Macron predicted that if the U.S. gets out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — the formal name for the deal between China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, the U.S., the European Union and Iran to ensure Tehran’s nuclear program remains peaceful — the Trump administration will impose very tough sanctions on Iran, leading to a time of greater tension.
Macron acknowledged that, while he has had talks with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, he does not know how Iran would respond given deep divisions in the regime.
The French president said his mission was to come up with a diplomatic strategy to contain the damage in the aftermath of an American withdrawal, and he believes his trip to Washington was a success because he began that conversation.
Filling in more details of an ambitious multi-part strategy Macron floated at Tuesday’s White House news conference, the French president said he is trying to create a new, smaller coalition to build on the JCPOA and make the nuclear ban permanent, ban Iran’s ballistic missile program, and contain Iran’s aggression in Syria, ultimately leading to political negotiations to end the civil war.
Macron said he had discussed his ideas with Russian President Vladimir Putin before arriving in Washington, and sees Russia and Turkey as critical to future talks on Syria. He said China, an original signatory to the Iran nuclear deal, did not need to be involved in hypothetical new diplomatic track.
His proposed goals are all aimed at resolving key criticisms Trump has voiced about the more limited scope of the current Iran deal.
Macron has already been followed to Washington by Israel’s hardline Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, who hoped to shore up the administration’s resolve to withdraw from the Iran deal.
He is expected to meet with National Security Adviser John Bolton and Defense Secretary James Mattis.
And on Friday, Germany’s Angela Merkel will meet with Trump for a few hours to add support for Macron’s arguments to Trump on Iran, steel and aluminum tariffs and Syria policy.
Trump and Merkel are known to have a difficult relationship, and she is not expected to get the warm welcome or the pomp and circumstance afforded to Macron.