European envoys to the U.S. mounted a united defense of the Iran nuclear deal as Washington signals it may walk away from the pact, CNN reports. Envoys to the U.S. from France, Britain, Germany and the EU shared a stage on Monday to publicly discourage President Donald Trump from withdrawing from a deal they together brokered with Iran in 2015 meant to govern its nuclear program.
Following private consultations among their leaders at the UN General Assembly last week, the European ambassadors all told the Atlantic Council that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was achieving its intended purpose of preventing Iran from acquiring fissile material for nuclear weapons.
The diplomats said the deal is in the national security interests of their countries, the Middle East and the world. They said a decision to walk away would undermine Western credibility, particularly with North Korea. And while they’re happy to discuss Iran’s behavior outside of the nuclear deal, they said the pact itself is not open for renegotiation.
“We don’t think it will be possible to renegotiate” the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, said German Ambassador Peter Wittig, who added that his country saw no practical way to do so.
Moreover, the German envoy said that walking away from the deal at this point would create the danger of Iran resuming its nuclear enrichment activities, a nuclear arms race in the region, and a weakening of the non-proliferation regime. Furthermore, he said, a collapse of the Iran deal would send a signal to North Korea—which has ratcheted up tensions on the Korean Peninsula with missile launches and a hydrogen bomb test—that diplomacy is unreliable.
“That would affect our credibility in the West when we are not honoring an agreement that Iran has not violated,” Wittig said.
But the representatives of Britain and France said their leaders share Trump’s concerns with provisions of the deal that will ultimately expire, allowing Iran to build its nuclear infrastructure to industrial scale.
All four ambassadors insisted that the nuclear portfolio remain separate from their other concerns about Iranian behavior, including its work on intercontinental ballistic missiles, its human rights abuses, its involvement in Syria and Yemen, and its support for terrorist networks worldwide.
The Americans “have legitimate concerns about the behavior of Iran in the Middle East,” said French Ambassador Gerard Araud, Jerusalem Post reports.
“Nothing within the agreement is preventing us from facing the challenges raised by Iran.”
“Decertification… is an American issue,” said Araud. “What matters for us will be the consequences of that… We are not going to criticize the president for certification or decertification. That’s your problem.”
Under US law, Trump has to certify to Congress every 90 days that Iran is complying with the deal. He has repeatedly hinted that he wants to ditch the agreement, most recently in his speech before the United Nations General Assembly last week.
Trump officials are suggesting the president may decline to certify Iran’s compliance to the deal before an October 15 congressional deadline. The move would not directly effect the US role in the JCPOA, but would kick off a 60-day review period on Capitol Hill that might lead to sanctions on Iran, and withdrawal from the accord.
EU ambassador David O’Sullivan said that none of the issues the Trump administration is concerned about would be easier to deal with if the US abandons the nuclear pact.
“I can think of no regional issue that would not be even more difficult to handle if Iran possessed nuclear weapons. This is one of the most comprehensive non-proliferation agreements every negotiated,” O’Sullivan said.
Stuart E. Eizenstat, chairman of the Iran Advisory Board at the Atlantic Council’s Future of Iran Initiative, summed up the concern both in Washington and in many European capitals that Trump may seek to unravel the nuclear deal.
“It now appears that Washington, rather than Iran, may be a bigger threat to the JCPOA,” he said, referring to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or the nuclear deal with Iran.