America's three closest friends in Europe – Britain, France and Germany – are in rage and despair in the United States. Over the past week, their leaders, in a frenzy of meetings and phone calls, have been trying to figure out what to do if President Trump leaves the nuclear deal with Iran and imposes sanctions on his companies doing business there
The Answer, they are afraid, is not much.
They can retreat to grumpy bitterness, as a European official put it, but they realize that that would do little.
You can ask for exceptions to the sanctions The government has said that it will apply to any European business that deals with both Iran and the United States. But they were told with humble clarity that there will be no exceptions.
You can look for ways to get the agreement by extending financing and other guarantees to European investment in Iran. But even if these mechanisms work ̵
They are determined, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said Monday after meeting his French counterpart "to preserve the essence" of the nuclear agreement without the United States. On Tuesday, the three European powers will meet in Brussels with representatives of the European Union and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to discuss "what we want to do," Johnson said.
On Wednesday, the leaders of all 28 EU countries will meet in Sofia, Bulgaria, where they will talk about the Iran agreement and their own beef with the United States on imminent steel and aluminum tariffs.
But they are reluctant to deepen the wound, just as they want the United States to take responsibility for the cure. "It is important that we continue to connect with the US and continue to interrogate our friends in Washington," Johnson said, trying to figure out how the government wants to achieve what Trump wants. A new deal with Iran that blights the old
So far, officials say, they have no idea how the government plans to achieve this. "We have heard nothing that comes close to a strategy," said one of several European officials who discussed the sensitive issue on the condition of anonymity.
In Trump's announcement of withdrawal from the deal last Tuesday and in a row After a press conference by national security adviser John Bolton, the government wanted to start talks about a new agreement. Bolton, as promised, named his British, French and German counterparts on Wednesday. But these talks, according to the European officials, focused almost exclusively on the US's insistence that there would be no sanction exemptions for European companies.
In a Sunday interview with CNN, Bolton showed little patience for European concerns. The nuclear agreement has worsened rather than improved Iran's behavior in the region. "It is absurd to claim that Iran feels less constrained," he said. "I would argue that they thought they could act with impunity, you see, they have observed that Europe has imposed exactly zero sanctions on its missile program since the signing of the 2015 agreement."
As Foreign Minister Mike Pompeo last time Instead, officials from two of the big three allies said he threw the ball into their yard and asked how they would see the future.
"But it's up to them A second European official said, "We are waiting for them."
Bolton's and Pompeo's previous impression is that the government is planning a broad coalition against Iran, including Israel Iran, the Persian Gulf States and its main trading partners in Asia It needs Europe. "We are not alone," Bolton said. "We have the support of Is Rael. We have the support of the Arab oil-producing monarchies and many others. , , , I think the problem is what the Europeans are going to do. "
While the regional partners are eager to be part of a print campaign and even a military campaign, it should come to countries like China – that has just opened a new railway line to Iran and has announced normal trade [continued] – No Interests with Iran.
In Europe, Allies Agree to Curb Iran's Destabilizing Regional Activities and Ballistic Missile Programs At the moment, the focus was on reassuring Iran that it would not give up the deal. The Tehran government has said that it is waiting to be convinced that it can continue to function despite US pressure.
Trump's ongoing efforts to circumvent global rules have brought the multilateral order into a "real crisis" Chancellor Angela Merkel said Friday in a speech before a religious conference
"If we always say d If something does not suit us and we do not get a new international order and everyone just does what they want – that's bad news for the world, "she said.
Others in Merkel's government have suggested that there is little faith in future talks with the United States. Deputy Foreign Minister Niels Annen recently told the German magazine Der Spiegel that the government has shown "very little willingness to take the arguments of its allies seriously".
Just as Trump has reaffirmed his election pledge to step back from business, Europeans all have their own political realities to contend with.
In Germany, where the government is historically coalitioned, a vast majority sees the United States under Trump in an unfavorable light, with only 11 percent expressing confidence in the president's leadership, according to The Pew Research Center
Trump is equally unpopular in France, and the state visit of President Emmanuel Macron in Washington, where the two leaders exchanged some physical touches, was roasted in the French press, portraying Macron as an obedient child
The domestic consequences of a new agreement with Washington would likely cause Macron to be too weak to defy Trump.
The Europeans spent months negotiating with the State Department on amendments to the Iran Agreement, which should take into account concerns raised by Trump in January. By the end of April, senior officials on all sides said they were close to reaching an agreement.
However, when Macron, Merkel and Johnson traveled to Washington in the days and weeks prior to Trump's announcement, everyone came with the feeling that Trump had not read the Five page document they had prepared, and was perhaps even the effort unaware.
In Brussels, where the EU has its seat, many are skeptical that any further discussion with the United States is possible. If officials meet there on Tuesday, they are expected to focus on what they can do to prevent Iran from giving up the deal rather than housing the United States.
Michael Birnbaum in Brussels, James McAuley in Paris and Griff Witte in Berlin contributed to this report.