Rex Tillerson: European Business Deals with Iran are Safe

The United States does not intend to disrupt European business deals with Iran, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told The Wall Street Journal in an interview published Friday.

Tillerson, speaking one week after President Donald Trump refused to certify the Iran nuclear deal and left its fate to the U.S. Congress, said that he would address European allies’ business concerns.

“The president’s been pretty clear that it’s not his intent to interfere with business deals that the Europeans may have under way with Iran. He’s said it clearly: ‘That’s fine. You guys do what you want to do,” Tillerson told the Journal.

Trump has threatened a “total termination” of the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with Iran unless Congress tightens sanctions on the country and European allies address U.S. concerns.

“We’ve been working with the Europeans for six months. They have been brought along with this same thought process. It doesn’t mean that they necessarily agree entirely with it … Now we will start a more formalized process with them now that the policy’s been adopted,” Tillerson told the Journal.

Western diplomats say European powers share some U.S. concerns, but believe they should be dealt with in other forums and warn it would be a mistake to sacrifice the nuclear deal.

Trump’s threat to ditch the landmark agreement, which saw Tehran dramatically scale back its nuclear ambitions in return for an end to punishing sanctions, has sparked a chorus of foreign support for the pact.

European trade with Iran has surged since the nuclear deal went into effect in January 2016. EU trade with Iran in 2016 was around $16 billion, but most large European banks are reluctant to invest, fearing giant fines U.S. or being locked out of the U.S. market.

In the interview, Tillerson said little about the fate of lucrative Boeing contracts to sell passenger planes to Iran, or General Electric agreements to sell equipment and technologies to Iran’s energy sector.