European Allies Signal Trump On Iranian Nuclear Deal: We Don’t Support You

America's closest allies sent a strong signal that they do not agree with President Trump on the nuclear deal with Iran.


America’s three most important European allies are sending a signal to the Trump Administration regarding the Iran nuclear deal, and it’s not one of support:

Top European diplomats offered Iran’s foreign minister blanket support Thursday for the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran even as the White House weighs whether to step away from the pact.

But the European envoys also questioned Mohammad Javad Zarif over disputes such as Iran’s missile program and its role in Syria’s war as a key ally of President Bashar al-Assad.

The messages from the foreign ministers of France, Britain and Germany sought to acknowledge the range of Western concerns, including Iran’s ballistic missile development and its crackdown on dissent after street protests earlier this month.

But Europe also signaled its opposition to the Trump administration over the nuclear deal, which ended most international sanctions on Iran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.

“Unity is essential to preserve a deal that is working, that is making the world safer, that is preventing a nuclear arms race in the region,” said the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, after the talks in Brussels.

President Trump must decide by Friday whether to continue to back the provisions of the nuclear deal, which effectively opened Iran to international commerce, including a tentative deal with U.S. aircraft maker Boeing.

Officials in the Trump administration have suggested that the president plans to extend the waivers that lifted sanctions on Iran but could seek new measures over issues such as human rights and Tehran’s missile program. This was first reported by the Associated Press.

Such a move would offer some relief in Europe, where leaders fear that unilateral U.S. sanctions on Iran could unravel the nuclear deal hammered out between Iran and six world powers.

In October, Trump declined to certify that the agreement was in U.S. national security interests despite reports by the U.N. nuclear agency and others that Iran was abiding by the terms of the deal.

In a statement before the Brussels meeting, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson highlighted the sharp break with Washington, calling the nuclear deal “a crucial agreement that makes the world safer.”

“There is no indication today that could call into doubt Iranian respect of the agreement,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told reporters in Brussels.

On Twitter, Zarif posted a message noting “strong consensus in Brussels” that Iran was complying with the nuclear deal and that any attempt to undercut the accord was “unacceptable.”

The meeting was the Iranian foreign minister’s first face-to-face dialogue in the West since a wave of unrest touched off by frustrations over Iran’s stumbling economy. Among the protesters’ grievances was the failure of the nuclear accord to quickly boost the Iranian economy, as promised by its key backers, including President Hassan Rouhani.

This meeting between Iran and representatives from the three Western European nations that participated in the talks that led to the 2015 agreement under which Iran halted its nuclear weapons research program, turned over its stockpile of usable nuclear material, and agreed to a long-term inspection regime in return for the lifting of a series of international sanctions comes some three months after President Trump declined to certify Iranian compliance with the agreement as required by Federal law. That decision was made notwithstanding the fact that all of the available evidence, including the information provided by the International Atomic Energy Association, which is overseeing inspections under the law, indicates that the Islamic Republic is, in fact, complying with the agreement and that there is no factual basis for the assertion that it has violated either the letter or the spirit of the agreement. Trump also made  this decision despite the fact that his own foreign policy team, including most notably Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, were on the record as saying that Iran was in compliance with the agreement and that staying in the agreement was in the national interest of the United States.

At the time he decertified Iranian compliance with the agreement, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA), Trump suggested that he would be open to renegotiating the deal to make it stronger. As I noted at the time, though, the likelihood of that happening was somewhere between slim and none. The JCPOA was more than just an agreement between the United States and Iran, it also included participation from the United Kingdom, France, and Germany, as well as China and Russia. The odds of getting these nations to agree that a return to the bargaining table was either necessary or advisable was always slim at best, especially given the fact that there’s no evidence that Iran is failing to live up to the terms of the agreement. This was especially true with respect to China and Russia, of course, but there were also clear indications that our European allies were not on board with the idea of reopening the JCPOA, and the statements released after this meeting with Iran’s Foreign Minister seem to confirm that.

As noted above, Trump has until tomorrow to decide on whether or not the United States will lift another group of sanctions on Iran as required by the agreement. Right now, the expectation seems to be that Trump will move forward with the latest round of sanctions relief notwithstanding his previous decertification decision, but given the President’s mercurial nature we won’t know for sure until the decision is actually announced. The smart thing to do, of course, would be to lift the sanctions as required given that the evidence continues to show that Iran is complying with the agreement, but this Administration has shown us that it seldom does the smart thing so assuming that in this case is by no means a safe bet. Failure to lift the sanctions, of course, would mean that it is the United States that is not in compliance with the JCPOA, but that may be exactly what Trump wants even though it would be a highly foolish thing to do.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Mark Ivey says:

    Well, if Fox&Friends says rip the agreement up tomorrow morning…

  2. Kathy says:

    I wonder if it’s even worth mentioning how Trump’s behavior in these matters gives North Korea further incentives to keep and expand its nuclear arsenal.

