French President Emmanuel Macron--the man trying to hold the Iran nuclear deal together in the face of US unpredictability and Israeli hostility--has said he does not know which way Donald Trump will jump on 12 May, when the next deadline for continuing the deal looms.
Speaking in Australia, Macron said the current deal was “not sufficient” to halt Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but that it was the only deal on the table. “The [Iran nuclear deal] was a very important negotiation and is the best way to monitor the current nuclear activity of the … Iranian regime,” he said at a press conference in Sydney. “We negotiated it. We signed it. It’s good to respect it and that for me is a good beginning.”
Having just left Washington and talks with the US president--where he described American policy inconsistencies as “insane”--Macron said he did not know which way the US president would go on the deal. “I don’t know what the US president will decide 12th May.”
The Iran nuclear deal, formally the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was signed between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany and the EU, in 2015, and limits the development of Iran’s nuclear program.
In exchange for reducing its capabilities and its stockpiles of uranium, Iran receives relief from international sanctions.
Trump has threatened to stop issuing presidential waivers on the nuclear-related sanctions when the next tranche is due on 12 May, a move that would abrogate the agreement, even if it fell short of a formal withdrawal.
“Nobody wants a war in the region”
Macron said the deal should be honoured, but that, regardless of the US position, the world needed to prepare to renegotiate with Tehran over a more comprehensive, long-term nuclear agreement.
“Whatever the (Trump) decision will be, we will have to prepare such a broader negotiation ... because I think nobody wants a war in the region, and nobody wants an escalation in terms of tension in the region,” he said.
In recent days, Macron has been working furiously across the globe and time zones to keep the deal’s parties onside, speaking with British prime minister Theresa May, German chancellor Angela Merkel, and presidents Trump, Hassan Rouhani and Vladimir Putin, in an effort to hold it together.
Macron said three new “pillars” were needed to any future re-negotiated Iran deal: agreement over nuclear activity post-2025; better controls and monitoring of ballistic activity; and containment of Iranian influence across the region, in particular in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen.
“We will work actively in order to convince everybody to have - in the coming days, weeks and months - such negotiations, which is the only way to progress and stabilise the region.”
On Tuesday, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Iran of continuing to hide and expand its nuclear weapons capabilities . He presented what he alleged was “new and conclusive proof” of violations and said Iran had lied about its capabilities at the time of the agreement’s signing.
However, key documents relied on by Netanyahu had previously been seen by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), as early as 2005 and were made public by the agency in 2011.
By Ben Doherty