(WASHINGTON) — French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will make back-to-back visits with President Donald Trump this week in a last-minute lobbying push to prevent the president from potentially sabotaging the Iran nuclear deal.
Even while President Trump is set to turn on a major charm offensive with lavish pageantry as he hosts his first state visit, it’s unclear if that will result in any movement in his commitment not to sign an upcoming May 12 waiver of sanctions against Iran without significant changes implemented by Congress.
In an interview over the weekend on CBS’ Face the Nation, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif warned that if the sanctions are implemented against Iran’s economy, then the country would be forced to consider a number of “not pleasant” options.
“We have put a number of options for ourselves,” Zarif said. “And those options are ready, including options that would involve resuming at much greater speed our nuclear activities.”
Macron separately appeared on Fox News over the weekend where he said the president runs the risk of Iran rebooting its nuclear program in a manner comparable to North Korea’s own activity which over the past year has thrown the region to the brink of crisis.
“I don’t have any plan B for nuclear against Iran,” Macron said. “That’s why I just want to say, on nuclear, let’s preserve a framework because it’s better than a North Korean type of situation.”
After his two days of meetings with President Trump, Macron will have the opportunity to make a similar pitch to lawmakers as he makes an address to a joint meeting of Congress on Wednesday.
Even as both U.S. and French officials say there’s no expectation that a final decision will be reached on the Iran deal during the visit, Macron’s own lobbying effort will soon be followed up on with a one-day visit by Merkel on Friday.
Merkel and Trump have clashed on issues such as trade and the United States’ plans to move its Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, so it’s unclear what additional pressure she might be able to put on President Trump to back away from his commitment the last time he signed off on the Iran sanctions waiver.
Merkel said in a recent interview with an Israeli TV channel that she understood the concerns from the U.S. and Israel regarding the agreement but that she would push vigorously for the continuation of the accord.
“We believe it’s better to have this agreement, even if it is not perfect, than to have no agreement,” Merkel said. “We will continue to discuss this, but Germany will watch very closely to ensure that this agreement will be fulfilled.”
In January, President Trump delivered remarks announcing he would not sign a waiver of sanctions for Iran if Congress did not pass new legislation including series of “fixes” to the nuclear deal, but ahead of the May 12 deadline there’s no real indication that any such legislation could pass in time.
“This is a last chance,” Trump said. “In the absence of such an agreement, the United States will not again waive sanctions in order to stay in the Iran nuclear deal. And if at any time I judge that such an agreement is not within reach, I will withdraw from the deal immediately.”
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