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As President Donald Trump signaled earlier this month that the US would back away from a conflict with Iran, he called on US allies to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal and for NATO to play a bigger role in the Middle East.
The UK, France and Germany rebuffed Trump's call again in their mid-January move to try to compel Iran back into compliance with the nuclear deal. They also said they would not join Trump's maximum pressure campaign against the Iranian regime.
"The Europeans aren't with us ... because we pulled out of the Iranian nuclear deal against all of their interests, by ourself, and that's what created all the escalation to begin with," Ian Bremmer, a foreign-policy expert, told Insider.
After spending much of his presidency insulting and pushing away the closest US allies, President Donald Trump now wants their help with Iran. But in many ways, they've already abandoned him.
The president has repeatedly found himself at odds with US allies on the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and on NATO, but on January 8 he called on them for assistance with both.
Recent moves by NATO and the UK, among others, suggest Trump will come up short.
Though it was Trump's order to kill Iran's top general that pushed the country to the precipice of conflict with the US this month, the roots of the recent tensions can be traced back to his withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Leaders in the UK and France, as well as NATO, have distanced themselves from Trump's killing of Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
"The US has a much weaker relationship with allies across the region and in Europe than we did before — and that's a real problem," Ian Bremmer, the president and founder of Eurasia Group, told Insider.
"The French should be with us. They're not," Bremmer added. "The Europeans aren't with us ... because we pulled out of the Iranian nuclear deal against all of their interests, by ourself, and that's what created all the escalation to begin with."
UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace made it clear how fractured the relationship between the US and Europe has become under Trump in a recent interview with The Sunday Times. Wallace suggested that the UK can no longer rely on the US.
"I worry if the United States withdraws from its leadership around the world," Wallace said.
He added: "The assumptions of 2010 that we were always going to be part of a US coalition is really just not where we are going to be."
Wallace said the the UK is "going to have to make decisions that allow us to stand with a range of allies."
Trump steps away from potential war with Iran while calling on allies for help
Trump on January 8 stepped away from the brink of war with Iran, but in the process ramped up his "maximum pressure" campaign of economic isolation. He announced new sanctions against Iran in retaliation for the missile strike on US and coalition forces in Iraq. The new sanctions are directed at eight senior Iranian officials while targeting Iran's steel industry, as well as its textiles and mining, construction, and manufacturing sectors.
Trump effectively asked US allies to endorse this approach when he called on them to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the formal name of the 2015 nuclear deal.
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
"As long as I am president of the United States, Iran will never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon," Trump said in a speech to the nation.
"The very defective JCPOA expires shortly anyway and gives Iran a clear and quick path to nuclear breakout," Trump said. "Iran must abandon its nuclear ambitions and end its support for terrorism. The time has come for the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia, and China to recognize this reality."
Trump's remarks offered a misleading picture of the nature of the JCPOA, which was designed to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, and it's not accurate to say the deal "expires shortly." It does have sunset clauses, but there are years before any of the provisions expire.
Nonetheless, the president said he wanted the rest of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (the US, the UK, France, China, and Russia) and Germany — collectively known as P5+1 — to step away from the 2015 nuclear deal he withdrew the US from in May 2018.
"They must now break away from the remnants of the Iran deal, or JCPOA, and we must all work together toward making a deal with Iran that makes the world a safer and more peaceful place," Trump said on Wednesday. "We must also make a deal that allows Iran to thrive and prosper and take advantage of its enormous untapped potential. Iran can be a great country."
But Trump was already alone in pulling the US from the landmark pact.
France, Germany, and the UK criticized his unilateral move, and the rest of the signatories have scrambled to save the deal in the wake of his divisive decision.
—Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) May 8, 2018
'A great deal maker, by his own account'
Trump has had highly public spats with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is perhaps the only leader of a traditional US ally who has been on fairly stable terms with Trump.
