Europeans push to salvage Iran deal but work on plan B

Russian President Vladimir Putin welcomes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a meeting at the Bocharov Ruchei state residence in Sochi

As markets, US allies and the government in Tehran question what might follow a USA withdrawal, the Trump administration remains focused on how it could toughen or replace the agreement to address issues such as Iran's behavior in the Middle East - including its firm foothold in Syria and support for Hezbollah militants that threaten Israel - and its continuing development of ballistic missiles.

Trump's long-term goal is a better deal, not conflict, said Michael Singh, managing director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a former senior director for Middle East affairs under President George W. Bush.

The Europeans say this is already implicit in the original deal.

The documents obtained by Israel clearly show that Iran was lying.

A presentation by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday about what he mentioned was documentary proof of Tehran's previous nuclear arms program might give Trump a contemporary argument to withdraw, though United Nations inspectors say Iran has complied with the phrases of the deal.

Netanyahu presents material on Iran's purported nuclear program on April 30. That, they argue, is why a deal with restrictions and inspections was needed.

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Even as the leaders of Britain, Germany, and France work to save the arrangement, Trump has also long signaled that the deal's days may be numbered. Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs, responded more coolly: "What I have seen from the first reports is that Prime Minister Netanyahu has not put into question Iran's compliance with ..." The only thing simple about Iran is how Americans feel about it. If Trump does pull out of the deal, it seems increasingly unlikely that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani - who championed diplomacy with the West - will be able to resist calls from his country's hardliners to also renege on their end of the bargain. Iran stands firm in the face of futile attempts and bullying. Neither was its support for numerous worldwide terrorist organisations. "Although the Rouhani government wishes to sustain the deal and build on it for greater global integration and economic recovery, it is constrained by pressure from its political opponents". It took two years of negotiation just to get a deal for 10 years. Rarely have a leader's lies to his people and the world been clearer.

A decision by Trump to end USA sanctions relief would all but sink the agreement and could trigger a backlash by Iran, which could resume its nuclear arms program or "punish" US allies in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon, diplomats said. "Even Secretary Pompeo admitted in his confirmation hearing that Iran was complying with the deal". Iran's belligerence in the region - its meddling overseas, in particular in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, was not addressed.

But that looks unlikely now.

The poll showed that 44.2 percent of Israelis believe that the country may have to make a pre-emptive strike on Iran's nuclear facilities in order to prevent Iran firing off nuclear weapons. The US in turn committed to remove sanctions and to seize impeding business with Iran. Under a law passed by Congress, Trump has to determine periodically whether to continue waiving sanctions linked to transactions with Iran's central bank.

"While the reformist president Mohammad Khatami was in office, George W. Bush undermined him and shattered Iranians" hopes of rapprochement by labeling the country part of the "axis of evil'", wrote Saeed Kamali Dehgan in the Guardian.

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