The Middle East will be plunged into a devastating new war if the Trump administration withdraws the United States from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, German Chancellor Angela Merkel reportedly warned Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Tuesday.
The Israeli premier spoke with Merkel on Tuesday and congratulated her on the formation of a new governing coalition, according to an INN report.
During the phone call, Merkel and Netanyahu also discussed the future of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), better known as the Iran nuclear agreement.
While President Donald Trump has indicated his willingness to withdraw from the agreement if America’s European allies are unwilling or unable to alter key components of the deal – a position strongly supported by the Israeli leader – Merkel warned Netanyahu that the collapse of the JCPOA would likely lead to a major regional conflict, Channel 10 in Israel reported Tuesday night.
According to the report, during a meeting between the two leaders in Davos, Switzerland this January, the chancellor pressed Netanyahu on the subject, telling him if the US does leave the JCPOA, it would divide Western allies, asking Netanyahu rhetorically “Do you want that to happen?”
The European signatories to the JCPOA, Merkel is also quoted as saying, are unwilling to push for the kinds of fundamental changes to the deal sought by the Trump administration and the Israeli government, according to the INN report.
Pushing for significant changes to the deal nearly three years after its signing would destroy America’s credibility in future negotiating, Merkel added.
President Trump, a long-time critic of the JCPOA, fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson earlier this month in large part because of Tillerson’s support for maintaining the Iran nuclear deal. Trump has tapped CIA chief Mike Pompeo, an opponent of the JCPOA, to replace Tillerson.
“Rex and I have been talking about this for a long time. We got along, actually, quite well, but we disagreed on things. When you look at the Iran deal, I think it’s terrible. I guess he thinks it was okay. I wanted to either break it or do something, and he felt a little bit differently. So we were not really thinking the same. With Mike Pompeo, we have a very similar thought process. I think it’s going to go very well.”
Republican Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on Sunday that he expects President Trump to pull out of the Iran nuclear agreement in May, according to a report that appeared on the INN website.
“The Iran deal will be another issue that’s coming up in May, and right now it doesn’t feel like it’s gonna be extended,” Corker told CBS’s Margaret Brennan. “I think the president likely will move away from it unless our European counterparts really come together on a framework. And it doesn’t feel to me that they are.”
Trump has asked both Europe and Congress to come up with fixes to the accord including, but not limited to, new sanctions on its ballistic missile program and its “malign” behavior across the Middle East. He also wants new terms added onto the deal unilaterally: for some of its key provisions to be extended through US mandate and for the West to demand greater access to Iran’s military sites that once hosted nuclear weapons experimentation.
Trump, who has blasted the 2015 nuclear deal as “the worst deal ever negotiated”, recently decided to extend a waiver on nuclear sanctions that were imposed on Iran but made clear it would be the last time he will do so and ordered European allies and Congress to work with him to fix “the disastrous flaws” in the 2015 deal or Washington would withdraw.
The president is concerned about the deal’s “sunset clauses” as well as about Iran’s ballistic missile program which concerns the West.
Western countries say Iran’s ballistic missile tests are a violation of the UN resolution enshrining the 2015 nuclear deal. Iran denies it is in violation of any UN resolutions and categorically rules out any negotiations on its missile program.
Last Friday it was reported that Britain, France and Germany have proposed fresh EU sanctions on Iran over its ballistic missiles program and its role in Syria’s war in a bid to persuade Washington to preserve the deal.
Asked if he believed Trump would pull out on May 12, the deadline for the president to issue a new waiver to suspend Iran sanctions as part of the deal, Corker responded, “I do. I do.”
Corker had previously urged Trump’s administration to work closely with European allies as it develops its new Iran policy, according to the INN report.
Congress has failed to come up with a legislative fix that satisfies Trump’s desire to fundamentally disrupt the accord and fulfill his oft-stated campaign promise to “rip up” the deal early on in his presidency.
Also weighing on the controversial Iran nuke deal was Saudi Arabia who on Monday called the 2015 deal between Iran and world powers a “flawed agreement”, in comments which come ahead of a meeting between Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and President Trump.
“Our view of the nuclear deal is that it’s a flawed agreement,” Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told reporters in Washington, according to the Reuters news agency.
Jubeir called out Iran for what Riyadh has long slammed as Tehran’s destabilizing behavior in the region, saying “We’ve called for tougher policies towards Iran for years.”
“We’re looking at ways in which we can push back against Iran’s nefarious activities in the region,” he added, lambasting Tehran’s support for the Houthi militia in Yemen and support for Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad in Syria.
Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia have a historic rivalry in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia has repeatedly called on Iran to stop its “meddling” in the affairs of the kingdom’s neighbors, according to an INN report.
Iran has fired back, accusing Saudi Arabia of trying to “drag the entire region into confrontation”.
During the negotiations between Iran and world powers, Saudi Arabia and other major Sunni states expressed concern over a deal which would allow Iran to produce nuclear weapons.
Ultimately, however, Saudi Arabia’s government announced that it welcomed the deal.
In October, after President Donald Trump decided not to certify that Tehran is complying with the 2015 nuclear deal, Jubeir said Saudi Arabia supported Trump’s policy on Iran.
The Saudi Crown Prince met with Trump on Tuesday at the White House. He also saw members of Congress, some of whom have been critical of the Saudi campaign in Yemen, particularly the humanitarian situation and civilian casualties.
In a related development, during their Tuesday meetings, Trump implored Saudi Arabia’s powerful crown prince to share his nation’s wealth by continuing to purchase American-made weapons, according to a CNBC report.
Trump’s focus on Saudi purchases of U.S. military equipment came amid a bipartisan effort to limit the United States’ role in Yemen’s civil war and protests in several U.S. cities over the Saudi-led invasion, which has contributed to a humanitarian crisis.
In opening remarks before a meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Trump crowed about the sales, running through a list of $12.5 billion in approved arms purchases by Saudi Arabia and previewing billions more to come.
“Saudi Arabia is a very wealthy nation, and they’re going to give the United States some of that wealth, hopefully in the form of jobs, in the form of the purchase of the finest military equipment anywhere in the world,” Trump said.
“There’s nobody even close, as I said before, when it comes to the missiles and the planes and all of the military equipment,” Trump said. “There’s nobody that even comes close to us in terms of technology and the quality of the equipment, and Saudi Arabia appreciates that.”
By: David Rosenberg