But on the same day as Trump's speech, the UK leader said the nuclear deal was the "best way" to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
"It is our view that the JCPOA remains the best way of preventing nuclear proliferation in Iran, the best way of encouraging the Iranians not to develop a nuclear weapon," Johnson told Parliament.
"We think that after this crisis has abated, which of course we sincerely hope it will, that way forward will remain," Johnson added. "It is a shell that has currently been voided, but it remains a shell into which we can put substance again."
Johnson has since endorsed the idea of a new "Trump deal" to replace the JCPOA, but the rest of the UK government does not appear to be on the same page.
"If we're going to get rid of it then we need a replacement," Johnson told BBC Breakfast earlier this week. "Let's replace it with the Trump deal."
Johnson also told Trump to "dial down" the confrontation with Iran to avoid a wider war. "Let me be very clear. I don't want a military conflict between us, the United States and Iran," he told the BBC. "Let's dial this thing down."
The UK prime minister also seemed to mock Trump somewhat, calling him "a great deal maker, by his own account."
The same day, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the UK remains "committed to the deal," and is working to "reinforce the diplomatic track, not to abandon it."
Iran also does not have many incentives to negotiate a new deal with the US, even with the other countries involved, particularly given Trump's announcement of new sanctions on Wednesday. Iran withdrew from the nuclear deal over the weekend but said it would be open to returning if sanctions were lifted.
China and Russia, historical US adversaries and Iranian allies, may also be unwilling to cooperate with Trump's demands on the nuclear deal.
'Our three countries are not joining a campaign to implement maximum pressure against Iran'
The UK, France, and Germany earlier this week triggered the JCPOA's dispute resolution mechanism, which opens the door for the reimposition of UN sanctions on Iran.
"We do not accept the argument that Iran is entitled to reduce compliance with the JCPOA," the three countries said in a joint statement, which made clear they do not plan on joining Trump's maximum pressure campaign.
"We do this in good faith with the overarching objective of preserving the JCPOA and in the sincere hope of finding a way forward to resolve the impasse through constructive diplomatic dialogue, while preserving the agreement and remaining within its framework," they said.
The three European countries added: "In doing so, our three countries are not joining a campaign to implement maximum pressure against Iran. Our hope is to bring Iran back into full compliance with its commitments under the JCPOA."
In short, the UK, France, and Germany rebuffed Trump's calls to abandon the JCPOA, and still working to save it.
Trump: 'I am going to ask NATO to become much more involved in the Middle East process'
Trump on January 8 also called on NATO to play a bigger role in the Middle East.
"Today, I am going to ask NATO to become much more involved in the Middle East process," the president said.
—CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) January 8, 2020
But Trump has spent three years bashing NATO allies over defense spending. He's made misleading comments about how NATO is funded, described it as "obsolete," and even reportedly threatened to withdraw from the alliance.
Consequently, there have been many signs that America's influence within NATO is waning — including a video that appeared to show world leaders mocking Trump at the NATO summit in London last month.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in the days before Trump's speech declined to offer a firm answer on whether the alliance would come to the US's defense under its mutual-defense clause if Iran attacked, saying that commenting on the matter would "not help to de-escalate," Bloomberg reported.
Moreover, NATO has already sacrificed much during the US government's so-called war on terror. The only time its mutual-defense clause has been invoked was after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. NATO troops were deployed to Afghanistan and have also assisted the US-led coalition in the fight against ISIS.
But after Trump's deadly strike on Iran's top general, NATO began withdrawing some forces from Iraq, signaling that it does not want to be caught in the crossfire of messes fueled by the US.
James Stavridis, the former NATO supreme allied commander, in a recent op-ed for Bloomberg said Trump's request of NATO was "sensible" but also "ironic" given it came "from a man who has repeatedly bashed the organization over recent years and called it obsolete."
"Shipping more troops out of Europe and into a dangerous neighborhood will not be popular, and Trump's past criticisms of the alliance won't help when it comes to changing minds," Stavridis added.
These years spent pushing US friends away has given them some pause — even when trouble is at the door.
Read the original article on Business Insider