Washington, Europe Start Work on Nuclear Deal

The top US diplomat says the nuclear deal is only a “small” part of the US policy in the Middle East and Washington is more immediately concerned about other issues, including Iran’s regional activities
Rex TillersonRex Tillerson

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Saturday working groups on fixing what the US sees as flaws in the Iranian nuclear deal have already begun to meet, trying to determine the scope of what is needed and how much Iran needs to be engaged in it.

Tillerson, ending a week-long European trip in Warsaw, said he had secured support from Britain, France, and Germany—all parties to the 2015 agreement—to work on the deal that US President Donald Trump has warned he will walk away from unless changes are made, Reuters reported.

“It’s always darkest before the dawn,” Tillerson told journalists. “The working groups have already begun to meet on efforts to agree principles, what is the scope of what we attempt to address and also how much we engage Iran on discussions to address these issues,” he said.

The nuclear deal gave Iran billions of dollars in sanctions relief in return for curbs on its atomic program.

Trump vowed to stop waiving US sanctions unless the Europeans agreed to strengthen the deal’s terms by consenting to a side agreement that would effectively eliminate provisions that allow Iran to gradually resume some advanced atomic work. Trump also wants tighter restrictions on Iran’s ballistic missile program. Iran has rejected any renegotiation.

  Wider Scope

Tillerson said the nuclear deal was only a “small” part of US policy in the Middle East and Washington was more immediately concerned about other issues including Iran’s support for the Houthi fighters in Yemen and its alleged arms supplies to militias in the region.

“Our work group also is intending to identify areas of greater cooperation [with] Europe to push back on Iran’s malign behavior,” he contended.

Despite statements from Russia earlier this week that Washington’s accusations against Moscow that it and the Syrian army were behind a chemical attack in Eastern Ghouta were “unfounded”, Tillerson reiterated that ultimately Russia bore responsibility.

“I stand by my comments,” he said.

“The chemical weapons ... are being used to hit the civilian population, the most vulnerable—children inside of Syria... We are holding Russia responsible for addressing this. They are [Bashar al-] Assad’s ally.”

Russia is providing direct military support in Syria against various rebel groups trying to oust Assad, and giving diplomatic cover in the UN Security Council.

Add new comment

Read our comment policy before posting your viewpoints