If the US pulls out of the Iranian nuclear deal, Tehran will likely do the same, increasing the chance of war, said French Ambassador to Israel Hélène Le Gal, speaking to Hebrew media as French President Emmanuel Macron wrapped up his visit to Washington this week.
Macron paid a state visit to the US capital, meeting with US President Donald Trump in part to discuss the 2015 Iranian nuclear agreement and plead for a more comprehensive “new agreement” that would address what he and Trump believe to be shortcomings of the existing accord.
Trump — a fierce opponent of the agreement signed by Tehran and international powers — must declare by May 12 if he will essentially walk away from the existing deal when the renewal deadline arrives on May 12, or stay in.
Le Gal told Ynet that Macron and Trump have “a very good relationship,” and in their meeting, held “very long discussions about a number of issues, including Iran.”
The French ambassador said that Macron told Trump that France was “not naive about Iran and about the role of Iran in the region,” but that the world powers must have “a comprehensive approach to this problem, a full pillar approach, and the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action as the Iran deal is officially called] is one of those pillars.”
The other pillars, Le Gal said, include a plan for what happens after 2025 when United Nations sanctions on Iran lift and Security Council Resolution 2231 endorsing the JCPOA expires, requiring a new vote on sanctions; a joint approach on Iran’s contentious ballistic missile program; and reining in Iran’s regional role, particularly in Syria.
Le Gal said that Macron and Trump discussed these issues “very thoroughly,” and that work must be done to implement the nuclear deal very “toughly, with inspections, with everything provided in the deal.”
She said the nuclear deal “prevents Iran from launching a nuclear military program until at least 2015. If the nuclear deal is canceled, Iran will immediately restart this program. We need the JCPOA to prevent Iran from having nuclear weapons. We don’t want Iran to have a nuclear weapon, not now or ever.”
If the deal collapses, she went on, “there will be huge consequences because I don’t think Iran will stay in the deal if the US is going [to leave]. The possibility of war exists.”
Trump has branded the Iran deal “insane” and the “worst” in history. He made killing the Iran nuclear accord a campaign pledge during his 2016 presidential run.
After his talk on Wednesday with Trump, Macron said the US president may well pull out of the Iran nuclear deal for domestic political reasons.
Near the end of his three-day state visit, Macron told US media that while he did not know specifically what Trump will decide, he believes the US leader “will get rid of this deal on his own, for domestic reasons.”
“The rational analysis of all his statements does not make me think that he will do everything to maintain” the agreement signed with Iran to prevent the Islamic republic from acquiring an atomic bomb.
The proposal that Macron put forward to his US counterpart involves preserving the existing agreement on the first of “four pillars” of a future deal, as mentioned by Le Gal.
Addressing the US Congress on Wednesday, Macron said: “It is true to say that this agreement may not address all concerns, and very important concerns. This is true. But we should not abandon it without having something substantial and more substantial instead.”
In January, Trump kept the deal alive by waiving sanctions against Iran as required by the pact every six months. But he said flatly it would be the last time he did that unless serious changes were made to the accord.
He specifically called for three major changes: amending the sunset clauses, banning Iran’s capacity to test ballistic missiles, which are currently in violation of UN resolutions but not the nuclear deal, and granting inspectors greater access to Iran’s military sites.
These demands were issued as an ultimatum to Congress and America’s European allies. Trump said that if these alterations were not struck by May 12, the next deadline to waive sanctions, he would walk away from the nuclear deal.
With that deadline mere weeks away, Macron has seemingly sought to find a middle ground with Trump.
Eric Cortellessa contributed to this report.