On April 24, U.S. President Trump and French President Macron met to discuss a variety of issues critical to both countries. The biggest issue is the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the 2015 nuclear agreement that allowed for key sanctions to be waived by the U.S. and other countries in exchange for limits on the Iranian nuclear program.
President Trump has been critical about this agreement from the earliest days of his Presidential campaign. At the beginning of 2018, President Trump issued an ultimatum, calling for significant changes to the agreement, or he would not waive the sanctions again in May, essentially pulling the U.S. out of the agreement. Part of his argument against the agreement is the fact that the Iranian regime has violated aspects of the spirit of the agreement and international law through its missile program and its human rights violations.
President Macron was going to address the concerns of France and the European Union regarding the agreement, hoping to forestall the exit of the United States. After meetings on Tuesday, President Trump seemed to signal that there was progress on a fix to the Iranian nuclear agreement, as U.S. and European negotiators near an agreement to keep the U.S. from pulling out of the JCPOA.
“We could have at least an agreement among ourselves fairly quickly,” said Trump. “I think we’re fairly close to understanding each other. And I think our meeting, our one-on-one went very, very well.”
The U.S. and Europe are working to create a supplemental agreement to address areas of concern for President Trump, but there are still hurdles to overcome.
For President Trump, dealing with Iran has been a consistent part of his foreign policy, and he has attempted to use a variety of levers against Iran to reduce its influence in the Middle East and internationally.
The EU and U.S. have until May 12 to come to some type of agreement, as that is when President Trump needs to reaffirm that he is waiving the sanctions against Iran. Several issues have been agreed to, such as the right of the International Atomic Energy Agency to inspect all nuclear sites, including military sites. However, obstacles continue to remain, such as what the next steps are once the sunset clauses of the agreement expire.
In the meantime, the Iranian regime is dealing with its own issues at home economically, and it could have big implications for the mullahs if the JCPOA collapses and the sanctions are reinforced. As a result, the Iranian regime is campaigning hard for the JCPOA to remain in place, arguing that they have fulfilled their obligations under the agreement.
“President Macron is correct in saying there’s no ‘Plan B’ on JCPOA,” said Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s Foreign Minister. “It’s either all or nothing. European leaders should encourage President Trump not just to stay in the nuclear deal, but more importantly, to begin implementing his part of the bargain in good faith.” He noted that the U.S. has yet to issue a single license allowing for U.S. investment in Iran. The truth is, however, that Iran has no clear path if the U.S. pulls out of the deal.
With the issues that the regime is dealing with at home, and its military initiatives throughout the region, it is clear that the regime might not be in the best position to take on the U.S. and Europe by being confrontational by walking away from the deal as well.
The international community will soon learn if President Macron’s efforts have born fruit, or if President Trump is determined to pull out of the deal.