European Leaders Respond To Trump's Iran Deal Pullout

May 9, 2018
Originally published on May 9, 2018 9:35 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Now let's follow up on President Trump's decision to withdraw from the nuclear agreement with Iran. In Berlin, NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports European nations are determined to stay in.

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: Like many European leaders, the EU's top diplomat Federica Mogherini is both worried and defiant. She appeared somber last night in Rome as she defended the agreement as one the U.S. cannot single-handedly quash.

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FEDERICA MOGHERINI: It belongs to the entire international community. It has been working, and it is delivering on its goal, which is guaranteeing that Iran doesn't develop nuclear weapons. The European Union is determined to preserve it.

NELSON: A joint statement from U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel followed, reaffirming their commitment to the Iran nuclear deal.

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HEIKO MAAS: (Speaking German).

NELSON: During an interview with German public broadcaster ARD, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said what's important is that Europeans are speaking with one voice and will do what they can to preserve an agreement that makes not only the Middle East but the world safer. But few Europeans share their leader's optimism.

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WULF SCHMIESE: (Speaking German).

NELSON: German ZDF TV commentator Wulf Schmiese predicted European businesses will cave to Trump's sanction politics. He added, their business deals with the U.S. are too valuable for that, even if Trump has opened the door to Iran becoming a North Korea equivalent on the Persian Gulf. Reached in Tehran, French-Iranian lawyer and author Ardavan Amir-Aslani also questioned the EU's resolve.

ARDAVAN AMIR-ASLANI: The Europeans don't have the acumen and the economic will and power to replace the U.S. in this agreement. I mean they cannot force their companies to come into Iran.

NELSON: Nor have European banks been able to finance European clients to enter the Iranian market, he says.

AMIR-ASLANI: So they just don't have the capacity of assuming alone the role that Iran is expecting from them.

NELSON: The Trump administration is already pressuring its European allies to back away from Iranian ventures. Shortly after being registered here as the new U.S. ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell tweeted that German companies doing business in the Islamic Republic should, quote, "wind down operations immediately." Meanwhile, Macron is expected to speak to his Iranian counterpart later today, and Iranian and European officials are planning to meet in Brussels next week. Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Berlin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.