French President Emmanuel Macron is addressing the U.S. Congress on Wednesday, making the case to lawmakers that the United States should not pull out of the international pact with Iran to restrain its nuclear weapons development.
In talks Tuesday at the White House, Macron urged U.S. President Donald Trump to not abrogate the 2015 deal next month when he faces a deadline whether to reimpose economic sanctions against Iran.
The French leader wants the accord reached with Iran by Britain, Germany, Russia, China, France and the U.S. kept intact, while forging “a new deal” with Tehran that would address its ballistic missile program and constrain its military involvement in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Iraq.
Trump has continued to assail the deal as “insane” and “ridiculous” and made no commitment to stick with the nuclear pact that was negotiated by his predecessor, former President Barack Obama. Trump said he would look for common ground with Macron.
Wednesday is Macron’s final day in a three-day trip to Washington, in what has been a whirlwind of official talks and social events, the first state visit by a foreign leader during Trump’s 15-month presidency. Trump and first lady Melania Trump hosted a lavish state dinner for Macron and his wife, Brigitte Macron, on Tuesday night for more than 100 guests, including numerous Trump administration officials and leading U.S. corporate executives.
Trump stands alone among the signatories to the Iran deal in opposing it.
European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told reporters Wednesday it needs to be preserved.
“The deal is working,” she said. “President Macron stressed it yesterday in the White House very clearly that we believe that the full implementation of the [agreement] is essential for European security and for the security of the region, and the Europeans will stick to that.”
Trump gave no indication Tuesday as to whether he will pull the U.S. out of the existing nuclear deal with Tehran, but he issued a warning to Iran.
“If they restart their nuclear program, they will have bigger problems than they have ever had before,” Trump said during a meeting with Macron in the Oval Office. “You can mark it down.”
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani dismissed talk of a new deal, questioning Wednesday what right the United States and France have to make decisions about a seven-nation agreement. Rouhani warned earlier of severe consequences if Trump pulls out of the deal.
“I have spoken with Macron several times by phone, and one time in person at length,” Rouhani said. “I have told him explicitly that we will not add anything to the deal or remove anything from it, even one sentence. The nuclear deal is the nuclear deal.”
U.S. withdrawal could create major discord between key trans-Atlantic partners and throw the Middle East into even deeper turmoil.
“Macron essentially dangled the prospect of a grand bargain with four pillars — the [existing agreement], a promise by Iran to never develop nuclear weapons, preventing Iran from further expanding its ballistic missile technology, and addressing Iran’s broader role in the Middle East — in order to try and keep Trump on board and to stop him from withdrawing … on May 12,” American University School of International Service Professional Lecturer Garret Martin told VOA. “It remains to be seen whether that will be enough to sway Trump, and if other major powers and regional players, including Iran, would even be open to a grand bargain.”
Macron also wants Trump to keep American forces in northern Syria to avoid the risk of giving up the country to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Iran.
Trump told reporters that “I’d love to get out” of Syria, where the United States has 2,000 U.S. troops seeking to eradicate the Islamic State terror group.
“We want to come home. We’ll be coming home,” Trump predicted. “But we want to leave a strong and lasting footprint.”