EU Pins Hopes on U.S. Congress to Uphold Iran Nuclear Deal

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  • European foreign ministers say 2015 pact is key to security
  • Europe charts strategy after Trump refuses to certify deal

Panetta Says U.S. Should Stick With Iran Nuclear Deal

The European Union urged the U.S. Congress to uphold the Iranian nuclear agreement, calling it key to global security, after President Donald Trump threatened to walk away from the deal.

EU foreign ministers including France’s Jean-Yves Le Drian said Trump’s refusal on Oct. 13 to certify the international accord aimed at preventing Tehran from developing atomic weapons was misguided. Trump asked the U.S. Congress to toughen the terms of the 2015 pact, saying it doesn’t do enough to contain Iranian ambitions.

“We hope the Congress won’t call into question this agreement,” Le Drian told reporters on Monday in Luxembourg, where he conferred with his EU counterparts. “The European Union also needs to put pressure on the American Congress.”

Europe is counting on evidence that Iran is fully respecting the agreement and on worldwide concerns about the spread of nuclear arms as North Korea continues testing them to win over U.S. lawmakers. The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency monitors Iran’s compliance with the deal, which has eased economic sanctions on the country in return for nuclear curbs.

“We as Europeans in general have great concerns that the decision of the American president could lead us back into a military confrontation with Iran,” German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said. “That’s the biggest problem that exists at the moment.”

‘Our Security’

Trump’s decision last week, required every 90 days under U.S. law, stopped short of repudiating the accord. The president said the agreement wasn’t serving U.S. national security interests and said the Iranian regime’s aggression has only escalated since the 2015 deal was reached. He also promised new sanctions on Iran.

EU foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini, who chaired the ministerial talks in Luxembourg, said she would visit Washington in early November to defend the accord.

“It’s an agreement that is working,” Mogherini said. “It’s an agreement that we need for our security.”

She said the IAEA has “never” found any Iranian violation of the pact, it keeps “the channels of engagement, dialogue and cooperation with Iran open” and it doesn’t prevent parallel efforts to address other controversial activity by Tehran such as ballistic-missile tests. The nuclear deal is known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA.

“Any non-nuclear-related issue that we might and we want to discuss with Iran and with others in the region will be managed first of all not linked to the JCPOA implementation; for us it’s two very clearly distinct issues,” Mogherini said. “Second, the international community -- and also the European Union -- would not be in any way in a better place to address these issues without the JCPOA in place.”

Regional Tensions

In a statement released after the discussions in Luxembourg, the EU said it “is committed to the continued full and effective implementation of all parts of the JCPOA.” While also expressing “concerns related to ballistic missiles and increasing tensions in the region,” the bloc said those matters need to be addressed “in the relevant formats and fora” outside the scope of the nuclear agreement.

“At a time of acute nuclear threat, the EU is determined to preserve the JCPOA as a key pillar of the international non-proliferation architecture,” the 28-nation EU said.

Trump, speaking to reporters at the start of a Cabinet meeting on Monday, said “a lot of people agreed with what I did” and said the JCPOA was still being studied.

“I’m tired of being taken advantage of as a nation,” Trump said, adding that “total termination” of the accord is still a possibility.

Iran would consider withdrawing from the nuclear deal should the U.S. seek to reimpose sanctions eased on commerce such as oil and aircraft as a result of the accord, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said over the weekend. Zarif said that Trump showed an “absence of any strategy” vis-a-vis Iran and repeated that Iranian defense and missile programs would never be subject to negotiation.

Cornelius Adebahr, a Germany-based researcher at the Carnegie Europe think tank, said Trump’s new approach to Iran had damaged the U.S.’s “reputation and reliability” and diminished the prospect of reaching any accord over North Korea’s nuclear program. He said it was fanciful to believe the Iranian nuclear pact could be improved.

“There are no real chances of having a better deal,” Adebahr said by phone.

— With assistance by Nikos Chrysoloras, and Justin Sink

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