U.A.E. Sees Iran Going for New Nuclear Deal After Trump Exits
(Bloomberg) -- Iran will be forced back to the negotiating table to broker a new nuclear deal because European support for the existing pact won’t be enough to save it now that the U.S. has withdrawn, a senior United Arab Emirates official said.
Tehran will come to that realization within the “coming weeks,” Anwar Gargash, the U.A.E.’s minister of state for foreign affairs, said in an interview in Abu Dhabi late Sunday. “There has to be a new deal with new boundaries” that extends restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program, and addresses its ballistic missile program and “regional meddling,” he said, a reference to Iranian support for the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and militant groups.
“There is an Iranian bet on a dispute between the Americans and the Europeans,” Gargash said. “I think this bet is out of place. A unified and clear message to Iran would increase the chance of finding new alternatives.”
Although the U.A.E. is not a signatory to the 2015 nuclear deal, it lobbied against it together with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries that fear the expansion of Iran’s regional influence. While their efforts failed with the Obama administration, they found, together with Israel, a more receptive audience in President Donald Trump, whom they pressed to ditch the agreement.
The New York Times reported on Sunday that an emissary of the crown princes of Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia met with Trump’s eldest son, Donald Jr., during the U.S. election campaign to convey their eagerness to help him win the presidency. Gargash said the U.A.E. was “following what’s out there” when asked about the Times report.
The new U.S. secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, is due to deliver a speech outlining the U.S. approach to Iran later Monday.
Trump said he would reimpose old sanctions and add new ones when he announced May 8 that his country would leave the accord. While Europe has pledged its commitment to the multiparty deal, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has likened the pact to a patient on life support, telling lawmakers it’s not clear to what extent Europe can resist U.S. pressure and sanctions, according to a lawmaker cited on Sunday by state-run Mehr news agency.
The European Union is working on measures to protect EU companies operating in Iran, but that may not be enough to persuade them to invest and risk being sanctioned or shut out of the global banking system. France’s Total SA drove home that point last week when it decided to stop its Iran gas projects, concluding they posed too big a risk, given the company’s large U.S. operations and reliance on American banks for financing.
Last month, Pompeo visited Saudi Arabia on his first trip as the U.S.’s top diplomat. One objective was to resolve a yearlong dispute between Qatar and three of its neighbors on the ground that unity within the Gulf is essential to facing Iran. Gargash rejected that logic, saying the dispute with Qatar “shouldn’t be considered an obstacle to a unified position on Iran.”
“The Qatar crisis is a Gulf issue that must be solved within the Gulf,” he said, holding out no hope for a quick resolution. “Sadly, stubbornness has overruled wisdom” in Qatar, he said.
Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E., Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic and transport links with Qatar on June 5, accusing the country of supporting Sunni extremist groups and Iranian-backed Shiite militants. Qatar denies the charge.
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