Analysis: A closer look at US-French ‘new Iran nuclear deal’

With the May 12th deadline fast approaching for the US to scrap its support for the Iran nuclear deal, Trump and Macron look to revise the agreement.

By Steve Leibowitz, World Israel News

After his White House meetings with French President Emmanuel Macron this week, US President Donald Trump referred to the Iranian nuclear agreement by saying, “nobody knows what I’m going to do on the 12th [of May].”

Trump’s coyness was underlined with a warning that Iran will pay “a big price” if it threatens the US, saying the Americans would respond with “a strong blockage” to “prevent Iran from going right to the Mediterranean.”

While leading analysts agree that the Trump-Macron summit has ratcheted up the pressure on Iran’s nuclear ambitions, it also sent a strong message to Tehran that its regional expansionism will no longer be tolerated and will face pushback.

Trump apparently convinced Macron that European nations need to fix the flaws in the Iran nuclear deal or face a US withdrawal from the agreement, which is due to lapse on May 12 if not extended by the US president.

Trump told reporters, “We’ll see if I do what some people expect, whether or not it will be possible to do a new deal with solid foundations. Because this is a deal with decayed foundations. It’s a bad deal. It’s a bad structure. It’s falling down. It should have never, ever been made.”

Trump warned Iran that if it threatens the US in response to a pullout, it would “pay a price like few countries have ever paid.”

Europeans ‘desperate for a solution’

Harold Rhode, a former US Defense Department expert on Iranian and Middle East affairs, told World Israel News (WIN), “The Europeans are desperate for a solution. The French and the Germans are heavily invested in Iran. If the US re-imposes sanctions, they will have to decide between trading with the US or Iran. They are desperate to avoid this choice.”

“The Iranians are the world’s experts at deception. They negotiated this agreement by lying throughout.  The agreement was only a step toward reaching their goal. There was no good will,” Rhode said. He declined to predict what Trump will do on May 12, but expects “many things can happen” before that date.

“Iran can threaten all it wants, but the US can easily destroy its navy,” he added. “We are still in a talking process, and the Iranians certainly need this deal more than we do. Trump doesn’t lie. He is prepared to use force against Iran. The current regime is facing a currency collapse, a dire water shortage and daily riots. I am still hopeful that ultimately the Iranian regime will collapse and they will become great allies of the US like they were before the fall of the Shah.”

Marc Zell, head of Republicans in Israel, told WIN that in Trump’s discussions with Macron, “the president seems to be heading toward a pullout from the deal.” According to Zell, “The goal is to get the Sunni states to take on Iranian aggression in the region. The days of an American proxy doing all fighting is over. He is telling them, do your jobs and we will have your back.”

Iranian affairs analyst Dr. Eran Lerman from the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies told WIN that Macron will “have a tough job opening up the agreement with Iran to re-negotiation. The key is to change the ‘sunset clause,’” which stipulates that when the restrictions imposed on Iran’s nuclear program expire, they provide Iran with a pathway to acquiring nuclear weapons.

Lerman believes that movement on the “sunset provisions” could give Trump a way to push off the May 12th deadline. “The problem is that the ‘sunset clause’ is essential for the Iranians,” he said. “Getting the Iranians to re-negotiate does not seem likely. Macron offered Trump a way out of nixing the agreement, but now he must deliver.”