French President Emmanuel Macron and Donald Trump at their joint press conference at the G7 summit, Biarritz, France, August 26, 2019 (AFP)
White House officials say Donald Trump is considering endorsement of France’s proposal of a $15 billion line of credit for Iran, easing the impact of comprehensive US sanctions imposed last November.
“Four sources with knowledge of Trump’s conversations” with French President Emmanuel Macron, who has been mediating between Tehran and Washington, said Trump is considering the deal of the $15 billion in return for Iran returning to its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal.
Under the French proposal, Iran would de-escalate tensions in the Persian Gulf, follows attacks on tankers and the Revolutionary Guards’ seizure of a UK-flagged vessel, by agreeing not to threaten the security of the waterway or to impede maritime navigation. The Islamic Republic would also commit to talks over the future of the Middle East.
The negotiations between France and Iran appeared to collapse last week, after a 10-hour session on September 2, when Paris said the line of credit could only proceed if the US agreed to sanctions waivers. Otherwise, financial institutions extending the credit could be subject to American punishment.
President Hassan Rouhani said two days later that Iran would take its “third step” of suspending commitments in the nuclear agreements, following Tehran’s breaking of the limits on 3.67% uranium and raising enrichment to 4.5%. Last Friday, Iran confirmed that it is resuming development and installation of advanced uranium centrifuges that were put in storage under the deal.
The Trump Administration withdrew from the nuclear agreement in May 2018. The sanctions on Iran’s energy and financial sectors followed in November, and they were tightened this spring with the elimination of sanctions waivers for Iran’s top oil customers such as China, India, South Korea, Japan, and Turkey.
Trump repeatedly condemned his predecessor Barack Obama for “giving” Iran billions of dollars, a distortion of the deal’s provision for the unfreezing of Iranian assets in the US.
But seeking the photo opportunity of a meeting with Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, Trump has softened his rhetoric in recent weeks, after approving but then pulling back US airstrikes inside Iran in late June.
At the G7 meeting in Biarritz, France in late August — where Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif made a surprise appearance at the invitation of Macron — Trump told reporters that Iran might need a “short-term letter of credit or loan” that could “get them over a very rough patch”.
Last week, Trump said:
I do believe they’d like to make a deal. If they do, that’s great. And if they don’t, that’s great too. But they have tremendous financial difficulty, and the sanctions are getting tougher and tougher.
Asked if he might ease the sanctions to get the appearance with Rouhani, Trump said: “We’ll see what happens. I think Iran has a tremendous, tremendous potential.”
National Security Advisor John Bolton, a leader of the Administration’s “maximum pressure” on Iran and a firm opponent of any easing of sanctions, was dismissed by Trump on Tuesday.