Women walk past a portrait of late Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Tehran on Friday © AFP
International powers have warned of potential security crises in the Middle East and east Asia should President Donald Trump’s looming repudiation of the landmark Iran deal trigger the accord’s collapse.
European and Russian officials said if the US sought to renegotiate or unravel the accord, it would severely damage efforts to stop the proliferation of atomic weapons in North Korea and elsewhere.
A US repudiation of the pact risked sparking an atomic “arms race” in the Middle East and would be a “very negative signal” that could drive Pyongyang away from any future talks about its own nuclear arms programme, a senior EU official said.
“We would then have another nuclear crisis, which we definitely do not need,” the diplomat said.
European counties have launched a rearguard action to save the agreement if, as expected, Mr Trump does not recertify it on Friday. Decertification would mean Congress has 60 days to decide whether to reimpose nuclear-related US sanctions against Iran, which would risk leading to the deal’s collapse.
The accord, painstakingly negotiated over more than a decade to curb Tehran’s nuclear programme in exchange for the lifting of many sanctions, was signed by Iran, the US, China, Russia, Germany, France and the UK in 2015. It was incorporated into international law by the UN Security Council and considered a model for containing a brewing crisis.
Steffen Seibert, spokesman for Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, said: “We have a great interest in preserving this international unity. If one country, one important country, the US . . . then reaches other conclusions, then we will really try hard with our other partners to preserve this unity.”
European countries have been lobbying hard to urge US politicians not to upend the pact as a means to target Iran over other concerns shared across western capitals, including Tehran’s development of its ballistic missile programme, its role in conflicts in the Arab world and its support for militant groups.
Diplomats in Europe also say it is unreasonable for Mr Trump and other US critics of the deal to suggest Iran is not honouring it as Tehran has been judged compliant by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Iran has always insisted its nuclear programme was only for peaceful civilian purposes.
The Kremlin warned that a US exit from the deal could “seriously aggravate” the situation around Iran’s nuclear programme.
US abandonment of the pact would “without doubt damage . . . predictability, security, stability and non-proliferation worldwide,” said Dmitry Peskov, President Vladimir Putin’s press secretary.
Mr Peskov added that Russia would continue to seek to settle the Iranian nuclear question and to prevent nuclear proliferation more widely.
Ali Larijani, speaker of Iran’s parliament, said the deal would collapse if the US withdrew.
“[The US] has started actions which will eventually lead to global disorder,” Russian news agencies quoted Mr Larijani as saying in St Petersburg, where he is visiting for an international parliamentary forum.
Mr Larijani said his country would honour the terms of the agreement as long as all other parties did the same. But he said Tehran had a response ready should the US exit.