Europe has few levers to pull to defuse tensions between the U.S. and Iran
On July 9, French President Emmanuel Macron sent his top diplomatic adviser to Tehran on a mission to ease spiraling tensions between the U.S. and Iran. Having cultivated direct lines to President Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and spoken to each since Trump ordered and then canceled airstrikes on the Islamic Republic in June, Macron saw the potential for dialogue. For all the chest thumping, he was confident the Iranians didn’t want further escalation, according to a person familiar with the French president’s thinking. Trump’s aggressive approach, Macron reasoned, was nothing but a tactic from his past life as a real estate dealmaker.
The message that envoy Emmanuel Bonne delivered to Tehran was simple: A pause in nuclear activities, which Iran had restarted a year after the U.S. violated the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action ( JCPOA) by exiting it and imposing new sanctions, would be to its advantage. But during Bonne’s meeting with Rouhani, Trump fired off another incendiary tweet, accusing Iran of having long violated the nuclear deal in secret and pledging to “substantially” increase sanctions. Hours later, reports emerged that Iranian vessels had tried to impede a U.K. tanker in the Strait of Hormuz, a claim Iran rejected.
European nations, especially France and Germany, have been trying to save what’s left of the JCPOA, which promised to plug Iran into global trade in exchange for curbing its nuclear program. But their efforts have been frustrated by Trump’s unpredictability, which has unsettled already fragile relationships with the Islamic Republic.
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July 22, 2019