Attempting to emerge as the only sensible leader during these discussions, Bloomberg reports that French President Emmanuel Macron has tried to rescue the 2015 Iran Deal by allowing the Islamic Republic to sell oil for a limited period of time in exchange for returning to talks and to compliance with the agreement. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif also arrived in Biarritz to talk with his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian.
The plan would occur in two phases. Iran would be allowed to sell oil in exchange for compliance with the 2015 deal and a return to structured talks on missiles, regional issues and what happens after the agreement expires in 2025. However, this plan has already been met with hostility from the US as they are opposed to any compromise that allows the Islamic Republic to continue selling oil. US National Security John Bolton is also against any measure designed to appease Iran whilst they produce nuclear weapons.
The 2015 agreement does not need to be rewritten. Obama’s deal was only the beginning of resolving Iranian tensions in the Middle East, but the G7 should have been an opportunity to address what was wrong with it. Both Trump and the Iranian government have said they want to avoid war at all costs, but equally the latter has warned that continuing sanctions are crippling their economy. This is only likely to ignite tensions between both sides in the longer term. An Iran that has descended into chaos because of a struggling economy will only provoke further anger towards the US.
Like with China, Trump must articulate his message better to his G7 partners and other allies about what he is trying to achieve in Iran. Regarding Venezuela and North Korea, the US has met no opposition from his partners. At the moment it feels like he has communicated to his allies that he has ripped up the 2015 deal because Obama, a man who is still respected among many G7 leaders, signed it. He has failed to explain why the agreement was so flawed.
The 2015 agreement failed to clamp down on the Revolutionary Guards’ activities. The current oil sanctions are not supported by Russia and China, which is why both nations are still receiving Iranian oil. But the Guards continue to fund terrorist groups in Yemen and conduct other illegal activities. For example, when the Guards shot down an American drone flying in their airspace near the Kouhmobarak district in southern Iran’s Hormozgan province, their commander-in-chief, Hossein Salami, said the downing of the drone “carried a clear message” to America that “our borders are Iran’s red line and we will react strongly against any aggression.” This is an issue all the G7 leaders would no doubt agree needs to be resolved. Despite this, nations like France are determined to find their own solutions to the crisis instead of cooperating with the US. Equally the Trump administration’s actions show they are more interested in crippling Iran instead of providing them with incentives to scrap their nuclear programme.
The Iran Deal only allowed the Islamic Republic to limit its nuclear activities over a ten-year period. On the eve of the G7 summit, General Salami announced Tehran intends to exceed international limits on its nuclear programme. This is another area all G7 nations should agree is unacceptable, but so far the US is the only nation implementing sanctions against Iran for breaching the 2015 agreement.
The G7 should have been a chance for the world’s seven most powerful nations to agree that they must all approve of sanctions against the Revolutionary Guards and Iran’s nuclear activities. The G7 summit should have witnessed a compromise that involves a reduction in oil sanctions in exchange for a reduction in Tehran’s nuclear arsenal. This should have been the basis for a new agreement that can replace the Obama-era deal. The other G7 nations continue to allow both the US and the Islamic Republic to head towards war as they refuse to take sides. But that does not mean the Trump administration is innocent of failing to communicate its objectives sooner. Historians may reflect upon this moment as a missed opportunity in years to come.