Germany confirms Trump made trade threat to Europe over Iran policy



Patrick Wintour | The Guardian

The US threatened to impose 25% tariffs on cars to push Europeans to initiate proceedings against Iran for violating the nuclear deal, the German defence minister has confirmed.

“This threat exists,” said the German defence minister, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, at a press conference in London.

She was asked about an article in the Washington Post that claimed Trump had secretly warned France, Germany and the UK that the US would impose a “25% tariffs on European cars” if they did not activate the mechanism for the settlement of disputes (MRD) of the Iranian international nuclear agreement reached in Vienna in 2015.

Kramp-Karrenbauer told reporters on Thursday: “This expression or threat, as you will, does exist.” She is in the UK to meet her counterpart, Ben Wallace, to discuss Anglo-European defence cooperation post-Brexit.

Her remarks came as ministers from the five countries with nationals killed in the Ukrainian plane downed by the Iranian military met in London to coordinate their response to Iran’s handling of the crash inquiry, as well as treatment of victim’s families.

Following the meeting the ministers called for an independent and transparent investigation governed by international civil aviation conventions. With emotions running high over the US assassination of the Iranian commander Qassem Suleimani, as well as the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ belated admission of responsibility for downing the jet, Iran is likely to bridle at being told how to carry out its own inquiry.

A Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737 plane was shot down outside Tehran killing all 176 crew and passengers. Iran’s handling of the crash led to four days of street protests mainly in Tehran.

Iran initially denied responsibility for the crash, but three days later admitted that it had downed the plane believing it was an incoming US missile. An Iranian national security commission is investigating the episode.

There is concern that some in Iran are refusing to cooperate with the international investigation and refusing to hand over the black box flight recorder. There are claims within the country that the US may have jammed Iranian radar, making it impossible for the anti-aircraft battery operator to have checked the status of the plane.

Trump made his tariffs threat to Europe relatively recently and European diplomats insist they had already made the decision in principle to trigger the dispute mechanism because of previous Iranian steps away from the deal, but had not announced the move in deference to a request from China.

As a result they claim the Trump threat did not push Europe into abandoning its policy of trying to keep the nuclear deal with Iran alive.


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