By Margaret Talev and Nick Wadhams
U.S. and European officials said they’ve made progress on revisions to the Iran nuclear accord to address ballistic missiles and sunset provisions, raising optimism among American allies that President Donald Trump can be persuaded not to scrap the deal.
Officials from the U.K., France and Germany emerged from talks this week with U.S. officials in Washington more confident than they’ve been after previous meetings. Two European diplomats, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the discussions are ongoing, said they are close to an agreement that could be taken to Trump and his top advisers.
A senior State Department official said the U.S. and Europeans are close to an agreement on how to handle Iran’s ballistic missile program. The two sides are making progress but haven’t settled on how to handle sunset provisions in the nuclear accord, the official said.
Russia and China, the other parties to the 2015 Iran accord reached under President Barack Obama’s administration, are not part of this effort to shape additional language outside of that deal.
Trump has previously threatened to tear up the Iran deal, and he suggested he may not continue to periodically waive sanctions on Iran — the next deadline to do so is May 12. His choice of John Bolton to replace H.R. McMaster as his national security adviser has further driven speculation he wants to walk away from the deal.
Yet, the administration also has suggested Trump could potentially be swayed if Congress and European allies find ways to strengthen the deal and address concerns about Iranian aggression not covered in the accord. But doing anything that would be seen as renegotiating the terms of the deal risks Iran walking away.
Diplomats have been seeking to address Trump’s concerns on several fronts. Trump wants to do away with the Iran deal’s sunset clauses and ensure continued access by international inspectors to make sure Iran doesn’t develop, test or launch intercontinental ballistic missiles. Trump also wants to address Iran’s broader missile programs and constrain the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ ability to finance and support other groups in the region that are hostile to the U.S.
The officials declined to detail the reasons for their increased optimism other than that it was based on the latest discussions with U.S. counterparts.