Criticized by Trump, Iran nuclear deal
faces tough scrutiny in U.N. talks
Send a link to a friend
[September 18, 2017]
By John Irish and Parisa Hafezi
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The 2015 nuclear
deal between Iran and world powers faces a stern test at the United
Nations this week as Europeans try to persuade a skeptical Trump
administration to keep it, while Israel lobbies to turn up the pressure
on its regional rival.
U.S. President Donald Trump, who must make a decision by mid-October
that could undermine the agreement, repeated on Thursday his long-held
view that Iran was violating "the spirit" of the deal under which Tehran
got sanctions relief in return for curbing its nuclear program.
The Republican president has called the agreement, struck under his
Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama, "the worst deal ever negotiated."
The prospect of Washington reneging on the agreement has worried some of
the key U.S. allies that helped negotiate it, especially as the world
grapples with another nuclear crisis, North Koreaís nuclear and
ballistic missile development.
"We all share U.S. concerns about Iran's destabilizing role in the
region, but by mixing everything up, we risk losing everything," said a
senior European diplomat, who was part of the 18-month negotiation
process that led to the accord.
Trump must decide in October whether to certify that Iran is complying
with the agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action
(JCPOA). If he does not, Congress has 60 days to decide whether to
reimpose sanctions waived under the deal.
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned on Sunday that
Tehran would react strongly to any "wrong move" by Washington on the
At the U.N. General Assembly on Monday, Trump meets Israeli Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu followed by French President Emmanuel
Macron, who like Trump, is making his inaugural appearance at the annual
gathering of world leaders.
Both have very different messages to deliver.
"Our position is straightforward. This is a bad deal. Either fix it ó or
cancel it. This is Israelís position," Netanyahu said in Argentina last
Tuesday as he toured Latin America.
Israeli officials said he would also relay concerns over what Israel
describes as Tehran's growing military entrenchment in Syria and its
post-civil war role in that country.
They said changes that Israel was seeking in JCPOA included lengthening
the 10-year freeze on Iran's nuclear development program or even making
that suspension permanent and destroying centrifuges rather than
temporarily halting their operation.
FRANCE SEES NO ALTERNATIVE
The deal was brokered by the United States, Russia, China, Britain,
Germany and France. The six will meet with Iran at the ministerial level
Paris took one of the hardest lines against Tehran in the negotiations,
but has been quick to restore trade ties and Macron has said repeatedly
there is no alternative to the deal.
French officials say Iran is respecting the JCPOA and that were the
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which ensures its
implementation, to say otherwise, a mechanism exists to reimpose
[to top of second column]
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers a speech
during a ceremony marking the death anniversary of the founder of
the Islamic Republic Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, in Tehran, Iran,
June 4, 2017. TIMA via REUTERS
Macron, who won praise from Trump while hosting him in July at
France's Bastille Day celebrations, will warn him that weakening or
scrapping the deal would not only add fuel to a regional powder keg
but deter North Korea from negotiating on its nuclear program,
French diplomats said.
It would also signal the beginning of the end of the
Non-Proliferation Treaty, which entered into force in 1970 and is
aimed at preventing the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons
technology, they said.
"We can always find legal arrangements to make it look like the deal
is still in place, but if the U.S. no longer supports it
politically, then the reality is that it will be in serious jeopardy
and its implementation will be very difficult," said a senior French
DIVIDING WORLD POWERS
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson argued on Sept. 15 that
Washington must consider the full threat it says Iran poses to the
Middle East when formulating its new policy toward Tehran.
The French diplomat underlined that the nuclear deal was achieved in
large part because it was not linked to all the other grievances the
United States may have had with Iran.
Macron will meet Iranian President Hassan Rouhani immediately after
Trump to tell him that Tehran must play its role in not stoking
American anger through its activities in Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, a
French presidential source said.
With Europeans not on the same page as the Trump administration,
Iranian officials say they have an opportunity to divide the P5+1
grouping that negotiated the deal with Iran.
A senior Iranian diplomat and a former nuclear negotiator said he
believed the European members of the group had no intention in
following Trump's overtly aggressive Iran policy.
"They are wise. Look at the region. Crisis everywhere. From Iraq to
Lebanon. Iran is a reliable regional partner for Europe, not only a
trade partner but a political one as well," he said.
"European powers have been committed to the deal. The IAEA has
repeatedly confirmed Iranís commitment to the deal. Trumpís
insistence on his hostile policy towards Iran will further deepen
the gap among the P5+1 countries," the diplomat said.
(Additional reporting by Jeffrey Heller in Jerusalem; Editing by
[© 2017 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2017 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.