In a welcome development of major international significance, three leading European nations that still adhere to the 2015 Obama-era pact setting limits on Iran’s nuclear programs called Wednesday for negotiations to reopen the agreement and broaden its coverage. It is encouraging to see them join President Donald Trump in his call to revise and strengthen the agreement to constrain not only Iran’s nuclear program but its missiles and interventionist foreign policy in the Middle East.
Indeed, Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who joined the president of France and the chancellor of Germany in the statement, added that he wants a “Trump deal” with Iran.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry promptly rebuffed the new European position with predictable rhetoric, saying the statement “showed that the European parties have no strength or willpower to counter U.S. bullying.”
But the statement by Prime Minister Johnson, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron pointed to Iran’s behavior for their reversal of a position taken in opposition to President Trump last year. Regarding the Sept. 14 attack on Saudi oil facilities, the trio declared, “It is clear to us that Iran bears responsibility for this attack. There is no other plausible explanation.” They called on Iran to return to negotiations and “refrain from choosing provocation and escalation.”
Going further, the three European leaders said, “We reiterate our conviction that the time has come for Iran to accept negotiation on a long-term framework for its nuclear program as well as on issues related to regional security, including its missiles program and other means of delivery.”
That’s a resounding endorsement of the position President Trump adopted shortly after taking office. Rebuffed by Iran and unsupported by Europe in 2017 and 2018, he withdrew last year from the nuclear deal and resumed economic sanctions on Iran.
However, Europe’s position began to shift as Iran became more provocative this year, threatening shipping in the Persian Gulf, resuming forbidden nuclear enrichment activities and now attacking Saudi Arabia. President Macron has worked closely with President Trump in an effort to restart negotiations. Although the leaders said they “reiterated” their position, this is the first time they have publicly endorsed the need for wide-ranging new negotiations.
On Tuesday at the United Nations, the remaining signatories to the deal, including Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and the European Union, met to discuss future steps. The group pledged to continue observing the agreement.
But the European members, presumably including the EU, are pressing for a new deal. EU foreign policy adviser Federica Mogherini emerged from the meeting to say “it is becoming increasingly difficult” to maintain a common front.
That means Iran could face new sanctions from Europe. Its actions make it a less trustworthy trade partner and threaten world economic security, especially in Asia. Iran is not making new friends, or keeping old ones.
Iran is internally divided, but Iran’s ruling hard-line clerics and most likely its Revolutionary Guard continue to insist on Iran’s right to do as it chooses. Iran remains dangerous and likely to strike out again. But Europe’s welcome support for Mr. Trump makes a major war less likely.