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Trump To Decide Soon Whether To Stay With Iran Nuclear Deal

May 7, 2018
Originally published on May 7, 2018 5:55 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

At the end of this week, President Trump will have to decide whether or not to extend Iran's relief from U.S. sanctions under the Iran nuclear deal. For the past few weeks, we have seen world leaders try to lobby the president on the deal. Those efforts continue as this deadline approaches. British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson is in Washington today to meet with White House officials. And he appeared on Fox News this morning, calling for the U.S. to stay in the pact.

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BORIS JOHNSON: We think that what you can do is be tougher on Iran, address the concerns of the president and not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

MARTIN: NPR's Peter Kenyon joins us now from Istanbul. Hey, Peter.

PETER KENYON, BYLINE: Hey, Rachel.

MARTIN: So Boris Johnson, the British foreign minister, coming on the heels of these other visits from top European leaders - Emmanuel Macron from France. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was here. Explain why this issue is so urgent for America's European allies.

KENYON: Well, there's a lot of business at stake for one thing. Iran is desperately trying to boost its economy in all kinds of areas. It's got deals in the works for airplanes from Airbus and Boeing - some in Congress are trying to block that Boeing part of the deal, by the way. But in general, in America, the companies don't do much business with Iran. It would fall to Europe to gain a lot from this deal that brings Iran back into the international economy. And conversely, they have a lot to lose if this deal falls apart. And that's why we're seeing all these leaders here trying to deal with President Trump's concerns, which include how short some of the restrictions last in the deal, Iran's missiles and its influence in the Middle East.

MARTIN: Meanwhile, there are these news reports that aides to President Trump orchestrated some kind of smear campaign to try to personally malign some of the original architects of the Iran nuclear deal. What can you tell us about that?

KENYON: Well, there's reports at two publications, The Observer in London and The New Yorker magazine. They both say an Israeli private intelligence firm was engaged in an effort to discredit some of these proponents of the nuclear agreement. The Observer's account links aides to Donald Trump to that effort.

And they also report - The Guardian does in the U.K. - that British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw calls the allegations extraordinary and appalling and a sign of desperation on the part of critics of the deals. NPR hasn't independently confirmed the allegations. But they are certainly making their rounds today.

MARTIN: Now, the entire deal wouldn't technically collapse if this deadline approaches, and the president reimposes sanctions on May 12. But, I mean, it could be used for Iran. I mean, Iran could use this to its own advantage and use it as a pretext to deny access to any inspectors, right?

KENYON: Well, that is one big problem. And you're right. The deal wouldn't necessarily fall apart just because Donald Trump announces that sanctions are coming back from America. Because it's Europe, Russia and China who would be doing most of the business with Iran anyway, you could argue that if they keep going, the deal keeps going.

MARTIN: Right.

KENYON: But there is a risk that these sanctions will then be turned against European companies. And then European governments would have to go through many machinations to try and protect them from American secondary sanctions. And inside Iran, hardliners could use this to attack the pragmatist president, Hassan Rouhani.

They could push, as you said, to back out of some of their commitments, including these intrusive nuclear inspections being carried out by the International Atomic Energy Agency. And so depending on this decision, it might not lure Iran back to the table for more talks. But it might raise tensions in the Middle East even further.

MARTIN: NPR's Peter Kenyon for us this morning. Thanks so much, Peter.

KENYON: Thanks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.