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Sandro Rosell
FC Barcelona President
Saturday, October 21, 2017

Iranian diplomats say they expect President Donald Trump to abandon the international deal restricting Tehran's nuclear activities. They are intensifying their lobbying of European governments, especially the signatories to the agreement, France, Britain and Germany, hoping they can dissuade the U.S. administration from repudiating the agreement.

And in the event the U.S. repudiates the deal, then Tehran is urging Europeans not to join Washington in re-imposing sanctions.

The Iranians say if Europe and the other signatories, Russia and China, stick with the deal and don’t join a renewed sanctions regime, then Tehran will continue to adhere to the agreement.

Iran’s foreign secretary, Mohammad Javad Zarif, highlighted that appeal in an interview with British newspapers published Saturday, warning that if Europe followed Washington’s lead if the Trump administration abandons the deal, Iran would resume uranium enrichment and other aspects of its nuclear program at a more advanced level than before the deal was struck.

Trump on deal 

The U.S. State Department is due to certify to Congress in two weeks time whether Iran has been complying with the terms of the deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA. Trump has said he has made up his mind already, but hasn't told European leaders his decision, including Britain’s Theresa May, who asked him reportedly at a bilateral meeting at the UN last month.

Trump has been a stern critic of what his predecessor, Barack Obama, saw as a signature foreign policy achievement.

Dubbing it a “bad deal,” Trump pledged during his campaign for the White House last year to rip up the agreement. And in New York in a speech last month at the UN, he described the deal as an “embarrassment,” saying it was “one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into.”

Although the Trump administration has not offered any examples of JCPOA non-compliance by Iran, the belligerency of the President’s comments has heightened impressions that he’s laying the groundwork for the State Department to withhold certification on October 15. The administration is required to report to Congress every 90 days on the deal.

Iran’s intense lobbying effort has two main purposes, say analysts: to get the Europeans to press Washington not to walk away, and in the event President Trump does, to try to ensure the Europeans don’t follow suit — a move that could increase strains between Trump’s Washington and European leaders to a possible breaking point.

European impact

The Europeans would be placed in a lose-lose position, if the U.S. abandons the nuclear deal. Under the agreement’s provisions, any signatory can require the UN Security Council to vote on a resolution to continue the deal’s sanctions relief — a U.S. veto would result in the sanctions on Iran snapping back into place automatically.

That in turn would present the Europeans with the uncomfortable choice of either complying with a UN resolution or re-imposing sanctions against their own policy views. Either way, it would likely compound increasingly tense transatlantic relations.

European signatories to the deal have all publicly defended the nuclear agreement, which placed limits on Iran’s nuclear program designed to prevent Tehran from developing weapons in return for a lifting of international sanctions.

By: Jamie Dettmer