Will the other members of the P5+1 club that joined the deal between Barack Obama and Iran put together a new deal that will keep Donald Trump in the fold? Reuters reports that the closest allies of the United States will present the White House with a “package” to preserve theJoint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). It’s not really a new deal as much as it is a set of parallel steps, to which Iran may or may not agree:
Western envoys said Britain, Germany and France were nearing a package to put to Donald Trump to try and persuade him to save the Iran nuclear agreement, even as Tehran poured more scorn on the U.S. president, dismissing him as a “tradesman”. …
Russia, China, Germany, Britain and France, who all signed the accord with Iran and the United States, are determined to save the deal, seeing it as the best way to stop Iran developing a nuclear bomb.
Western envoys told Reuters on Wednesday that three months of meetings behind closed doors were culminating in a package of separate measures that could be taken against Iran in the hope they would satisfy Trump while keeping the nuclear deal intact.
“This is about convincing President Trump, it’s not a new deal with Iran,” a senior European Union diplomat said.
Trump has been pushing to trash the Iran deal since he first started campaigning for president. The fact that he has not yet taken any steps to do so leaves an opening for renegotiation in some fashion, which Trump has demanded and which Rex Tillerson thought he could get, until the string ran out on him. With Tillerson out, our European partners must have gotten nervous about what would come next — and hence, have begun to float a side deal rather than demand a complete renegotiation.
Will that work? It might have already succeeded, Adam Kredo reported yesterday at the Free Beacon. According to congressional sources, the Trump administration has already conceded on allowing Iran to continue developing medium-range ballistic missiles, and more concessions may be coming:
The Trump administration is poised to legitimize Iran’s ballistic missile program, granting the Islamic Republic the ability to produce and test a series of missiles capable of striking Israel, according to those familiar with U.S. concessions during ongoing talks over the future of the landmark Iran nuclear deal.
After weeks of pressure from European countries, senior Trump administration officials handling the talks are said to have conceded to a demand that Iran only restrict ballistic missile activity to its longer range missiles, leaving untouched its mammoth arsenal of short-range and medium-range missiles that could easily hit Israel and other Middle Eastern nations. …
In addition to the relaxed restrictions of Iran’s missile program, European leaders and Iran deal supporters are urging the president to accept a basket of so-called fixes to the deal that Iran deal experts and administration insiders say falls far short of President Trump’s original demands. This reversal in the negotiating position of the United States could result in Trump deciding to wholly abandon the nuclear deal.
Don’t bet on that outcome. If Trump can score a deal that even marginally improves the status quo, he can claim a win without having to risk a war or an open nuclear arms race. It’s the same with other deals that Trump wanted renegotiated, such as NAFTA and even NATO at one time. Trump demands that other stakeholders offer concessions for his continued good graces while describing the existing relationships as “terrible” and “the worst.” Any concessions then become a win and gives him evidence of being better at it than his predecessors. Even if that’s a low bar, and on the Iran deal it certainly is, Trump’s more likely to quit while he’s ahead.
The Europeans know this too, which is why they’re scrambling for a parallel deal that will give Trump some of what he wants. But they’re also underscoring the need for Trump to remain the JCPOA in order to maintain credibility for negotiating new side agreements. In an otherwise friendly speech to the joint session of Congress, French president Emmanuel Macron directly demanded that the US stick to its word on the JCPOA just as France will do:
NEW: French Pres. Macron on Iran nuclear deal: "France will not leave the JCPOA. Because we signed it. Your president and your country will have to take in the current days and weeks its own responsibility regarding this issue." https://t.co/sfWmojiyFQ pic.twitter.com/2nPvhNHL43
— ABC News (@ABC) April 25, 2018
Note well, though, that Macron follows the quote in ABC’s tweet with this, emphasis mine: “But what I want to do — and what we decided together with your president — is that we can work on a more comprehensive deal addressing all these concerns.” Sounds like Europe may have a deal with Trump already. The question will be whether our European partners can deliver Iranian agreement and compliance to any new deals between the mullahs and a “tradesman.”