UK reaffirms commitment to Iran nuclear deal in call with Trump: May’s office

From Reuters, October 10, 2017, by William James.

LONDON (Reuters) – Prime Minister Theresa May has reaffirmed Britain’s commitment to a 2015 Iran nuclear deal in a telephone conversation with U.S. President Donald Trump ahead of a key U.S. decision on whether Tehran has stuck to the terms of the pact.

Trump has cast doubt on the future of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which sought to curb Iran’s nuclear program in return for lifting most Western economic sanctions.

A senior U.S. administration official said last week that Trump – who has criticized the pact as an “embarrassment” and “the worst deal ever negotiated,” – was expected to decertify Iran’s compliance ahead of an Oct. 15 deadline.

“The (prime minister) reaffirmed the UK’s strong commitment to the deal alongside our European partners, saying it was vitally important for regional security,” said a statement from May’s office following the call on Tuesday evening.

“(The prime minister) stressed that it was important that the deal was carefully monitored and properly enforced.”

In contrast, a White House statement on the phone call said Trump “underscored the need to work together to hold the Iranian regime accountable for its malign and destabilizing activities, especially its sponsorship of terrorism and its development of threatening missiles.”

In a separate statement, Britain’s Foreign Office said Iran had upheld its nuclear commitments, adding to international pressure on Trump not to jeopardize security in the region.

“The nuclear deal was a crucial agreement that neutralized Iran’s nuclear threat,” foreign minister Boris Johnson said.

“It was the culmination of 13 years of painstaking diplomacy and has increased security, both in the region and in the UK. It is these security implications that we continue to encourage the US to consider.”

Johnson spoke by telephone with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on Tuesday and will on Wednesday meet the head of Iran’s nuclear agency in London to press for continued compliance with the deal.

May and Trump also discussed the need for Britain, the United States and others to work together to counter destabilizing Iranian activity in the region, May’s office said.

Britain and the United States are two of eight signatories to the deal, along with Iran, China, France, Russia, Germany and the European Union.

China, Russia and the European states have already expressed their continued support for the deal, while Iran has said Trump would not be able to undermine the pact.

If Trump declines to certify Iran’s compliance, U.S. congressional leaders would have 60 days to decide whether to reimpose sanctions on Tehran suspended under the agreement.

Earlier, the White House said Trump would make an announcement later this week on an “overall Iran strategy”, including whether to decertify the nuclear deal.

May’s office said she agreed with Trump that their teams should remain in contact ahead of the decision on recertification.

Fearing Trump Torpedo, Europe Scrambles to Save Iran Deal

From Reuters,  October 11, 2017, by Noah Barkin and John Irish.

BERLIN/PARIS (Reuters) – European countries are scrambling to cobble together a package of measures they hope will keep the Iran nuclear deal on track if U.S. President Donald Trump ignores their pleas and decertifies the landmark 2015 agreement this week.

The package would include a strong statement backing the deal by European powers, together with efforts to lobby the U.S. Congress and put wider pressure on Iran, officials said.

But without strong U.S. support for the deal, senior officials in Berlin, Paris and London say it may be only a matter of time before the pact between Tehran and six world powers unravels, with grave consequences for Middle East security, nonproliferation efforts and transatlantic ties.

The two-year-old agreement, under which Iran agreed to freeze its nuclear program for 15 years in exchange for sanctions relief, is viewed in Europe as a rare triumph of international diplomacy in the Middle East.

As tensions over North Korea’s nuclear activities risk boiling over into all-out war, any move by the United States to undermine the Iran deal is seen in Europe as utter folly.

European capitals have been delivering this message to the White House and Congress in one of the most intense lobbying campaigns in recent memory. In the past weeks, European ambassadors have met dozens of U.S. lawmakers. And on Tuesday, British Prime Minister Theresa May lobbied Trump by phone.

Despite this, Trump is expected declare this week that Iran is not complying with the pact. He is also due to unveil a tough new strategy toward Iran – including designating its Revolutionary Guards Corps as a terrorist organization – that could sink the deal.

“If the feeling is the United States no longer supports the agreement then the political reality is that the deal will be in serious jeopardy and its implementation will be very difficult,” a senior French diplomat told Reuters.

A decision by Trump to decertify would not automatically kill the agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The expectation is that Trump would kick the ball to Congress, which would then have 60 days to decide whether to reimpose sanctions lifted as part of the JCPOA.

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