WASHINGTON — French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to D.C. is one stage of an offensive by European leaders to convince President Trump not to walk away from the Iran nuclear deal, and today Trump called the P5+1 deal “insane” and indicated he’d be “flexible” on its future.
Macron and his wife, Brigitte, were honored at a lavish state dinner this evening. On Friday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel visits the White House for meetings that the administration says “will reaffirm the German-American partnership — a bedrock of the transatlantic relationship and the NATO Alliance — as both nations work together to address a broad range of geopolitical and economic challenges.”
Germany was the plus-one along with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council in crafting the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
“We are of the opinion that the existing framework, though not perfect, is preferable to having no agreement at all,” Merkel told Israel’s Channel 10 on Sunday. “We will continue to discuss this. Germany will be very careful to ensure that the agreement is honored.”
Trump faces a May 12 deadline on whether to reimpose economic sanctions on Iran, at which point Tehran has said the JCPOA will be null and void.
European parties to the deal are trying to sell Trump on addenda that wouldn’t change the core of the original deal.
“You consider that the Iranian deal, the JCPOA, the one negotiated in 2015 with Iran is a bad deal. For a number of months, I’ve been saying that this was not a sufficient deal, but that it enabled us, at least until 2025 to have some control over their nuclear activities,” Macron said at a joint news conference with Trump today. “We therefore wish for now to work on a new deal with Iran. What we need and I believe that on that, our discussions allowed us to shed light on our convergence of views. Is that we need to cover full topics. The first one is to block any nuclear activity of Iran until 2025.”
“This was feasible thanks to the JCPOA. The second is to make sure that in the long run, there is no nuclear Iranian activity. The third fundamental topic is to be able to put an end to the ballistic activities of Iran in the region,” he continued. “And the fourth one is to generate the conditions for solutions — a political solution to contain Iran in the region, in Yemen, in Syria, in Iraq, and in Lebanon.”
“On these topics, I did not change. I constantly said that we needed to find the framework so that together, and with the powers of the region, and with the Iranian leaders, manage to find a deal. I therefore would like us to commit to that effect in the weeks and months to come. This is the only way to bring about stability. France is not naive when it comes to Iran.”
Trump said the pair “covered a lot of territory” on Iran and other subjects in “a wonderful conference.”
Before the meeting, Trump told reporters that “people know my views on the Iran deal — it was a terrible deal.”
“It should have never, ever been made. We could have made a good deal or a reasonable deal. The Iran deal is a terrible deal. We paid $150 billion. We gave $1.8 billion in cash. That’s actual cash, barrels of cash. It’s insane. It’s ridiculous. It should have never been made,” he said. “But we will be talking about it.”
After the meeting, Trump noted that “nobody knows what I’m going to do on the 12th.”
“Although, Mr. President, you have a pretty good idea,” he said to Macron. “But we’ll see, but we’ll see also if I do what some people expect. Whether or not it will be possible to do a new deal with solid foundations. Because this is a deal with decayed foundations. It’s a bad deal, it’s a bad structure. It’s falling down. Should’ve never, ever been made. I blame Congress, I blame a lot of people for it. But it should’ve never been made.”
“And we’re going to see what happens on the 12th,” he added. “But I will say if Iran threatens us in any way, they will pay a price like few countries have ever paid.”
Macron, who was not president when France and allies agreed to the JCPOA, said his position on the Iran deal has “always been coherent” that “there was JCPOA, but we needed to add three pillars: post-2025, the ballistic issue and the regional influence.”
“I do not know what President Trump will decide regarding the JCPOA, and it is his responsibility… I’m not saying that we’re moving from one deal to another. I’m saying it is one aspect of the problem. I have never been as critical of the JCPOA as President Trump has, because I believe that we can usefully add to it.”
Trump said that he and Macron “have very much in common” and “certainly most things we agreed with, we can change and we can be flexible.”
“You know, in life you have to be flexible. And as leaders of countries, you have to show flexibility,” Trump added. “And I think we actually get along on many of the subjects we discussed today. And I will say France is a great country and I believe France will be taken to new heights under this president. He’s going to be an outstanding president, one of your great presidents.”