On Friday, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said a return 2015 Iran nuclear deal would “not suffice” and called for a stricter agreement that would cover Iran’s ballistic missile program.
“A return to the previous agreement will not suffice anyway. There will have to be a kind of ‘nuclear agreement plus,’ which is also in our interest,” Maas said in an interview with Der Spiegel. “We have clear expectations of Iran: no nuclear weapons, but also no ballistic missile program that threatens the entire region … We need this agreement precisely because we distrust Iran.”
Iran has made it clear that they will not enter negotiations with the US until sanctions are lifted. Tehran is willing to come into quick compliance with the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), once US sanctions are gone.
Maas acknowledged the US has to concede something before working out a stricter deal. “There has to be a signal,” he said. “The decisive factor will be whether the US relaxes the economic sanctions against Iran.”
It’s not clear from Maas’ comments if he wants to scrap the JCPOA altogether or if he would favor an initial return to the deal, with a new agreement negotiated after the fact. Joe Biden has said he plans to return to the JCPOA and then negotiate a follow-on deal that would include Iran’s missile program.
Either way, Maas’ statement is not a good sign for the accord. There are a lot of forces working to sabotage the deal for good, and the European signatories were expected to be strong proponents of salvaging the JCPOA.
Maas said he had already coordinated with his “French and British counterparts” on this. In November, foreign ministers from Germany, the UK, and France met to discuss the future of the JCPOA.