Last Minute Scramble on JCPOA

May 7, 2018

On May 6, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson traveled to Washington D.C. for two days of talks with the Trump administration on Iran, North Korea, Syria and other major international issues. He was due to meet with Vice President Mike Pence, National Security Advisor John Bolton, and others. Johnson made his final pitch for preserving the Iran nuclear deal, which President Trump has threatened to withdraw from if certain perceived flaws cannot be “fixed” by May 12. The following are excerpted remarks by Johnson and other officials from countries party to the 2015 accord in the run up to Trump’s decision.


EU Spokeswoman for Foreign Affairs Maja Kocijancic

“We are working on plans to protect the interests of European companies. We don’t know what Mr. Trump is going to announce.”

“The agreement is very important for global security.”

“The JCPOA is not based on assumptions of good faith or trust. It’s based on facts, on concrete commitments, on verification mechanisms, on very strict monitoring.”

May 8, 2018, to the media, according to Bloomberg


British Prime Minister Theresa May

It is "right to maintain the Iran nuclear deal as the best way of neutralising the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran." 

May 8, 2018, according to CNN's Chief Natioanl Security Correspondent Jim Sciutto


British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson

“Of course the president is right to see flaws in it, and he set a very reasonable challenge to the world. Look, Iran is behaving badly. Iran has a tendency to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles. We’ve got to stop that. We’ve got to push back on what Iran is doing in the region. We’ve got to be tougher on Iran. And we’ve got to fix the flaws in the deal. One of the most important is this “sunset clause,” which means that after 2025, it allows- the current deal allows Iran to move forward fast with enrichment programs, which could lead to a nuclear weapon. Now, no sanctions go back on. We need to find a way to fix that. And the president has been right to call attention to it. But you can’t do that without throwing the baby out with the bath water, without scrapping the whole thing. Because if you do that, you have to answer the question, what next? What if the Iranians do rush for a nuclear weapon. Are we seriously saying that we are going to bomb those facilities in Qoms and Fordow and Tanz. Is that really a realistic possibility? Or do we work with what we’ve got and push back on Iran together?”

“What you’ve got to do, you’ve go to recognize that the heart of the old deal, the existing deal is that it gives Iran some reason to hope that it will have economic benefits in the long run. Actually they haven’t had much, in the last few years. In return for which, they don’t equip themselves with a nuclear weapon. Let me just remind you, if they do get a nuclear weapon, you’re going to get an arms race in the Middle East. You’re going to have the Saudis wanting one, the Egyptians, the Emiratis. It’s already a very very dangerous state at the moment. We don’t want to go down that route. And as I say, it doesn’t seem to me, at the moment, to be a very viable military solution.”

“I saw Benjamin Netanyahu’s excellent presentation, but that related to the Iranian program up until 2003. And that was why it was a good idea to get them to do this deal not to have nuclear weapons. By the way, we’re not just trusting them.”

“There have been 400 inspections over the last couple of years. Well what they’ve done, and the International Atomic Energy Agency has confirmed that Iran is in compliance. They haven’t been rushing for a nuke. Let me remind you, before the deal was done they could have a nuke. They were massively enriching uranium. They could have had a nuke within a month.”

“The president has a legitimate point. He set a challenge for the world. We think that what you could do is be tougher on Iran, address the concerns of the president, and not throw the baby out with the bath water, not junk a deal. Because, as I say, plan B does not seem, to me, to be particularly well developed at this stage.”

May 7, 2018, in an interview with Fox and Friends


"Do not forget how this agreement has helped to avoid a possible catastrophe. In his address to the United Nations in September 2012, Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, rightly warned of the dangers of a nuclear-armed Iran. At that moment, Iran’s nuclear plants held an estimated 11,500 centrifuges and nearly seven tons of low-enriched uranium — totals that would rise to nearly 20,000 centrifuges and eight tons of uranium.

Had the leaders of the Islamic Republic decided to go for a nuclear arsenal, they would have needed only a few months to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for their first bomb.

The situation was even more worrying because, month by month, Iran was installing more centrifuges and building up its uranium stockpile. But under the deal, Iran has placed two-thirds of its centrifuges in storage and relinquished about 95 percent of its uranium stockpile. The “break out” time has been extended to at least a year — and the agreement is designed to keep it above that minimum threshold.

Moreover, inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency have been given extra powers to monitor Iran’s nuclear facilities, increasing the likelihood that they would spot any attempt to build a weapon.

Now that these handcuffs are in place, I see no possible advantage in casting them aside. Only Iran would gain from abandoning the restrictions on its nuclear program."


"In a statement on Jan. 12, President Trump rightly identified Iran’s dangerous actions as a central cause of instability across the Middle East. Britain shares his concerns about Iran’s support for terrorist groups, its behavior in cyberspace and its long-range missile program. We also, of course, agree that Iran must never get a nuclear weapon; indeed Tehran’s obligation not to “seek, develop or acquire” such an arsenal appears (without any time limit) at the top of the deal’s preamble.

