Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has issued five demands to Europe that would be difficult for the Continent’s leaders to meet as they seek to salvage a 2015 nuclear accord.
The European Union is engaged in high stakes talks with Tehran after President Donald Trump abandoned the Iran nuclear deal, putting the international agreement on life support. Diplomats from the remaining parties to the deal — Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia — will meet in Vienna with their Iranian counterparts on Friday.
Analysts are skeptical that Europe can preserve the deal in the face of powerful U.S. sanctions. The accord’s demise threatens to lift limits on Tehran’s nuclear program, disrupt billions of dollars in planned European investment in Iran, exacerbate transatlantic relations and disrupt oil flows from OPEC’s third biggest producer.
Ahead of the Friday meeting, Khamenei set guidelines Wednesday for the talks that Eurasia Group analyst Henry Rome described as “maximalist.” The demands, translated by Rome on Twitter, include:
- Europeans must bring resolution to [the United Nations Security Council] protesting U.S. violation of UNSCR 2231 [the UN resolution endorsing the Iran nuclear deal].
- Iran’s missiles and regional presence absolutely may not be discussed with European leaders.
- Europeans [must] clearly oppose all American sanctions against Iran.
- If the Americans try to interfere with Iran’s oil sales, the Europeans must guarantee the purchase of oil from Iran.
- Europe must guarantee Iranian banking connections.
Khamenei said Iran could start ramping up its nuclear activity, which it agreed to limit in 2015 in exchange for sanctions relief, if the accord no longer benefits the country.
@hrome2: “Currently, we are not starting enrichment of 20% but we must be ready so that if it becomes necessary, and we see the JCPOA become useless, the activities that were stopped because of the JCPOA can be resumed.”
The demands set a high bar for several reasons. Ahead of the U.S. exit, French President Emmanuel Macron said two pillars of its policy going forward include addressing Iran’s ballistic missile program and its role in Middle East conflicts. While the European Union is taking measures to block the U.S. sanctions, it is ultimately up to the Continent’s banks and companies to decide if they can stomach the risk of running afoul U.S. sanctions.
But according to Rome, Khamenei’s demands should not be read as the final word on the Iranian position.
“He has a habit of laying out guardrails for the government and he did this during the nuclear negotiations in 2014 and 2015, as well,” he said. “But at the end of the day, he is known to take both sides of an issue and leave himself lots of opportunities to change his mind or refine his views.”
The demands themselves do not alter the prospects for the deal, but Eurasia Group thinks it will not survive long.
“We think it’s most likely that in the next three to four months, the Iranians decide to walk, simply because what the Europeans can offer — with regards to trade, investment and oil sales — it will not be sufficient to balance out the nuclear concession that Iran is making.”
The tone of the demands appear to be a response to a speech by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, said Behnam Ben Taleblu, Iran researcher at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, which opposed the 2015 deal negotiated by President Barack Obama.
On Monday, Pompeo issued his own list of a dozen concessions Iran must make before Washington lifts sanctions and normalizes ties with Tehran.
“While Pompeo went for ‘big’ in his speech, Khamenei seems to be going for ‘bigger,'” Taleblu told CNBC in an email.
“After the U.S. left the JCPOA, Khamenei ordered Iran’s President Rouhani to get guarantees from the West about continuing to facilitate trade. Khamenei is now doubling down on that charge,” he said, referring to the deal’s official name, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
Iran's Supreme Leader just made 5 tough demands for Europe to save the nuclear deal