Thomas Seibert is an Arab Weekly contributor in Istanbul.

  • Trump’s ultimatum could spell the end for the Iran nuclear deal, On: Sun, 14 Jan 2018

  • In tactical turnaround, Erdogan rediscovers ‘old friends’ in Europe, On: Sun, 07 Jan 2018

  • Iranian protests rattle ruling clergy, take world by surprise, On: Sun, 07 Jan 2018

  • US vows support for Iranian protesters, weighs options against regime, On: Sun, 07 Jan 2018

  • Turkey’s Middle East policy still driven by Ottoman hang-ups, On: Sun, 24 Dec 2017

  • Trump puts fight against Iran in front and centre of his strategy in Middle East, On: Sun, 24 Dec 2017

  • US eyes coalition to ‘really push back against Iran’, On: Sun, 17 Dec 2017

  • Istanbul summit strong on the rhetoric, weak on concrete steps, On: Sun, 17 Dec 2017

  • Pence faced with negative reactions to Trump’s Jerusalem move ahead of planned Middle East trip, On: Sun, 17 Dec 2017

  • Trump’s Jerusalem decision ushers in new era of unilateralism, uncertainty, On: Sun, 10 Dec 2017

  • Integrating Syrians in Turkey carries implications, On: Sun, 10 Dec 2017

  • New York courtroom drama fuels Turkish-US tensions, On: Sun, 03 Dec 2017

  • Poll shows better image for Russia in the Middle East as US standing erodes, On: Sun, 03 Dec 2017

  • US sidelined as Russia steers new regional course in Syria, On: Sun, 26 Nov 2017

  • Following Erdogan’s turnabout in Syria, Turks wonder if the shift will work, On: Sun, 26 Nov 2017

  • New Turkish nationalist party could be challenge for Erdogan, On: Sun, 19 Nov 2017

  • Russia emerges as major partner for Turkey’s Syria policy, On: Sun, 19 Nov 2017

  • As Turkey and US agree to disagree, Erdogan heads east, On: Sun, 12 Nov 2017

  • Mountain of bilateral problems blocks path to quick normalisation of US-Turkish ties, On: Sun, 05 Nov 2017

  • In nabbing terror suspect in Libya, US sends message, On: Sun, 05 Nov 2017

  • Influential former Trump aide advocates tough stand on Qatar, On: Sun, 29 Oct 2017

  • Kurdish rout in Kirkuk puts the US in a bind, On: Sun, 22 Oct 2017

  • Trump’s Middle East policy and the art of improvisation, On: Sun, 22 Oct 2017

  • Trump threatens to terminate Iran deal, raising stakes in showdown, On: Sun, 15 Oct 2017

  • Trump pursues new strategy to ‘neutralise’ Iran but can it work? , On: Sun, 15 Oct 2017

  • Middle East allies welcome new Iran strategy, Europe and Russia not convinced, On: Sun, 15 Oct 2017

  • US-Turkey spat widens rift between Ankara and West, On: Sun, 15 Oct 2017

  • Turkey joins forces with old foe Iran to confront Iraqi Kurds, On: Sun, 08 Oct 2017

  • Uncertainty reigns as US decision on Iran nuclear agreement looms, On: Sun, 08 Oct 2017

  • Erdogan hints at plan to swap jailed US pastor for Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, On: Sun, 01 Oct 2017

  • Muslim activists in US vow to fight Trump’s new travel ban but there’s a catch, On: Sun, 01 Oct 2017

  • Iran continues missile threats despite Trump’s stern warnings, On: Sun, 24 Sep 2017

  • As US hints at exit from Iran deal, potential new conflicts come into view , On: Sun, 24 Sep 2017

  • Turkey to launch intervention into Syria — and maybe into Iraq, On: Sun, 24 Sep 2017

  • US, UK and UN propose ‘alternative’ plan to stop Kurdish referendum, On: Sun, 17 Sep 2017

  • Erdogan to appeal to Trump as US sanctions probe intensifies, On: Sun, 17 Sep 2017

  • Turkey faces new tensions with Germany and US, On: Sun, 10 Sep 2017

  • Iranian nuclear deal in trouble as Tillerson tries to avoid collapse, On: Sun, 10 Sep 2017

  • Regional powers and US increase pressure against Kurdish referendum , On: Sun, 27 Aug 2017

  • Trump’s ultimatum could spell the end for the Iran nuclear deal

    The US president’s stance does not go down well in Europe, where leaders called for Washington to leave the Iran deal as it is.

