France is forging ahead with an effort to extend a $15 billion financial lifeline to Iran in exchange for a commitment from the country to cease violating the nuclear accord.
IAEA inspectors on Friday confirmed that Iran “accumulated more enriched uranium and purified it to a higher level than allowed under the country’s 2015 agreement with world powers”.
That wasn’t a surprise. Iran made its intentions to violate the deal clear over the past two months and had previously warned that it breached the stockpile limit and exceeded the enrichment ceiling. The news came just hours before the US sanctioned the Iranian oil tanker previously detained by Gibraltar. Also on Friday, Trump tweeted out a picture of an Iranian launch site damaged in an accident, in an apparent effort to mock the IRGC.
The idea for the $15 billion lifeline came up last week following Javad Zarif’s surprise cameo at the G-7 in Biarritz. Trump indicated he may be willing to support a line of credit secured by the country’s oil.
An Iranian delegation met with the French in Paris on Monday to iron out the details, but clearly, it all depends on the US agreeing not to undermine the effort.
“The question is to know whether we can reach this $15 billion level, secondly who will finance it, and thirdly we need to get at the very least the tacit approval of the United States”, one source told Reuters. “We still don’t know what the US position is”.
Right. And remember, the US was very confrontational when the European powers attempted to set up a special purpose vehicle (Instex) designed to facilitate legal trade with Tehran in the face of the US sanctions that have crippled the economy.
“We just want to be in a position to sell oil and get our money”, Zarif told the German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung, in an interview conducted in Tehran late last month. If the remaining parties to the nuclear deal can guarantee that, Iran will be back in full compliance with the accord “within hours”, he said.
Iranian officials reiterated that to Reuters on Tuesday.
“France has offered the credit line of $15 billion but we are still discussing it. It should be guaranteed that we will have access to this amount freely and also Iran should be able to sell its oil and have access to its money”, one source said. “Although the EU and particularly France have good will, they should convince the U.S. to cooperate with them”, added another. “If not, Iran is very serious about decreasing its nuclear commitments [as] there is no logic to respect the deal, if it has no benefits for us”.
Ominously, a spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran said Tuesday that “if Iran wants, it can have 20% enriched fuel within one or two days”.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. Although the “nuclear blackmail” charge that Trump used to justify abandoning the nuclear accord in 2018 was mostly a myth at the time, it’s very real now, and you can thank the US president for that.
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire will be in Washington this week and will discuss the prospective credit line with US officials.