Europe giving in to ‘high school bully’ Trump over nuclear deal, says Iran

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif: ATTA KENARE/AFP via Getty Images)
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif: ATTA KENARE/AFP via Getty Images)

Iran’s foreign minister has criticised the United Kingdom, France and Germany, signatories to a 2015 nuclear deal, for yielding to Donald Trump, calling the US president a “high school bully”.

Mohammed Javid Zarif posted on Twitter a screenshot of a Washington Post report that revealed the Trump administration had “secretly” threatened to impose a 25 per cent tariff on European cars if the three European countries (known as the E3) did not formally accuse Iran of breaking the deal.

Days later they did so, triggering the agreement’s dispute resolution mechanism, but European officials indicated that they had already been planning this step.

The pact, known as the JCPOA, was agreed in 2015 between Tehran and world powers including the E3. It offered Iran sanctions relief in exchange for curbing its nuclear work.

Mr Trump controversially withdrew from the deal in 2018, re-imposing US sanctions as part of a “maximum pressure” strategy and saying he wanted a tougher deal.

Iran responded by scaling back its compliance with terms of the pact and this month announced it would ditch all limits on uranium enrichment, although maintained it wanted to keep the deal in place.

In response Britain, France and Germany triggered the accord’s dispute mechanism this week. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it could be time for a “Trump deal” to replace the pact, while Paris said broad talks were needed.

Mr Zarif tweeted “Appeasement confirmed. E3 sold out remnants of ‪#JCPOA to avoid new Trump tariffs,” with a screenshot of the Washington Post article.

“It won’t work my friends. You only whet his appetite. Remember your high school bully?” he added.

Two European diplomats confirmed to Reuters that Washington had threatened tariffs against Europe but maintained leaders of the three European states had already decided to trigger the mechanism before that.

Another diplomat said Washington risked “discrediting the Europeans, but then Trump doesn’t really care about that,” adding a US threat to impose tariffs on the Europeans would send a message to Iran that only Washington mattered.

The European Union said on Thursday its top diplomat, Joseph Borrell, held “frank” talks with Mr Zarif on the side-lines of a conference in New Delhi.

Triggering the dispute mechanism could see the re-imposition of UN sanctions and sound the end of the accord.

“If you want to sell your integrity, go ahead. But do not assume moral/legal ground,” Mr Zarif wrote adding in block capitals “ YOU DON’T HAVE IT.”

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani doubled down on Tehran’s threat to keep enriching its uranium on Thursday saying there are “no limits”.

In a speech before the heads of banks, President Rouhani said the nuclear programme is in a “better situation” than it was before the nuclear agreement with world powers.

However, it has only moderately increased its nuclear activity.

In recent months it has boosted its enrichment of uranium to 4.5 per cent – higher than the 3.67 per cent limit set by the agreement but far from the 20 per cent enrichment it was engaged in before the deal. Uranium must be enriched to 90 per cent to be used in a nuclear weapon.

The three European countries have spent months trying to salvage the team but have not found a way of navigating increased US sanctions.

The nuclear row has been at the heart of a dangerous standoff between Iran and the US, which nearly spiralled into war earlier this month after Washington killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike on Baghdad.

While on high alert for a counter attack, Iran accidentally shot down a Ukrainian civilian airliner, triggering days of anti-government protests at home. Anger at the state has continued at victims’ funerals.

On Thursday mourners shouted “Death to the dictator,” as they buried two victims of the plane disaster in the city of Sanandaj according to videos posted online.

Agencies contributed to this report

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