The United Kingdom, France and Germany have proposed fresh sanctions on Iran over its ballistic missiles and its role in Syria’s war in a bid to persuade Washington to preserve the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, according to a confidential document.
The proposal was sent to European Union capitals on Friday to sound out support for such sanctions, as they would need the support of all 28 EU member governments.
The proposal is part of an EU strategy to save the accord by showing U.S. President Donald Trump that there are ways to counter Iranian power abroad other than abandoning the deal, which was signed by the U.S. under President Barack Obama and five world powers with the aim of curbing Iran’s ability to develop nuclear weapons.
Trump delivered an ultimatum to the European signatories on Jan. 12, saying they must agree to “fix the terrible flaws of the Iran nuclear deal” or he will refuse to extend U.S. sanctions relief to Iran. U.S. sanctions will resume unless Trump issues fresh “waivers” to suspend them on May 12.
“We will therefore be circulating in the coming days a list of persons and entities that we believe should be targeted in view of their publicly demonstrated roles,” the document said, referring to Iranian ballistic missile tests and Iran’s role in backing the Syrian government in the seven-year civil war.
European Union foreign ministers will discuss the proposal at a closed-door meeting in Brussels on Monday, diplomats said.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif struck a defiant note on Friday.
“If the United States makes the mistake of pulling out of the JCPOA [the nuclear deal], it will definitely be a painful mistake for the Americans,” Iranian state television quoted Zarif as saying.
Zarif did not refer to the possibility of new EU sanctions.
The joint document by the U.K., France and Germany said they were engaged in “intensive talks” with the Trump administration to “achieve a clear and lasting reaffirmation of U.S. support for the (nuclear) agreement beyond May 12.”
The proposal follows weeks of talks between the State Department and European powers as they try to mollify the Trump administration, which is split between those who want to tear up the agreement and those who wish to preserve it.
A U.S. State Department official declined to comment, saying, “We don’t want to get ahead of the EU’s decision-making process. … There is broad agreement on the areas that need strengthening, but how that’s done in each of the three areas is the subject of our negotiations.”
Another U.S. official cited “very good” talks with the U.K., France and Germany this week on the issue.
The document referred to sanctions that would “target militias and commanders.” It proposes building on the EU’s existing sanctions list related to Syria, which includes travel bans and asset freezes on individuals, and a ban on doing business or financing public and private companies.
It was strident in its criticism of Iran’s ballistic weapons, which Tehran says are for defensive purposes, saying there were “transfers of Iranian missiles and missile technology” to Syria and allies of Tehran, such as Houthi rebels in Yemen and Lebanon’s Iran-backed Shiite Hezbollah.
“Such a proliferation of Iranian missile capabilities throughout the region is an additional and serious source of concern,” the document said.