WASHINGTON — Iran’s deputy foreign minister said Tuesday that while some U.S. officials have expressed an interest in maintaining the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran, the remaining three parties — Britain, China and Germany — have made clear they believe it is difficult to do so with the Trump administration.
Ashraf Qaradaghi’s comments reflect the major gap between Iran and the U.S. that remains at a critical juncture in the deal’s future. If the Trump administration ends the “existing nuclear deal it will strengthen Iran’s leverage and power,” Qaradaghi said.
Some key American officials, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, have said that while they want to keep in place the Iran nuclear agreement, they also want to address what they perceive as shortcomings within the accord.
Qaradaghi’s remarks, provided to The Associated Press ahead of a meeting of the nonproliferation cluster at the State Department, also suggested that the Trump administration may try to formally quash the deal through a resolution approved by the U.N. Security Council that would cripple Iran’s ability to obtain nuclear weapons.
Meanwhile, a senior administration official said that Trump is likely to decide soon whether to reimpose sanctions lifted under the deal on Iran’s central bank, oil exports and related industries. Trump has remained firm in his opposition to that provision of the deal, which he has described as an unneeded extension of Iran’s “bad economic deals.”
Still, many Democrats and Republicans oppose extending the sanctions relief. That means the administration likely will have to win the support of several veto-proof majorities in Congress for any move to limit the deal.
Qaradaghi did not elaborate on the discussion with senior State Department officials about resuming sanctions relief, but suggested they didn’t come close to finding a solution to Trump’s concerns.
“The negotiations with some American officials showed that they don’t really have a commitment to preserve and protect the nuclear deal,” he said.
While the deal was reached with the goal of eliminating the Iranian nuclear threat, the White House and many other U.S. lawmakers have continued to insist that Iran does not deserve sanctions relief unless it curbs its support for armed groups and other disruptive behavior in the Middle East.
The deal prevented Iran from obtaining the ability to make nuclear weapons and eased economic sanctions in exchange for Tehran’s commitments to curtail its nuclear program in an ongoing fashion. But the U.S. contends that a significant number of limitations on that program have not been met, especially after ballistic missile tests last spring that the Trump administration determined violated the agreement.
The sanctions relief issues would affect the state-owned Central Bank of Iran, which is the backbone of the Iranian economy. It is also believed to have significant influence in terms of how the Iranian government conducts foreign trade.
Iranian officials have said repeatedly that their country will not give up its nuclear program, and that U.S. penalties will not force them to cancel those plans.