Talk of a new deal may not , in fact, be new

WASHINGTON – French President Em­manuel Macron’s talk this week of a “new deal with Iran” may not, in fact, represent anything new nor a deal with Iran.

Mr Macron, followed by German Chan­cellor Angela Merkel, came to Washing­ton in hopes of persuading President Donald Trump not to reimpose sanc­tions on Iran before a May 12 deadline and imperil the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

Under the accord, Tehran agreed to limit its nuclear program in return for relief from US and other economic sanctions. The deal, struck by Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, the United States and Iran, is called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Mr Macron’s “new deal,” at first glance, appeared an effort to re-brand something already under discussion between the United States and three European allies — Britain, France and Germany — to try to save the existing agreement.

“This is, indeed, consistent with what we have been talking about for six months,” said a French official on con­dition of anonymity, adding that Mr Macron hoped to persuade Mr Trump to stay in the existing deal with the fix un­der discussion but also to keep the door open to further talks even if he aban­dons it.

Mr Trump on January 12 gave the three European nations an ultimatum to “fix the terrible flaws of the Iran nu­clear deal” or he would refuse to extend US sanctions relief on Iran. Key US sanctions will resume unless Mr Trump issues fresh “waivers” to suspend them.

Mr Trump sees three defects in the agreement: a failure to address Iran’s ballistic missile program; the terms un­der which international inspectors can visit suspect Iranian nuclear sites; and “sunset” clauses under which key limits on the Iranian nuclear program start to expire.

Negotiators among the United States as well as the three European powers have been working to try to finesse these issues so as to keep the US in the agree­ment without driving Iran — which op­poses any changes to the deal — out of it.

At a news conference with Mr Trump on Tuesday, Mr Macron said he wanted “to work on a new deal with Iran” to ad­dress four things: limiting Iran’s nucle­ar program in the short term and long term, restraining its ballistic missile activities and curbing what the West sees as its destabilising behaviour in the Middle East.