On all this, Britain and America are at one. Since the president’s speech, United States and United Kingdom diplomats have been working alongside their French and German counterparts to reach a joint approach toward Iran, focused on countering Tehran’s regional meddling, reducing its missile threat and ensuring that it can never build a nuclear weapon."


"I believe that keeping the deal’s constraints on Iran’s nuclear program will also help counter Tehran’s aggressive regional behavior. I am sure of one thing: every available alternative is worse. The wisest course would be to improve the handcuffs rather than break them."

May 6, 2018, in a New York Times Op-ed

“The UK, US, and European partners are also united in our effort to tackle the kind of Iranian behavior that makes the Middle East region less secure – its cyber activities, its support for groups like Hezbollah, and its dangerous missile programme, which is arming Houthi militias in Yemen.”

May 6, 2018, in a statement


French President Emmanuel Macron

“We would open the Pandora’s box. There could be war. I don’t think that Donald Trump wants war.”

May 4, 2018, speaking to Der Spiegel


French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian

“We are determined to save this deal because this accord safeguards against nuclear proliferation and is the right way to stop Iran getting a nuclear weapon.”

May 7, 2018, in a joint press conference with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian in Berlin, according to Reuters


French Defense Minister Florence Parly

"This agreement is not the best one in the world." 

"But without being perfect, it still has its virtues...and they (the Iranians) are respecting." 

"Iran is a power that is looking to exercise its influence across the region. That is why it's involved in Syria." 

"We can see that any escalation... that could lead Iran not to respect the deal that was signed, including by the United States, would only aggravate what is already a very tense situation." 

May 8, 2018, speaking to RTL radio, according to AFP


German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas

The United States administration recently cast doubt on whether it would continue to uphold the agreement. Against this backdrop, high-ranking representatives from France, the United Kingdom and Germany as well as the Secretary-General of the European External Action Service, Helga Schmid, have gathered in Brussels today (8 May) to meet Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi.

From Europe’s perspective, the agreement, with its tight restrictions and control mechanisms, ensures that the Iranian nuclear programme serves only civilian and hence peaceful purposes. It is therefore in Europe’s security interests to maintain the agreement and continue to implement it.

The E3, the European parties to the agreement, are consequently working hard to find a solution that leaves the way open for the United States to continue to be party to the agreement and prevents further escalation of the conflict. To this end, the E3 are engaged in ongoing exchange with the administration in Washington.

On Monday (7 May), Foreign Minister Maas had an intensive discussion with his French counterpart, during which he made clear that we see no real alternative to the control mechanism and restrictions regarding the Iranian nuclear programme as set down in the Vienna agreement. And we fear that its failure would lead to escalation and a return to the pre-2013 situation. That cannot be in anyone’s interest.

May 8, 2018, in an article


“We don’t think there is any justifiable reason to pull out of this agreement and we continue to make the case for it to our American friends.”

“We’ll deal with the (U.S.) decision but like Jean-Yves said, we want to adhere to this agreement.”

May 7, 2018, in a joint press conference with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian in Berlin, according to Reuters

"We continue to believe that this agreement makes the world safer and without this agreement the world would be less safe.”

“We fear a failure [to abide by the deal] would result in an escalation.”

May 7, 2018, in a joint press conference with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian in Berlin, according to PressTV


Russian Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov

“From a strategic framework perspective, [Russia’s] position absolutely coincides with the position taken by the leaders of European capitals, who are also not proponents of ripping up the foundational document." 

May 8, 2018, speaking to the press, according to the Washington Post 


Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China

The Russian Federation and the People's Republic of China:

-Confirm their unwavering support for the comprehensive and effective implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) as endorsed by the UNSC Resolution 2231 (2015);

-Recognize that the sustainable implementation of the JCPOA proved to be a significant contribution in strengthening global nuclear non-proliferation architecture as well as international security as a whole;

-Persuaded that the conclusion of the JCPOA clearly demonstrated that non-proliferation issues can only be addressed through political and diplomatic means in accordance with the NPT;

-Support the essential and independent role of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in verification and monitoring in Iran in light of the UNSC resolution 2231 (2015) and welcome the regular confirmations by the IAEA Director General that Iran is in full compliance with it's commitments under the JCPOA;

-Support the role of the Joint Commission established to carry out functions assigned to it in the JCPOA;

-Emphasize the urgent necessity for all parties to the JCPOA to rigorously adhere to and fully implement their commitments under it, and for all NPT State-Parties to support implementation of the JCPOA, including by refraining from actions that undermine implementation of commitments under the JCPOA.

May 4, 2018, in a joint statement at the Second Session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2020 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons