Macron on Iran nuclear deal: There is no 'Plan B'

French President Emmanuel Macron, who is heading to Washington to urge his US counterpart to stay in the Iran nuclear deal, said in an interview broadcast Sunday that there is no "Plan B" if the accord is scrapped.

"I don't have any Plan B for nuclear -- against Iran," Macron told Fox News Sunday, in an English-language interview broadcast on the eve of his three-day state visit.

"So that's a question we will discuss, but that's why I just want to say, on nuclear -- let's present this framework because it's better than the sort of North Korean type of situation,"

North Korea has developed and tested nuclear weapons as well as intercontinental ballistic missiles, posing a significant threat to global security.

US President Donald Trump is threatening to tear up the 2015 agreement aimed at curbing Tehran's nuclear efforts unless European capitals agree to supplement it with tougher controls on Iran's missile program and future ability to return to nuclear fuel enrichment.

Iran is upping the rhetoric in return -- with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warning Saturday Tehran is ready to "vigorously" resume enrichment if the United States ditches the nuclear accord.

Macron said he too supports efforts to curb Iran's ballistic missile program, but that this does not require scrapping the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear accord.

"I'm not satisfied with the situation with Iran. I want to fight against ballistic missiles, I want to contain their influence in the region," he said.

"My point is to say don't leave now the JCPOA as long as you have not a better option for nuclear, and let's complete it with ballistic missile and regional containment."

Macron also cited the shared goal of reining in Iran's influence as he argued for a long-term US commitment in Syria -- where Paris and Washington have cooperated in the fight against the Islamic State group and coordinated strikes on Syrian regime chemical weapons installations.

"We will have to build a new Syria after war," Macron said. "And that's why I think the US role is very important to play."

"Why? I will be very blunt. The day we will have finished this war against ISIS, if we leave, definitely and totally, even from a political point of view, we will leave the floor to the Iranian regime, Bashar al-Assad and these guys."

"And they will prepare the new war. They will fuel the new terrorists."

Can Macron's White House visit save the Iran deal?
Washington (AFP) April 22, 2018 - French President Emmanuel Macron seems, as much as any world leader, to have developed a rapport with his American counterpart Donald Trump.

But will their apparent bond help European capitals in their struggle to save the Iran nuclear deal from Trump's wrath?

The idea will be tested Monday when the young French leader begins a state visit in Washington, and European diplomats have a lot invested in what seems a tricky task.

There is not much time. Trump is due to decide by May 12 whether talks with Paris, Berlin and London on tougher anti-Iran measures have advanced far enough.

If he feels the "flaws" in the 2015 deal have not been adequately repaired, he may decide to withdraw his support, opening the way for renewed US sanctions that could torpedo the whole accord.

Europe would see this as a disaster, both in terms of the deal itself -- a central plank in their non-proliferation strategy -- and in terms of relations with Washington.

If anyone can talk down Trump, it might be Macron, who has better relations with the White House than his British and German counterparts Theresa May and Angela Merkel.

Paris was the first European ally to suggest tougher measures against Iran's ballistic missile programs to "supplement" the nuclear deal -- but will that suffice?

Trump also wants to reform the agreement itself to end the so-called "sunset clauses" that would allow Iran to progressively restart parts of its nuclear program after 2025.

Macron has urged Trump not to scrap the deal in the absence of an alternative.

- No 'Plan B' -

"I don't have any Plan B for nuclear -- against Iran," Macron told Fox News Sunday in an English-language interview, arguing that working to curb Tehran's missile program and contain its regional influence could be accomplished in addition to the 2015 accord.

"So that's a question we will discuss," he said, as he prepared to head to Washington.

The West cannot unilaterally reopen the text, and Iran has said the deal is final and warned it is ready to relaunch its nuclear program -- which the West alleges is designed to produce an atomic bomb -- if it fails.

In addition, the agreement was the fruit of months of intense diplomacy between Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States -- under EU auspices.

Only Trump wants to rip it up.

"It's a dialogue of the deaf," complained one European envoy. A US diplomat acknowledged that getting Trump to buy in will be the "trickiest" part of the problem.

British, French and German representatives have been in deep talks with the US State Department's head of policy Brian Hook on what a supplemental deal would look like.

But the representatives complain privately that, despite progress with their American counterparts, they have no idea whether they are close to an agreement that the mercurial president would accept.

To appease Trump, European capitals are working on a document that would amount to a political engagement to prevent Iran from returning to the nuclear path after the 2015 deal starts to expire.

The Europeans could even call such a statement a new "deal," if it convinces the US leader to stay within the terms of the original and "true" agreement.

Therein lies the rub.

"He hates the deal," another European diplomat acknowledged.

- 'Fix this deal' -

All Hook can say is that once he comes to terms with his European partners, it will be up to Trump, in consultations with his hardline new National Security Advisor John Bolton, to decide.

"If we can reach an agreement, then that will be presented to the president by the secretary of state and the NSA, and then he will make a decision on whether he wants to remain in the deal or stop waiving sanctions," Hook said.

"We always have to prepare for any eventuality, and so we are engaged in contingency planning because it would not be responsible not to engage in it."

The appointment of Bolton, an avowed Iran hawk, fueled Europe's pessimism, as did the nomination of CIA director Mike Pompeo to become the next US secretary of state.

But Pompeo, who has always talked tough on Iran, played down the May 12 deadline in his Senate confirmation hearing.

"I want to fix this deal. That's the objective," he told lawmakers concerned that he might push for war.

"If there is no chance to fix it, I'll recommend to the president we do our level best to work with our allies to achieve a better outcome and better deal. Even after May 12th, even after May 12th, there's still much diplomatic work to be done."

As the deadline looms, even some of the more hawkish Washington pundits have begun to suggest the return of US nuclear-related sanctions could be postponed until a new fixed date.

But if all the talk fails and Trump follows his clear inclination to tear up the "terrible deal," there appears to be no alternative, at least from Europe.

After Macron's visit, there is only one from Merkel, whose chemistry with the US leader appears more toxic than productive, and then the ball is in Trump's hands.


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NUKEWARS
Can Macron's White House visit save the Iran deal?
Washington (AFP) April 22, 2018
French President Emmanuel Macron seems, as much as any world leader, to have developed some kind of rapport with his American counterpart Donald Trump. But will their apparent bond prove productive as European capitals struggle to save the Iran nuclear deal from Trump's impulsive wrath? The idea will be tested Monday when the young French leader begins a state visit in Washington, and European diplomats have a lot invested in what seems a tricky task. There is not much time. Trump is due to ... read more

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Macron on Iran nuclear deal: There is no 'Plan B' Macron on Iran nuclear deal: There is no 'Plan B' Reviewed by Defense Alert on 02:27:00 Rating: 5

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