Europe on Monday urged the US not to further escalate tensions over the Iran nuclear deal, with Britain issuing a stark warning of the risk of conflict erupting “by accident” in the Gulf.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a last-minute change of plan scrapping an expected Moscow trip to visit Brussels and meet his counterparts from Britain, France and Germany.
The ministers from the European signatories to the 2015 accord that curbed Iran’s nuclear ambitions in return for sanctions relief all publicly criticised the hardline US approach.
Iran last week announced it was suspending some of its commitments under the agreement, a year after US President Donald Trump withdrew from the accord and imposed sweeping sanctions on the Islamic republic — putting the deal in peril.
Adding a military dimension to the diplomatic tensions, Washington is sending an amphibious assault ship and a Patriot missile battery to the Gulf, having already deployed an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Berlin “still regards this nuclear agreement as the basis for Iran not having any nuclear weapons in the future and we regard this as existential for our security”.
Maas said he used his one-on-one meeting with Pompeo to stress that “we are concerned about the development and the tensions in the region, that we do not want there to be a military escalation”.
British foreign minister Hunt called for “a period of calm” and bluntly warned of the danger of pushing Iran back towards developing nuclear weapons.
“We are very worried about the risk of a conflict happening by accident with an escalation that is unintended on either side but ends with some kind of conflict,” Hunt said.
“Most of all we must make sure we don’t end up putting Iran back on the path to re-nuclearisation, because if Iran becomes a nuclear power its neighbours are likely to want to become nuclear powers.
“This is already the most unstable region in the world and it would be a massive step in the wrong direction.”
The European Union’s diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini, who held her own meeting with Pompeo, stressed the need for dialogue as “the only and the best way to address differences and avoid escalation” in the region.
“We continue to fully support the nuclear deal with Iran, its full implementation,” Mogherini said.
“It has been and continues to be for us a key element of the non-proliferation architecture both globally and in the region.”
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian joined the criticism saying Washington’s move to step up sanctions against Iran “does not suit us”.
– ‘Nuclear bomb’ –
Mogherini chaired a meeting of the so-called E3 — Britain, France and Germany — to discuss efforts to keep the deal going, including the special trade mechanism called INSTEX the trio set up to try to enable legitimate trade with Iran to continue without falling foul of US sanctions.
INSTEX was launched in January but is still not operational and has been dismissed scornfully by the Iranian senior leadership.
After talks with the E3, Mogherini said they aimed to get INSTEX up and running and have the first transactions “hopefully in the next few weeks”.
President Hassan Rouhani issued an ultimatum to the Europeans last week threatening that Iran would go further if they fail to deliver sanctions relief to counterbalance Trump’s renewed assault on the Iranian economy within 60 days.
The European powers rejected that ultimatum.
The US has continued to build pressure on Iran, with Pompeo accusing Tehran of planning “imminent” attacks and bolstering the military presence in the Gulf.
Brian Hook, the US special envoy for Iran, insisted the Islamic republic was itself an “escalating threat”.
“The secretary wanted to share some detail behind what we have been saying publicly. We believe that Iran should try talks instead of threats. They have chosen poorly by focusing on threats,” Hook told reporters.
Pompeo was to head to the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi on Tuesday to meet President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, a State Department official said.
Trump’s ‘no collusion’ lie is finally falling apart — but will Americans actually notice?
Although the Mueller Report has been in the public domain for nearly two months, there’s still a ton of confusion and disinformation around it. The confusion is specifically due to two things: Very few voters have actually read it, and Donald Trump is delighted to exploit that fact. It doesn’t help that Robert Mueller has been more than a little cryptic about his findings — refusing to answer questions or to appear for congressional testimony to clear the air.
Consequently, the president and his Red Hat loyalists continue to repeat the “NO COLLUSION!' lie with very little push-back. The all-caps falsehood gains momentum every time Trump repeats it. Likewise, Bill Barr’s March 24 letter and his subsequent public remarks erroneously confirmed Trump’s lie before anyone, including Congress, was allowed to actually read the report.
Trump calls himself a rock star as he tries to drum up interest in his Orlando rally: ‘Going to be wild!’
President Donald Trump compared himself to a rock star ahead of his campaign kickoff rally in Orlando, where hundreds of supporters camped out a day ahead of the Florida event.
Supporters waited in line more than 40 hours before Tuesday night's rally at the Amway Center, and the president claimed that showed he was as popular as musicians who pack arenas for rock concerts.
"The Fake News doesn’t report it," Trump tweeted, "but Republican enthusiasm is at an all time high. Look what is going on in Orlando, Florida, right now! People have never seen anything like it (unless you play a guitar). Going to be wild - See you later!"
MSNBC’s Morning Joe and Mika hilariously taunt Trump over lousy ratings for his ABC interview: He didn’t even beat ‘Family Feud’
President Donald Trump sees his poll numbers as the same thing as television ratings, according to panelists on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."
Host Joe Scarborough and others shared anecdotes showing the president's obsession with poll numbers and TV ratings, and his compulsion to push back when those popularity metrics are challenged.
"You have to to think back to that period you just described, 2015-2016, when reporters would go up to the 26th floor of Trump Tower," said Washington Post reporter Robert Costa. "President Trump would have all these framed ratings from 'The Apprentice' in picture frames on the wall. He would use the phrase ratings, and he would interchange it with the discussion of polling. He would say, 'My ratings are doing really well.'"