US ‘Special Envoy’ Could Resolve Differences Between Trump Administration and Europe Over Iran Nuclear Deal, Says Prominent Former American Diplomat
With Europe’s leading powers maintaining their commitment to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal despite US President Donald Trump’s decision to decertify it earlier this month, one of America’s most experienced ex-diplomats has suggested the creation of a new “special envoy” who could help restore consensus on the issue between Washington, DC and European capitals.
Ambassador Dennis Ross — who served in consecutive administrations going back to the George H.W. Bush era, and is now a counselor at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy think tank — said it was necessary for the Trump administration to appoint a “credible” envoy who could “engage in a serious way” with both American and European concerns regarding the nuclear deal’s survival, as well as coordinate further pressure on Iran.
“If we don’t have the Europeans, we don’t have anything,” Ross said on a conference call organized by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington’s Israel Action Center. “If we are alone, our ability to maintain leverage over the Iranians will disappear.”
Ross observed that a similar post was created by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in July, when he appointed Kurt Volker — a former American ambassador to NATO — as US special representative for Ukraine negotiations.
The Iran deal envoy would need to be a person with similar experience, Ross said, “who is mindful of the flaws in the nuclear deal but understands need for consensus between ourselves and the Europeans.” Ross said that “someone like Elliott Abrams” — who served as a deputy national security adviser in the administration of President George W. Bush, and is well known in Europe and the Middle East — would be the ideal candidate.
The UK, France and Germany — all of whom are parties to the July 2015 JCPOA, as the Iran nuclear deal is known, and all of whom have extensive commercial interests in Iran — have made clear that they will stick with the deal regardless of what the Trump administration eventually decides. In a speech in London on Monday, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson noted that Trump had “continued to waive nuclear-related sanctions against Iran,” adding that, “having spoken to some of the most influential figures on Capitol Hill — none of them fans of the Iranian regime — I have absolutely no doubt that with determination and courage the JCPOA can be preserved.”
Expressing their support for the deal last week, British Prime Minister Theresa May and German Chancellor Angela Merkel nonetheless underlined to the need to “continue to come together to push back against Iran’s destabilizing regional activity, and to explore ways of addressing concerns about Iran’s ballistic missile program.” Iran has already denounced any forthcoming European initiatives on this front, with the Tehran regime’s judicial head, Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larijani, declaring on Monday, “The Europeans should realize that if they want to follow the US and interfere in our defense affairs, we will stand against them as we did against the US.”
Underlying this month’s decertification by the US was Trump’s conviction that the JCPOA was fundamentally opposed to the US’s national security interest. The administration’s skepticism is based on the expiry of all restrictions on Iran’s nuclear development by 2030, as envisaged by the agreement, as well as its doubts over the efficacy of the international inspection regime the deal imposes on Iranian nuclear facilities. Many critics of the JCPOA insist as well that its existence compromises America’s ability to respond to Iran’s regional provocations and its backing of terrorist groups.