In Brief

Can Emmanuel Macron save the Iran nuclear deal?

French President faces uphill battle to win over Donald Trump as US exit looms

French President Emmanuel Macron will use his state visit to the US this week to make a last-ditch plea to US President Donald Trump not to abandon the multilateral nuclear deal with Iran.

Trump has long stated his dislike of the 2015 agreement negotiated by his predecessor, Barack Obama, but has until now been minded to keep the US on side due in large part to pressure from his own cabinet and close advisors.

But recent changes to Trump’s top team have seen supporters of the Iran deal, such as former secretary of state Rex Tillerson, replaced by foreign policy hawks. They include his successor at the State Department, Mike Pompeo and, most notably, former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton, Trump’s new national security advisor.

This influx of hardliners who share Trump’s world view appears to have decisively shifted the President's thinking.

The BBC reports that a decision will be reached no later than 12 May on whether the US will abandon the nuclear deal and reimpose economic sanctions.

“The decision to leave is pretty much made,” a source familiar with the administration's thinking on Iran told CNN. The source said the administration has “positioned itself that way, but it’s keeping an eye on the possibility of staying should the Europeans be able to extract concessions from Iran [or] somehow pull a rabbit out of the hat”.

US and European negotiators are reportedly working around the clock to agree concessions that would help Trump save face and keep the US in the international pact.

In what appears to be a concerted international diplomatic effort to rescue the deal, Macron will be followed on Friday by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Britain’s Theresa May is expected to speak to the US President by telephone.

The two other co-signatories, Russia and China, are also pressuring Trump to keep the US in the accord.

Engaging in his own high-level lobbying effort, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Zarif offered supported to Macron but stressed there was no plan B on the deal and it was “either all or nothing”.

Yesterday, a senior Iranian official said Tehran might pull out of a nuclear non-proliferation treaty if the US scrapped the nuclear accord signed in 2015.

In a separate address, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani also warned Trump to stay in the nuclear deal or face “severe consequences”.

“I am telling those in the White House that if they do not live up to their commitments... the Iranian government will firmly react,” Rouhani said. Last week, Iran said it was willing to ramp up its nuclear programme if the deal collapses.

Despite the tough rhetoric, CNN says, “it is not clear what Iran would do if the US leaves the deal”. If Iran responds by walking away, it “puts them on a confrontation path with the United States and the Europeans at a time when they’re pretty stretched thin in the region, and in the socioeconomic protests that continue to bubble up throughout the country”, Firas Maksad, director of the Arabia Foundation, told the broadcaster.

One possibility, Maksad said, is that Iran responds with asymmetric attacks targeting US interests in the region: US troops in Iraq, special forces in Syria, diplomats and diplomatic facilities across the Middle East.

Oil hits three-year high on fears of Iranian sanctions

The prospect of new US sanctions has sent the price of oil skyrocketing to a three-and-a-half year high.

Six days of consecutive price rises saw Brent crude jump to more than $75 dollars a barrel for the first time since 2015.

Oil prices have been steadily rising since hitting a low of $40 in early 2016, driven mainly by the decision by the world’s biggest oil producers, including Opec and Russia, to restrict output last year.

A move by the US to withdraw from the Iran deal and reimpose sanctions on the third-biggest oil producer in the Opec cartel “threatens to further tighten global supplies”, says the BBC.

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