Iran Nuclear Deal Showdown: Uranium Enrichment & Ballistic Missiles & Regional Expansionism, Bye-bye?
U.S. President Donald Trump must decide by a May 12 deadline whether or not to re-impose sanctions on Tehran, a move that would likely kill the 2015 atomic accord
Fresh off his Congressional confirmation, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Israel on Sunday, a day after traveling to Saudi Arabia and ahead of a stop in Jordan. The U.S.’ top diplomat was scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in the afternoon, with talks expected to focus primarily on Iran. The former CIA director replaced Rex Tillerson, who was fired earlier this year over differences with President Donald Trump, in particular their divergent views on the 2015 nuclear accord and how to rein in Tehran’s ballistic missile program and regional expansionism.
In this respect, Pompeo—who is being accompanied by his senior policy adviser Brian Hook, the Trump administration’s point-man for negotiations with European powers aimed at devising a follow-on pact to close the agreement’s “loopholes”—is considered an Iran hawk who in his previous position expressed a desire to “roll back this disastrous deal with the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism.”
Pompeo’s shotgun Middle East tour comes amid clear signs that European powers are growing concerned that President Trump will, in fact, nix Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as the atomic pact is formally known, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel having described the accord following a Friday meeting at the White House as insufficient to “curb and contain” Tehran’s atomic ambitions. The apparent about-face came one week after she told Israel’s Channel 10 that an imperfect deal was better than none at all; and days after French President Emmanuel Macron stated during his own visit to Washington that he was willing to work with his American counterpart “on a new deal with Iran.”
President Trump has for months been lobbying Germany, France and Britain, or the “E3,” to formulate a side-agreement that eliminates the JCPOA’s so-called “sunset clauses”—which remove limitations on Iran’s ability to enrich uranium in just over a decade—and curbs the Islamic Republic’s other “nefarious” activities. According to reports, Berlin, Paris and London are close to finalizing a proposal to present to President Trump in a last-ditch effort to persuade him not to re-impose sanctions on Iran by a May 12 deadline.
For its part, the Tehran has threatened to take measures “stronger than [Trump] imagines” if the U.S. backs away from the deal, with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani having pledged earlier this month, on National Nuclear Technology Day, to ramp up his country’s atomic development program beyond previous levels. Despite the rhetoric, however, Iran is believed to have contingency plans for the continuation of the agreement without American participation.
With the fate of the nuclear deal up in the air, The Media Line took to the streets of Jerusalem to ask passersby how they believe the complex saga will unfold.