What did Macron offer?
With his offer on Tuesday to work on “a new agreement that is more comprehensive”, the French president “cleverly presented the same problem, but in a different way,” said Behnam Ben Talblu of the Institute for Defense of Democracies, who has been a vocal critic of the 2015 agreement.
These new negotiations are supposed to address Trump’s concerns, while preserving the original agreement that would become the first of the “four pillars” of a future text. The other pillars are related to the post-2025 phase, when some provisions expire, but also the controversial ballistic missiles and the role of Iran, which is considered “destabilizing” in the region.
The most prominent new element in the proposal is that the matter will no longer be related to separate issues discussed between Westerners, but rather to actual negotiations that include Iran and the major powers.
“It is necessary to negotiate with Iran, otherwise you will face a problem at some point because the ultimate goal is to change the Iranian position,” said Behnam bin Talblo.
What will Trump do on May 12?
No one really knows what the US president’s intentions are, but his French counterpart did not hide his pessimism on Wednesday, pointing to the dangers of leaving the agreement signed in 2015, especially for “internal political reasons.”
Luigi Scazzieri, an expert on Middle East affairs at the Center for European Reform, said that “Macron and Trump did not agree on anything,” noting that the US president had not publicly promised anything to his French counterpart.
“But Trump seems relatively open to Macron’s idea of keeping the current agreement while expanding it,” he added.
In any case, it seems that the French proposal gave hope to the supporters of the nuclear deal.
The “Diplomatic Works” group founded by former US Secretary of State John Kerry to defend this agreement, which was “one of its architects”, praised the “wise” initiative, saying that it enhances “the possibility of the United States remaining in the Iranian nuclear agreement, while relying on its successes to conclude other agreements that include the rest of Iran’s activities.
For his part, US diplomat Christopher Ford, in charge of arms non-proliferation, said Wednesday in Geneva, “I hope that the Iran agreement has been rescued in the context of the challenges posed by President Trump,” but the chief US negotiator, Brian Hook, appeared more cautious.
“It is too early to say whether we will be able to reach an agreement with the Europeans, there are still differences,” he told US public radio.