As Trump Bashes Iran Deal, European Leaders Stand Up To Defend It

The president has announced he is decertifying the landmark agreement.

European powers are racing to salvage the Iran nuclear deal after U.S. President Donald Trump announced he is decertifying the landmark agreement and leaving its fate up to Congress.

Trump spoke about his plan “to confront the Iranian regime’s hostile actions, and to ensure Iran never ― and I mean never ― acquires a nuclear weapon” during a speech on Friday, nearly two years after the deal was adopted following decades of diplomatic tensions between Tehran and the West.

Congress is now tasked with amending the terms of the agreement. If congressional leaders fail to address Trump’s concerns, he said, the U.S. will “terminate” the deal.

But Trump does not have the authority to unilaterally end the pact, which is “not a bilateral agreement,” said European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who chaired the final stages of the milestone negotiations.

“The president of the United States has many powers, but this is not one,” Mogherini said Friday. “The international community, and the European Union with it, has clearly indicated that the deal is, and will, continue to be in place.”

Known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the agreement between Iran, the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, Germany and the EU requires Tehran to rein in its nuclear program in exchange for relief from stifling economic sanctions.

The White House is required to recertify the JCPOA every 90 days to confirm Iran’s compliance. Trump’s decision not to do so is provocative but unsurprising: He’s repeatedly called it one of the “worst” and “most incompetently drawn” deals he’s ever seen, and accused Iran of failing to uphold the “spirit” of the treaty.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said this week that Tehran is “under technical compliance” with its obligations, but Trump vowed on Friday to “place additional sanctions on the regime to block their financing of terror.”

When Trump last certified the JCPOA in July, he suggested it would be the final time, despite international pressure to keep the agreement in place.

Iranian officials have suggested that if sanctions are reimposed they will swiftly abandon the pact, sparking panic among its European backers.

Paris, London and Berlin issued a joint statement Friday afternoon to express their concern and disappointment.

“We stand committed to the JCPoA and its full implementation by all sides. Preserving the JCPoA is in our shared national security interest,” the statement says. “We encourage the US Administration and Congress to consider the implications to the security of the US and its allies before taking any steps that might undermine the JCPoA, such as re-imposing sanctions on Iran lifted under the agreement. ”

In anticipation of Trump’s announcement to decertify the deal, German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said earlier on Friday that Berlin would “work even harder with other partners to maintain this cohesion.” Germany has “a great interest” in the JCPOA’s continuation, he said.

“Keeping faith to an agreement is absolutely fundamental in international diplomacy,” said Norbert Röttgen, a top ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and chairman of the foreign affairs committee of the German parliament. “This is exactly what the president is putting into question,” he added, according to The Washington Post.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel warned on Thursday that America’s “behavior on the Iran issue will drive us Europeans into a common position with Russia and China against the USA.”

“It’s imperative that Europe sticks together on this issue,” he said.

French Foreign Ministry spokesperson Agnès Romatet-Espagne said Friday that France hopes the JCPOA will be “fully implemented by all parties involved.”

“Multilateralism is the only way to solve international problems that respects all parties involved, by way of dialogue and exchange,” she told reporters.

British Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron both urged Trump to recertify the agreement this week, to no avail.

Macron previously suggested that one of Trump’s motivations for moving away from the deal is simply that it was negotiated by his predecessor, former President Barack Obama.

It’s not a good reason,” said Macron, who has aggressively lobbied in support of maintaining the agreement.

Clarification: A previous version of this story said that Congress has 60 days to amend elements of the Iran deal. In fact, the 60-day window refers to the amount of time Congress has to decide whether to reimpose nuclear-related economic sanctions on Tehran.