Since President Donald Trump fulfilled his campaign promise of breaking the nuclear deal between Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany (P5+1), Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has been working to determine whether the deal can still be salvaged.
After visiting China, Zarif, who was Iran’s lead negotiator during the marathon nuclear talks, traveled to Moscow. He called the Russian opposition on the US exit from the nuclear deal “hopeful.” He said he would later travel to Brussels and continue discussions with European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini on “guaranteeing Iran’s interests within" the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Zarif tweeted, “Good and substantive meetings with counterparts in Beijing and Moscow; heading to meet with EU High Representative and E3 foreign ministers in Brussels. Will soon determine how P4+1 can guarantee Iran’s benefits under the JCPOA, and preserve this unique achievement of diplomacy.” Zarif’s reference to the US absence in this round of talks was addressed by calling it the P4+1 rather than the P5+1. E3 in this case stands for France, Germany and the United Kingdom.
Zarif also discussed current events, tying the US decision to move its capital to Jerusalem to a long trend where the United States ignores international consensus and agreements. “Unfortunately, opposition to international agreements and world agreements for the American regime has become normal,” he said in Moscow.
While Zarif works with world powers to keep the nuclear deal alive, the Rouhani administration has been fighting back against critics who have attacked him for trusting the United States. The administration put out a statement outlining the benefits of the deal, such as breaking the united front against Iran that took place under President Barack Obama, the removal of international sanctions and recognition of Iran’s nuclear program.
In response to comments that the Rouhani administration should apologize to the people, the statement read that “the people who should apologize for their previous incorrect” positions are those who are not ready to tell us what the damage from sanctions were and what steps they took to prevent those damages. The statement continued that the nuclear deal critics have not addressed what they would want in its place. The statement noted the intellectual inconsistencies of the critics saying they are both upset about the nuclear deal when it was signed and are now upset about America’s exit from the deal.
The Rouhani’s administration’s hopes of keeping the nuclear deal alive now rest solely with Europe, which has large investments in Iran subject to US sanctions that will likely be imposed by the US Treasury once the “wind-down” period ends. Iranian conservatives are not necessarily convinced that Europe can play the role of savior.
Jahan News, a hard-line publication, listed 20 reasons why negotiations with Europe will not be successful. Some of the reasons were economic, noting that Europe’s trade with the United States is much larger than Europe’s trade with Iran. Other reasons were political, saying that Europe also has the same goals as the United States in wanting to limit Iran’s regional presence and missile capabilities. The article also said that given the fact that the success of the nuclear talks rested on mostly bilateral talks between Iran and the United States, that Europe was simply a role player then and cannot become the main player now.