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Calling Europe: Help U.S. bring Iran back to the table

Calling Europe: Help U.S. bring Iran back to the table

May 16th, 2019 by Chicago Tribune in Opinion Columns

It's been a year since President Donald Trump made good on a campaign pledge to pull out of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. The administration's strategy: Turn the screws on Tehran with sanctions to compel Iranian leaders to work on a broader agreement that also tackles Iran's pursuit of ballistic missiles and support of terrorism.

Since then, Europe has tried to keep the old deal alive, crafting workarounds to get past U.S. economic sanctions imposed on Iranian oil. That bid largely failed.

Now Tehran says it has exhausted its patience with the Europeans.

Iran has given European leaders 60 days to resume commitments laid out in the original nuclear pact, or Iran will stop adhering to the deal's call for an end to uranium enrichment.

That's not all that's happening. Tehran is suspected of being behind an attack on oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates over the weekend, As of Tuesday, there was no proof of Iranian responsibility for the ship attacks, nor were there reports of casualties.Intelligence reports also suggest Iran has been building up proxy forces ahead a possible attack on American forces in the Middle East.

In response, the Pentagon has drawn up contingency plans to send as many as 120,000 troops to the Middle East if Iran ever launched an attack on U.S. forces or sped up efforts to develop nuclear weapons, The New York Times reported. Trump denied the report, but said if he were to deploy troops, he'd send "a hell of a lot more troops than that."

Our translation: Neither a leaked Pentagon deployment strategy nor some presidential tough talk means the United States anticipates a military confrontation. What it does mean is the U.S. considers Iran to be untrustworthy, which is why the 2015 nuclear deal is insufficient.

Wadding up that old deal marked the first step toward a better one. Now it's up to the Europeans to get on board as U.S. partners with Iran Deal 2.0.

Iranian oil exports have dropped from 2.5 million barrels a day to below a million barrels. As a result, Iran's economy has taken a $10 billion hit.

In recent weeks, the Trump administration has doubled down on pressuring Tehran, declaring Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization and slapping sanctions on the country's copper, steel, aluminum and iron industries.

Getting the Iranians back to the table for talks is a goal that should be shared by the U.K., France and Germany—the main European guarantors of the 2015 nuclear deal.

The U.S. isn't cowed by Tehran's saber rattling, and neither should Europe. President Hassan Rouhani and Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, know their country's economy has been waylaid by the sanctions.

But a new deal won't happen without Europe's cooperation.

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