French President Emmanuel Macron pitched US President Donald Trump on a plan to end the standoff over the Iran nuclear deal — by allowing Iran to sell oil for a limited period of time in exchange for returning to talks and to compliance with the agreement.
The proposal was described by a French official after Macron and Trump sat down to an impromptu lunch that stretched for two hours at the Group of Seven Summit in Biarritz, France. A senior US official termed the plan a non-starter.
The US in the past has resisted any compromise that allowed Iran to resume selling oil, which is sharply restricted by US sanctions. That’s why ending the impasse and putting the deal back together is so difficult: Iran’s No. 1 demand to come back to the bargaining table is that it be allowed to sell oil to help its struggling economy.
The French official described a plan that would occur in two phases. Iran would be allowed to sell some volume of its oil in exchange for a series of commitments: return to compliance with the existing agreement, find ways to lower tensions in the Persian Gulf amid a spate of tanker seizures, and return to structured talks on missiles, regional issues and what happens after 2025, when the current agreement is set to expire.
The hope, this official said, is that this could create a deescalation that allows the two sides to begin talking again, particularly knowing that both Trump and the Iranians have said they don’t want war. Macron met with an Iranian delegation, including Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, to discuss this proposal.
Trump pulled out of the deal in May 2018, saying it didn’t do enough to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.
Iran remained in compliance with the deal for a time, but recently said it was enriching uranium at higher levels than allowed in the deal — meaning it’s no longer in line with the agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).