U.S. and Israel Against the World? Only Trump Is Buying Netanyahu's Iran Warning

Benjamin Netanyahu's presentation on Iran's nuclear program broadcast live on television yesterday was striking in its style, scope and content.

Netanyahu—like U.S. President Donald Trump—is a long-time critic of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and wants to scupper the agreement. Yesterday's show was clearly aimed at the American leader, who seems to be committed to withdrawing from the Obama-era deal.

Trump is the most important—and volatile—player in the Iran nuclear equation. The Israeli prime minister seemingly considers him the key to scrapping the JCPOA. Netanyahu's warnings seem only to have struck a chord in the U.S., with the other signatories reiterating their support for the pact.

Two camps seem to be forming. In one, the U.S.—with Israeli encouragement—appears to be stepping away from the deal. In the other, Iran and the other signatories are trying to save it.

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Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a news conference at the Ministry of Defense in Tel Aviv, Israel, on April 30. The public was only told that what the prime minister would reveal would be dramatic, a game changer. People on the streets of Tel Aviv were truly concerned that a war was about to break out. REUTERS/ Amir Cohen

Though U.S. partners have said they are willing to consider new provisions to the deal—for example to include Iran's ballistic missile program and growing influence in the Middle East—all have continually reiterated their support for the agreement.

In the U.K., a government spokesman said the JCPOA remains a "vitally important way of independently verifying that Iran is adhering to the deal." Though Netanyahu claimed the intelligence shows Iran was not being transparent, the spokesman said: "We have never been naive about Iran and its nuclear intentions."

British Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt told the BBC that the U.K. is working "very hard" to persuade Trump to stick with the deal. "We support the JCPOA [and] we will stick to its provisions because we believe it contributes to peace in the region," he said.

A German government spokesperson said the point of the deal was to address doubts about Tehran's nuclear program. The official said the JCPOA was vital in order to maintain independent supervision of Iran's nuclear activity.

French President Emmanuel Macron was in Washington, D.C. last week to meet with Trump. A significant portion of his visit was dedicated to convincing the president to stick with the agreement. As he left the country, he told reporters he may well have failed. "My view… is that he will get rid of this deal on his own, for domestic reasons," Macron explained.

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French President Emmanuel Macron (L) and U.S. President Donald Trump embrace on April 24, 2018 in Washington, D.C. A key goal of Macron's visit was to secure Trump's support for the JCPOA. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

A French Foreign Ministry spokesperson said that while the evidence produced by Israel needs to be examined, "The pertinence of the deal is reinforced by the details presented," suggesting there was no new information in Netanyahu's speech. The spokesperson called the agreement "one of the most exhaustive and the most robust in the history of nuclear non-proliferation."

This weekend, the French, British and German leaders spoke to announce their continued and united support for the deal. Though the meeting preceded Netanyahu's announcement, a joint statement said that all three leaders were convinced that the JCPOA was the best way to stop Iran developing nuclear arms.

Russia too underlined its continued support for the agreement. According to the Kremlin Press Service, President Vladimir Putin stressed the JCPOA's "paramount importance in terms of international stability and security," and said it "must be strictly observed by all its signatories." China has also been steadfast in its support for the deal.

The European Union was also a signatory on the deal. The bloc's foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said that although Netanyahu's presentation cast doubt on Tehran's trustworthiness, this is nothing new. "The deal was put in place exactly because there was no trust between the parties," Mogherini explained, "otherwise we would not have required a nuclear deal to be put in place."

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shakes hands with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a meeting at the Ministry of Defence in Tel Aviv, Israel, April 29, 2018. Pompeo said that Israel's new evidence showed that Iran had lied to the world. Thomas Coex/Pool via Reuters

While other signatories are lining up behind the JCPOA, the U.S. seems to be preparing to walk away. On Tuesday, new Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the new evidence showed "beyond any doubt that the Iranian regime was not telling the truth."

Meanwhile, the White House was forced to correct an erroneous statement from Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders that claimed, "Iran has a robust, clandestine nuclear weapons program." The White House later explained she meant to say Iran "had" such a program.

Last week, Trump said the JCPOA was "a bad deal, it's a bad structure and should have never, ever been made." He has previously criticized its "terrible flaws" and repeatedly threatened to withdraw from the agreement before May 12, when the U.S. must decide whether to reimpose sanctions on Tehran that were lifted in exchange for signing the deal.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Trump refused to discuss his final decision. "I'm not telling you what I'm doing, but a lot of people think they know," he said.