German FM vows ‘considerable efforts’ to protect Iran deal
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German FM vows ‘considerable efforts’ to protect Iran deal

During visit to Jordan, Heiko Maas calls for a ‘firewall’ between the nuclear deal and Tehran’s other activities

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas takes the oath of office after the new government was appointed after German Chancellor Angela Merkel was elected for a fourth term as chancellor in the German parliament Bundestag in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, March 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas takes the oath of office after the new government was appointed after German Chancellor Angela Merkel was elected for a fourth term as chancellor in the German parliament Bundestag in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, March 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

Germany’s foreign minister said Thursday his government will exert “considerable efforts” to protect the Iran nuclear deal despite Berlin’s misgivings about Iran’s ballistic missiles program and its involvement in the Syria conflict.

In a visit to Jordan, Heiko Maas called for a “firewall” between the nuclear deal and Iran’s other activities.

Under the 2015 deal, Iran agreed to curbs and inspections on its nuclear program in exchange for relief from years of crippling international sanctions.

US President Donald Trump has set a mid-May deadline to reach agreement with European nations to “fix” the agreement by toughening restrictions on Iran. The White House says the president will withdraw from the Obama-era accord if there’s no agreement on new punishments.

Trump wants to penalize Tehran for ballistic missiles, which weren’t part of the original deal. He also wants to expand access for international nuclear inspectors and prolong the limits on Iran’s nuclear activity, currently scheduled to expire in several years.

Maas visited Israel to discuss French, German and British efforts to prevent a US exit from the deal with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Iran has said US withdrawal from the nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions would destroy the agreement and has threatened a range of responses, including immediately restarting nuclear activities currently barred under the deal.

US sanctions that were lifted in exchange for Iran curbing its nuclear program fall into several baskets, including some that can be restored by executive order and some that would require congressional action. Some sanctions target Iranian entities only while others punish third-country companies for doing business with Iran.

One option being considered by the Treasury Department, which enforces sanctions, would be to immediately snap back sanctions that don’t need action from Congress but delay their enforcement by four to six months, according to people familiar with the matter. That would give companies and governments time to prepare to comply with the changes. It would also keep the door open for last-minute changes that could potentially address Trump’s concerns.

Another option would be to reimpose US sanctions but carve out certain exemptions that could allow Europe and Iran to remain in the agreement without US participation. Then it would be up to Tehran to decide whether the benefits of a deal that no longer includes the US would be valuable enough to keep it alive.

Earlier this week, the head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence, Yossi Cohen, said he was “100 percent certain” that Iran remains committed to developing a nuclear bomb and attacking Israel.

“As head of the Mossad, I am 100 percent certain that Iran has never abandoned its military nuclear vision for a single instant. This deal enables Iran to achieve that vision,” he said in an interview. “That is why I believe the deal must be completely changed or scrapped. The failure to do so would be a grave threat to Israel’s security.”

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