Europe is refusing to walk away from the Iran nuclear deal even if Donald Trump wants to kill it.
The continent’s leading officials are spending the week huddling, negotiating and debating ways to essentially ignore President Donald Trump’s decision last week to withdraw the U.S. from the 2015 deal, under which Iran pledged to limit its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.
“We are working on finding a practical solution,” Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s top diplomat, said earlier this week. “We are talking about solutions to keep the deal alive.”
The Trump administration’s move to pull out of what the president calls a “terrible deal” also came with a threat to slap sanctions on European companies doing business with Iran and awarning to organizations to wind down any operations they may have in Iran.
“The wealth that was created in Iran as a result of the JCPOA drove Iranian malign activity,” said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during an interview Sunday on Fox News, referring to the official name of the Iran deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. “It provided resources for their work in Syria and Iraq.”
“President Trump’s withdrawal is denying them that wealth, denying them the resources to continue their bad behavior, to take the money away from them,” he added. “The withdrawal wasn’t aimed at the Europeans.”
But some European leaders did take it personally. They have long argued that Iran is complying with the deal’s requirements, and insist the agreement is the only realistic alternative to military force as a means of halting Tehran’s nuclear program. They spent months imploring Trump to stay in the pact, arguing that throwing it into disarray would have few, if any, positive effects.
“Looking at latest decisions of Trump, someone could even think: with friends like that who needs enemies?” Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, said on Wednesday. “But frankly, EU should be grateful. Thanks to him we got rid of all illusions. We realize that if you need a helping hand, you will find one at the end of your arm.”
Indeed, European leaders are now plotting to find ways to help themselves.
On Tuesday night, Mogherini met with the foreign ministers from France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Iran — all countries that helped negotiate the agreement to chart a path forward. And on Wednesday, EU leaders held a dinner before a European Council meeting in Bulgaria. Officials there agreed to work to shield European companies from any punitive action by Washington.