A key Iranian political leader called Tuesday on European nations to stand with Tehran against Washington and “show their strength in the face of American pressure” in a bid to salvage the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal following President Trump’s withdrawal of the accord.
The plea from the Iranian parliament’s national security and foreign policy committee chief came a day after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo upped the ante around Mr. Trump’s pullout from the deal by announcing Washington will soon level “the strongest sanctions in history” if Tehran doesn’t meet a series of demands set by the administration.
Among other ultimatums, Mr. Pompeo said in a speech Monday that Tehran must end all nuclear activity completely, halt its support for Hezbollah, Hamas and the Houthi rebels in Yemen, and cease development of any nuclear-capable missiles.
The threat of harsh new U.S. sanctions has sent shock waves across the Europe, where European companies who’ve invested in Iran since sanctions were lifted by the 2015 nuclear deal now fear being caught up in the potential wide scale re-imposition of penalties — and potentially barred from doing business with American firms.
Iranian leaders have spent the past two weeks quietly scrambling to rally the European Union to find ways to protect European companies so they can keep doing business in Iran.
On Tuesday, the chairman of the Iranian parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Alaeddin Boroujerdi embraced more confrontational rhetoric, asserting that European signatories to the nuclear deal must take action to keep the accord alive.
“If the European companies do not show their presence in Iran or do not act upon their undertakings and contracts that they have signed after the nuclear deal, slogans, statements and even official documents will have no value,” Mr. Boroujerdi told reporters in Tehran, according to Iran’s Fars News Agency.
Fars framed the comments as a reaction to European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who has been publicly critical of the Trump administration’s pullout from the nuclear deal but also cautious about the way forward as the prospect of new American sanctions looms.
Diplomats from the nuclear deal’s remaining signatories, including Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China, are expected to meet in Vienna this week to discuss salvaging the deal by offering Tehran financial aid in exchange for promises that it curb its ballistic missile development and meddling in the Middle East.
Trump administration officials say they’re confident the Europeans will ultimately abandon the deal. Some analysts agree.
“Europe is going to pick working with us, the $20 trillion economy over sticking with Iran, the $400 billion economy,” said Michael Pregent, a senior fellow and Middle East analyst with the Hudson Institute think tank in Washington.
With that as a backdrop, Germany’s economy minister has said Berlin will help German firms with business in Iran where it can, but can not entirely shield the firms from the U.S. decision to reimpose sanctions.
According to Reuters, German Economic Minister Peter Altmaier told the Passauer Neue Presse newspaper that Berlin will urge Washington to grant sanctions exemptions and deadline extensions to German firms.
In announcing the Iran deal pullout two weeks ago, Mr. Trump vowed to re-impose pre-deal sanctions on Iran immediately, but allow 90-day to 180-day grace periods for businesses from the nations remaining in the accord to wind down their existing engagement with Iranian banks.
Reuters noted that French President Emmanuel Macron has acknowledged the dilemma faced by European firms choosing between trading with the biggest economy in the world, the United States, and risking sanctions and massive fines by trading with Iran.
Mr. Borujerdi, the head of Iranian parliament’s national security and foreign policy committee, said Tuesday that the only way to salvage the nuclear deal would be for the European signatories to stand up to the United States.
“Today they must show their strength in the face of American pressure,” he said, according to the Iranian Students’ News Agency, Reuters reported.
• Dan Boylan contributed to this article.