Prospects of new Iran nuclear deal
While US President Donald Trump has made no secret of his utter dislike for the Iran deal, to the extent that he wants to tear it up, talks with visiting French President Emmanuel Macron seem to have helped soften that stand. In the early hours of Wednesday, Macron seemed to have won over his host with his unusual show of friendship with the suggestion that the Iran deal could be tweaked to ensure total peace in the Middle East. Earlier, the deal was Iran specific, but, now, it includes three more pillars including Syria. Trump was expected to come under increasing pressure from the visiting French and German leaders this week to not scrap the three-year-old nuclear agreement with Iran next month as American and European negotiators make tentative progress towards a new deal to toughen the limits on Tehran. Macron arrived on Monday at the White House to try and persuade Trump to preserve the Iran deal, at least for now. While not as close personally to Trump, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany will follow on Friday to reinforce the message. The back-to-back visits come weeks before a May 12 deadline set by the US President to "fix" the Iran agreement or walk away from it. Under the agreement, sealed in 2015 by President Barack Obama, Iran has curbed its nuclear programme in exchange for relief from crippling international sanctions. But, Trump and other critics have assailed it as it begins to expire after a decade and does not block Iran's missile development or prevent it from destabilising the region. In the recent weeks, American and European negotiators have made progress toward side agreements that would lay out new standards for Iran to meet or risk the reimposition of sanctions by the West. Negotiators have generally reached a consensus on measures to constrain Iran's ballistic missile programmes, according to people briefed on the talks, but remain divided over how to extend the restrictions of the original agreement due to lapse starting in 2025. Most importantly, the Europeans want assurances that if side agreements are reached, the United States will stay in the deal, a hard commitment for American officials to make given Trump's mercurial nature. But, European leaders hope that they can persuade him to hold off by showing enough progress in negotiations that he can claim he is making the deal better. The fate of the Iran agreement could influence the president's forthcoming meeting with Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader who already possesses some nuclear arsenal. Whatever its flaws, American officials understand that cancelling the Iran deal days weeks before that meeting might complicate Trump's chances of making an agreement with Kim.