The recent visits to Washington by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were in all likelihood the last chance for Europeans to convince President Donald Trump not to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal. With prospects for winning over Trump fading as the May 12 deadline for sanctions waivers approaches, one might argue that US allies in Europe have lost sight of the prize in the process of appeasing him. Indeed, rather than exclusively focusing on addressing Trump’s stated concerns about the deal, which probably cannot be satisfied anyway, France, Germany and the UK, known as the E3, would serve their interests better by laying out alternative strategies for protecting trade between Iran and the European Union should the United States withdraw.
Without concrete plans of action in place and solid assurances to the Iranians about the preservation of the economic benefits of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the E3 may end up being unfairly blamed — by all sides — for its demise. In conversations with Al-Monitor, Iranian officials have stated, on condition of anonymity, that the Islamic Republic long ago warned the E3 that while theoretically there could be a JCPOA in place without the United States, there cannot be an agreement without Iran. In this vein, the Islamic Republic has been insisting that Europe put in place measures such as alternative financing and blocking regulations to protect its businesses in order to provide enough incentives to Iran to remain committed to the JCPOA in the case of US withdrawal.