A file photo of US President Donald Trump alongside secretary of state Rex Tillerson. Trump nominated CIA director Mike Pompeo to become his new secretary of state on Tuesday after he dismissed Tillerson via Twitter. Photo: AFP
A file photo of US President Donald Trump alongside secretary of state Rex Tillerson. Trump nominated CIA director Mike Pompeo to become his new secretary of state on Tuesday after he dismissed Tillerson via Twitter. Photo: AFP

Iran nuclear deal hangs by a thread after Rex Tillerson purge from US state department

Diplomats from six world powers and Iran meet on Friday in Vienna to review the nuclear deal, which restricts the Persian Gulf country's nuclear work in exchange for sanctions relief

Vienna: President Donald Trump’s decision to fire his top diplomat has put the Iran nuclear agreement at risk and has thrown into confusion an upcoming meeting of the accord’s signatories.

Diplomats from six world powers and Iran meet on Friday in Vienna to review the nuclear deal, called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which restricts the Persian Gulf country’s nuclear work in exchange for sanctions relief. It’s the last scheduled meeting of the group before Trump’s 12 May decision on whether the US sticks to the accord.

“The deal now hangs by a thread," said Ali Vaez, the International Crisis Group’s director of Iran policy. “The Trump administration’s move to the right with Tillerson’s departure and Pompeo’s arrival signals further hardening of Washington’s stance."

Trump nominated CIA director Mike Pompeo to become his new secretary of state on Tuesday after he dismissed Rex Tillerson via Twitter. The president cited Tillerson’s willingness to stick by the July 2015 nuclear deal as one reason for replacing him. Pompeo, by contrast, has been a vocal critic of the accord.

“It remains to be seen whether the Europeans will want to continue trying to accommodate the Trump administration now that Mr. Tillerson isn’t in charge of the State Department," said former UK diplomat Peter Jenkins. “It was with Tillerson’s State Department that the U.K., Germany and France were negotiating. They may well realize that pursuing an accommodation has become even more pointless than it was a month ago."

European diplomats met with US counterparts led by Brian Hook in Berlin on Thursday. Hook, the State Department’s director of policy planning, is among the last Tillerson confidants standing and will participate in Friday’s Joint Commission in the Austrian capital.

European leaders were spurred to action by Trump’s threat to leave the deal and had been working with Tillerson on ways to restrain Iran’s development of ballistic missiles. That could have helped buy time for the nuclear accord, which international inspectors say Iran continues to abide by.

“There’s confusion among Europeans as to whether those views will reflect on the new secretary of state," said Ellie Geranmayeh, a senior fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. “The negotiating talking points are still coming from the Tillerson State Department."

Iran last month left no doubt about what it would do if Trump undercuts the deal.

“I don’t think the deal can survive" if the US administration maintains this policy, Iran’s deputy foreign minister Abbas Araghchi said. Iran “cannot remain in a deal in which there is no benefit for us," he said. Bloomberg

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