LONDON (Dispatches) -- The U.S. threatened to impose 25% tariffs on cars to push Europeans to initiate proceedings against Iran, the German defense minister has confirmed.
"This threat exists,” said German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer at a press conference here.
She was asked about an article in the Washington Post that claimed Trump had secretly warned France, Germany and the UK that the U.S. 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.”
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.
The threat is a further insight into Trump’s modus operandi with Europe – in effect using threats of economic sanctions and the power of the dollar to try to force Europe to follow U.S. foreign policy.
The news will only confirm the view of Iranian Foreign Minister Muhammad Javad Zarif that Europe is failing to stand up to a high school bully. Zarif met the EU external affairs chief, Josep Borrell, to discuss the European decision to trigger the dispute mechanism, describing it as "a strategic mistake”.
Iran has gradually scaled back its commitments under the nuclear deal in retaliation to Washington’s withdrawal from the pact in 2018 and the Europeans’ failure to fulfill their obligations toward the Islamic Republic.
Iran continued to abide by the agreement until last summer,
when it began openly letting go of some of its limits, saying it would not be bound by the deal if it saw none of its promised economic benefits.
After the 3 January assassination of General Qassem Soleimani by the United States, Iran said it would abandon all restrictions in the nuclear deal.
Zarif on Wednesday dismissed a proposal for a new "Trump deal” to replace the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement, saying the accord is not previous U.S. president Barack Obama’s deal to expire.
"We did not sign an "Obama deal” to go for a "Trump deal” now. Even if we did, who’s to say we won’t need Biden, Sanders or Warren deal next year?” Zarif said in a tweet, referring to U.S. nominees competing against Trump in the 2020 presidential race.
He added that Iran believed in diplomacy "but not in re-negotiating a UNSC Resolution we agreed on with 6 Governments & EU.”
The remarks came a day after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called for Trump to replace Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with his own new pact to resolve differences.
Trump said later in a tweet that he agreed with Johnson that a "Trump deal” should replace the Iran deal.