Europe Likely to Introduce Steps to Mollify Trump on Iran

Europe Likely to Introduce Steps to Mollify Trump on Iran Europe Likely to Introduce Steps to Mollify Trump on Iran

Britain, France, and Germany are expected to present a package of measures to the United States to allay US President Donald Trump's concerns about Iran without reopening the nuclear accord, according to a Reuters report.

Initial contacts between the three European powers in Washington, European capitals, and at the European Union's headquarters in Brussels suggest that a set of measures will be introduced to Washington in this regard, the report said. Trump said on January 12 he would extend a waiver on nuclear sanctions against Iran but gave the European allies and the US Congress 120 days to come up with a tougher approach on Tehran or see US sanctions reimposed.

  Inconsistent Remarks

However, US and European officials believe it is hard to say what might mollify the Trump administration, which is split between those who would like to tear up the agreement and those who wish to preserve it and which has said inconsistent things about its demands to keep the accord negotiated by the US, China, France, Russia, Britain, Germany, and the EU.

"There are these raging disagreements within the [Trump] administration," said a former US official. "While one group wants to keep the agreement, the other wants this outreach to the Europeans and congress to fail and to be able to blame it on them."

European powers are wary that whatever they agree, it may not be enough.  "We're going to work in the spirit that we're ready to talk about everything, from the nuclear accord to Iran's ballistic missiles," said a senior European diplomat. "But we want to compartmentalize the subjects; we're not going to mix them."

Britain, France, Germany, and the EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, are adamant that the deal cannot be renegotiated, while Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also ruled that out this month, speaking at the United Nations.

  Missile Program

The new strategy could include threatening Iran with targeted economic sanctions if it does not agree to curtail its ballistic weapons arsenal, which the West says contains longer-range missiles potentially capable of carrying nuclear warheads, according to the report.

Iran has repeatedly said its missile program is purely defensive and has denied that it has missiles designed to carry nuclear warheads. European diplomats favor creating a high-level working group with Iran to discuss the missile issue. While Paris, London, and Berlin appear united, Mogherini has so far been unwilling to consider EU sanctions on Iran over its ballistic missiles to avoid jeopardizing the nuclear deal.

Washington wants UN nuclear inspectors to be able to visit military sites as part of the International Atomic Energy Agency's verification of the nuclear deal. The IAEA says it does not distinguish between military and non-military sites and has repeatedly said Iran is honoring its commitments under the deal. Diplomats say the IAEA has not yet inspected a military site, and if Washington wants it to do so it needs to provide new information showing that this is necessary. For its part, Iran has said its military sites are beyond the IAEA's purview and repeatedly denied that its nuclear program has military dimensions, namely to develop bombs.

  Regional Policy

Another part of the potential European strategy is pressure on Iran to change its regional policy and end its support for groups such as Lebanon's resistance movement Hezbollah. Iran has dismissed western assertions that its regional activities are destabilizing.

In the US Congress, the leaders of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee are working with the White House to write legislation they hope can meet Trump's demand to eliminate "the disastrous flaws" in the pact.

"Presented the right way, it could be just enough to allow Trump to claim a diplomatic victory and sign legislation from congress," said a senior EU diplomat. In addition, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is seeking British and French support for tough new penalties against Iran and preventing a US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal.

Tillerson on Sunday began a nearly weeklong trip to Europe, and a US official was quoted by AP as saying that Iran was expected to dominate Tillerson's talks in London and Paris, the first two stops. The official said on condition of anonymity that Tillerson's intent is "to close the gaps" in the accord that gave Iran sanctions relief in return for curbs on its nuclear program.

 

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