  3. michael reynolds says:

    Once upon a time a game show host with a record of fraud, failure and bankruptcy and no background whatsoever in politics let alone international relations, decided to attack the Iran deal because it was negotiated by a black man. Idiots cheered.

    Then the idiots elected the game show host president and the game show host was too fwcking stupid to realize he needed to quietly drop the subject. He doubled down because – applause.

    And evidently that’s how a superpower makes foreign policy now: a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury and signifying the self-inflicted destruction of American power and prestige to earn the cheers of morons.

  4. Slugger says:

    The USA supported the regime of Reza Pahlavi for two reasons. Iran produces petroleum and blocked the expansion of the USSR in that reegion. We are still hoping the keep the oil flowing, and I believe that we are still trying to block Russia. To me this means that we should be making friends with Tehran. Instead we are cozying up to the Sauds. Iran is called the leading sponsor of terrorism, but the vast majority of terroristic acts committed by Muslims are done by Sunnis. Osama Bin Laden was not a Persian.
    The Europeans know these facts as well. They are not apt to follow someone who is openly contemptuous of diplomacy and the formalities associated with international actions. Elbowing people aside to get in front of the camera does get a good position in the photograph, but the long term impression in peoples’ minds will not result in them following you unquestionally.

  5. MBunge says:

    Trashing the Iran deal seems like a bad idea but I will again ask who exactly is going to be held responsible if it results in a nuclear-armed Iran anyway? Or who is going to be held responsible if the end result is a non-nuclear Iran where the current repressive and tyrannical regime is strengthened in its grip on power and its regional influence? Is it going to be the same people who were held responsible for Syria? Or Iraq? Or nuclear-armed North Korea?

    It would be nice in this, as with most other things, if the people calling Trump stupid didn’t have such a long record of both their own demonstrated idiocy and a practiced obliviousness to it.


  6. al-Ameda says:

    Trashing the Iran deal seems like a bad idea but I will again ask who exactly is going to be held responsible if it results in a nuclear-armed Iran anyway?
    It would be nice if we shed the notion, the idea, the illusion, that we can control who has nuclear capabilities in this world.

  7. Ben Wolf says:


    1) We don’t have the capability to stop Iran from constructing nuclear weapons. We signed this deal in good faith, the Iranians have kept their end of the bargain, and now we have a President demonstrating to the world that it is futile to negotiate with the United States because the next President may tear it up for no justifiable reason.

    2) It’s not your business or mine what kind of government Iran has. You aren’t an Iranian and get no say in its internal politics. And you agree with me, because the next time Doug posts on some foreigner criticizing the United States you’ll be here demanding they mind their own business.

    3) Trump is Netanyahu’s pawn, and Bibi will fight Iran’s nuclear program to the last dead American.

    4) There have been only two occasions in my adult life when Presidents have chosen the security of the American people over projection of power. The first was George H.W. Bush and his handling of the Soviet Union’s self-dismemberment. The second was Brarack Obama’s negotiation of the JCPOA with Iran and acknowdgement that American power has limits and consequences. We were even poised to begin backing away from our alliance with the Saudis, a government more responsible for terrorism against the U.S. than any other in the world. Until Donald Trump, that is. Now we fuel and arm their airplanes while they bomb hospitals and humanitarian supplies, give them our blessing to kidnap foreign leaders and hire out American mercs to help them torture people.

  8. CSK says:

    Has Trump called Iran a sh!thole yet? That’ll show ’em.

  9. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    And you agree with me, because the next time Doug posts on some foreigner criticizing the United States you’ll be here demanding they mind their own business.

    I doubt that Bunge agrees with you because he will fail to see the correlation you are making. Criticizing Iran and criticizing the US are two entirely different things in Bungeworld.

  10. CSK says:

    OT, but significant: The U.S. ambassador to Panama, John Feeley, has resigned, saying he ca no longer work for the Trump administration. Apparently he arrived at this decision before the sh!thole remarks were made.

  11. Senyordave says:

    @CSK: I think it is pretty significant. People of conscience should struggle with the idea of working in the Trump administration. The shithole remark and the tacit acknowledgement that he said it and does not seem to regret it indicates that Trump is now putting his racism out in the open. If you work for this man, you are endorsing him, and by extension, his views.

  12. CSK says:


    It is indeed significant. I wonder if this will initiate some sort of mass exodus. And..with whom will Trump replace the people who leave? Who wants to work for him, except perhaps for those down in the gutter with him.

  13. Senyordave says:

    @CSK: Not sure about a mass exodus, I’m guessing more like a drip, drip type thing. I’m starting to think that there are a good many people in the republican party who really are all in with Trump on POC asn he managed to staff the WH with these types. Foreign service s a little trickier, you actually probably wouldn’t go into it if you are hard core racist.

  14. gVOR08 says:

    @Senyordave: So far he’s lost a third of the WH staff. Drip drip indeed.