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The Iran Nuclear Deal Is Not Dead, Ellie Geranmayeh Says


So you make a deal with some people. But then one person decides they're out; another breaches it. So is the deal any good? That's the reality facing the original signatories of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. The U.S. withdrew under President Trump. And this week, Iran announced that it has breached the limits on enriched uranium. Now the other members of the deal are trying to figure out what's next. That includes the U.K. and France. This morning, France's president warned Iran against doing anything else that would call the agreement into question. Ellie Geranmayeh helped advise European leaders on the nuclear negotiations that led to the eventual deal.

Thank you so much for being with us.


MARTIN: So the U.S. is out. Iran has basically taken itself out by intentionally violating a central tenant of the deal. Is it dead?

GERANMAYEH: No, it's not dead. And Iran is making clear that it's trying to give time for diplomacy to try and remedy the damage that's been done to the deal. They claim that they're acting within the context of this agreement and that they want the other remaining parties to the deal to essentially do more - I think more action to live up to their side of the agreement. So they are passing the ball, essentially, into Europe's court to try and get this mechanism that they've been talking about to do trade with Iran up and running.

MARTIN: So can you explain how that would work? Because the problem here is that American sanctions have complicated things, to say the least, for European countries, who under the deal are supposed to be able to do some business with Iran so that Iran can receive some financial benefit in exchange for easing its nuclear program.

GERANMAYEH: That's correct. I think neither Iran or Europe is under any illusions about what they're able to achieve in terms of economic transactions and business with one another. But I think what Iran is trying to get from Europeans is some tangible steps to show that they are committed to this agreement as much as Iran is. And by the way, Iran isn't just putting some pressure on the Europeans. They're also in talks with the Chinese and the Russians, while are other parties to this deal. Yes, the sanctions on the U.S. side has really complicated things.

But there is ways that I think that the different sides can come together to get out of the current end path they're seeing. Now, Iran's position has been that they've been patient for over a year now to try and see, since the U.S. withdrawal from the agreement, if this deal can sustain itself. Now, if it does keep - if it does turn out to be impossible for the parties to this deal to give something in return for Iran, we may well see the end of the deal and a collapse of the deal.

But I don't think we're quite there. I do think we have a few more weeks and months ahead in which there can be a bigger diplomatic push from particularly the European side to try and convince Iran not to take further steps, as President Macron has warned, that could really collapse this agreement altogether.

MARTIN: I want to play a bit of an interview that President Trump did last night on Fox News. He was talking about his decision a few weeks ago to call off strikes on Iran because he says he was told about the possible civilian toll. But the president is still clearly keeping the door to military action open. Let's listen.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I built up a lot of great capital. And if something should happen, we're in a position to do far worse by not doing it. But hopefully, we don't have to do anything.

MARTIN: Is it possible that you can circumscribe your part of the deal so that you don't have to pay attention to this growing tension between the U.S. and Iran? I mean, how do you ignore what's happening between those two countries?

GERANMAYEH: Well, I think at least the picture in Europe, they're very alert to what's happening in terms of the tensions between the U.S. and Iran. Indeed, President Macron, from our understanding, when he met with President Trump at the G-20 summit a few days ago, brought up this issue specifically. And essentially, there is lots of warnings happening from the European side to American counterparts that the current trajectory of maximum pressure that the U.S. is exerting on Iran is going to lead to some sort of a advertant (ph) or unintended military confrontation with Iran. And we indeed came very close to that over the drone incident.

Now, I think this would be a real nightmare scenario for the Europeans because while the U.S. has the luxury of being thousands of miles away from Iran, this country actually sits on Europe's doorsteps. And we know what happens in the Middle East doesn't stay in the Middle East. And so the Europeans, I think they are back to the situation almost where we were pre-this nuclear agreement, where they're trying to avoid some sort of a military confrontation between the West and Iran, whether it's on the nuclear issue or the rising tensions in the region.

MARTIN: Ellie Geranmayeh - she's with the European Council on Foreign Relations.

We appreciate your time and insight this morning. Thank you so much.

GERANMAYEH: Pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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