    A last chance. US President Donald Trump (C), flanked by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (2nd L), US Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke (L) and Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis (R), speaks during a cabinet meeting at the White House, on January 10. (AP)

    2018/01/14 Issue: 139 Page: 12

    Washington- The international agree­ment on Iran’s nuclear programme survived another challenge by US President Donald Trump but the pact could be doomed within months because of mount­ing differences between Washing­ton and its European allies over new sanctions.

    Trump and his European part­ners disagree fundamentally about the approach to the nuclear deal and issues such as Iran’s mis­sile programme and Tehran’s ag­gressive policies in the Middle East, which are not covered by the nuclear pact.

    Days of talks in the White House between Trump, who has called the Iran agreement the “worst deal ever,” and senior aides, in­cluding US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who want the United States to stick with the accord, produced a compromise that is keeping the Iran deal in place for now but foresees new sanctions. Trump told European participants of the Iran deal on January 12 that he would take the United States out of the agreement by the time he has to make another sanctions decision in the middle of May if they fail to introduce stiffer condi­tions for Tehran.

    US law requires Trump to de­clare every four months whether sanctions that were suspended when the pact went into force in 2015 should be re-imposed. Every three months, Trump is obliged to tell the US Congress whether Tehran has complied with the agreement, officially known as Joint Comprehensive Plan of Ac­tion (JCPOA). Deadlines for both requirements converged around January 12.

    Using stark language, Trump warned European countries that the agreement could implode. “I am waiving the application of cer­tain nuclear sanctions but only in order to secure our European al­lies’ agreement to fix the terrible flaws of the Iran nuclear deal,” the president said in a statement. “This is a last chance. In the ab­sence of such an agreement, the United States will not again waive sanctions in order to stay in the Iran nuclear deal and if at any time I judge that such an agreement is not within reach, I will withdraw from the deal immediately.”

    The US president’s stance does not go down well in Europe, where leaders called for Washing­ton to leave the Iran deal as it is. They expressed concern that any attempt to introduce stricter cri­teria for Tehran could trigger an Iranian exit from the accord and a restart of Iran’s nuclear weapons programme.

    The US Treasury Department introduced new sanctions against 14 Iranian officials and entities outside the JCPOA framework, on top of sanctions against five enti­ties announced on January 4. Sup­pression of the recent unrest in Iran was one reason given for the new measures that target, among others, Sadeq Larijani, the head of Iran’s judiciary. Larijani is the brother of Ali Larijani, the speaker of Iran’s parliament. That showed that the new sanctions “go to the top of the regime,” a US official said on condition of anonymity.

    Officials said the Trump admin­istration was talking with Euro­pean partners, who balk at lift­ing the sunset clauses and at the connection between Iran’s mis­sile programme and the nuclear deal. As the US president only addressed US allies in Europe in his statement, it was unclear how Washington would deal with Rus­sia and China, which are also part of JCPOA and reject any change to the accord.

    Western European countries in­volved in JCPOA, which was con­cluded by Iran on one side and the United States, China, Russia, France, the United Kingdom, Ger­many and the European Union on the other, are unwilling to tighten the screws on Tehran. Senior of­ficials from the European Union, Britain, Germany and France met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mo­hammad Javad Zarif in Brussels on January 11 and repeated their view that the nuclear agreement has made the world safer. Zarif said Tehran was prepared to re­spond if the United States walked away from JCPOA.

    European leaders want the United States to leave the nu­clear agreement untouched and talk with Tehran about other out­standing problems. “We agree on this approach. We want to protect (the deal) against every possible decision that might undermine it,” German Minister of Foreign Affairs Sigmar Gabriel said. French Presi­dent Emmanuel Macron called Trump to stress Europe’s demand that all parties should abide by the nuclear pact.

    There was no immediate reac­tion by France, Britain, Germany or the European Union to Trump’s statement. Reports said EU for­eign ministers would discuss the issue at a January 22 meeting in Brussels. Unilateral US sanctions would affect European companies because Washington could outlaw their activities in the United States if they conducted business with entities or individuals targeted.

    Iran-sceptics in the United States say Trump has a point. “Europe may think they pulled a fast one and tied the US hands on Iran,” Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon official who works for the American Enterprise Insti­tute, a conservative think-tank in Washington, said via e-mail. “But, a deal that is watered down or im­plemented insincerely by refusing serious snap backs or slow-rolling inspections simply isn’t going to work nor does it conform to US law.”

    Rubin predicted that European companies would comply with new US sanctions, no matter what EU governments said. “European businessmen aren’t stupid and they’re not going to risk access to the US market for the sake of a quick buck in Iran,” he wrote.

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