A senior Iranian delegation arrived in Paris on Monday to work out details of a bailout package that French President Emmanuel Macron intends to use to offset Iran for oil sales lost by US sanctions. In exchange for money, Iran will agree to return to compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal.
Reports by the Iranian press and a senior US official say that the core of the package is a $ 15 billion letter of credit that would allow Iran to get a hard currency at a time when most of the money it makes from selling oil is frozen in banks around the world. That would represent about half of the revenue Iran would normally expect to gain from oil exports in a year.
While Mr Macron and Mr Trump have alluded to their differences in public comment, administration officials say that France's efforts, which other European countries appear to support, undermine the administration's efforts to exercise what it Trump calls "maximum pressure" on Tehran.
And it is far from clear that Mr Trump will be with any rescue aid: his National Security Advisor John R. Bolton has made it clear that he is opposed to such an agreement. So does Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who opposed the 2015 deal and pressured Mr Trump to take advantage of his campaign by promising to abandon it.
"This is exactly the wrong moment to negotiate with Iran," Mr Netanyahu said last week.
Without the Trump administration's support for the deal, it is unclear whether European banks would risk US sanctions by lending to Tehran or whether the loan could be extended by the European Central Bank or central France, which would be for Washington – difficult to sanction.
If the talks that French and Iranian officials began in Paris on Monday are successful, Iran will revert to the restrictions agreed with the Obama administration four years ago. Mr Trump has abandoned the agreement in 2018 and the Iranians have stepped up pressure on Europe, gradually rejecting the restrictions on nuclear power that he has agreed to.
"It was a pretty technical discussion and went pretty well overall," a spokesman for the French Foreign Ministry said on Monday. But it did not give any details and did not confirm that the basis of the talks was a $ 15 billion letter of credit.  Iran has said that if talks fail, it will escalate its nuclear activity by Friday.
While it has not said what action it can take, Iranian officials have hinted that they plan to increase uranium enrichment to 20 percent purity – level which will bring them closer to the signs The country may also install next-generation nuclear centrifuges that can produce fuel far faster than older models operating when Iran agreed in 2015 to restrict sharply
Both steps would obviously violate Iran's commitments to Iran in the 2015 agreement. But after complying with the agreement for a year after Mr Trump withdrew from the agreement and resumed sanctions, Iran has said it will no longer be bound by an agreement that Washington no longer complies with.
The letter of credit proposed by President Macron is part of a broader effort by the French, with the help of Germany and other European powers, to rescue the 2015 agreement, even after Mr Trump renounced it as " disaster. " No problem more clearly illustrates the foreign policy gap between the Trump administration and its European allies.
As the administration complains about the lifting of European sanctions, Mr Macron is seeking to hold a UN meeting later this month between Mr Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.  Mr Macron, US officials say, bets that after Mr Trump engages in negotiations with Iran, he will feel a chance to reach an agreement before the 2020 US election – as much as he has with North Korea.
Similar efforts to establish a meeting between Mr Trump and Mr Rouhani, at the UN in 2017, have collapsed.
But the dynamics are different now, and Trump administration officials often say they will meet Iranians without prerequisites.
n. Trump even seemed open to the idea of a financial bridge for the Iranians when he told reporters during the Group of 7 meeting that Iran may need a "short-term letter of credit or loan" that "will get them in a very rough circle. "His aides later said that the president envisages such a financial package only after a new agreement is reached.
The Iranians said the US would first have to return to compliance with the 2015 agreement before it could be agreed. a new agreement. But some Iranian elites believe it is necessary to negotiate with Mr. Trump.
The deal Mr. Macron is exploring will provide Iran with a $ 15 billion credit line in exchange for a full compliance with the 2015 agreement and a return to normalcy in Pe
Eli Geranmaye, Iranian expert at the European External Relations Council, notes in an interview that "If France really insists on this proposal, it will probably want not just a freeze on further enrichment from Iran, but full compliance with the nuclear deal and opening negotiations on regional issues. "
On Friday, the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed that Iran has enriched uranium to a purity of 4.35 percent, just above the allowed 3.67 percent of the deal, known as Sov Estaing comprehensive action plan.
This level of enrichment is still within the ordinary limits of producing nuclear fuel for plants, not weapons. According to Iran's reserves, fuel reserves also exceed the 300 kilograms, or 661 pounds allowed, under the agreement,
But all these steps are easily reversible, Iranian officials say, and aim to show that Iran will not comply with the agreement if the US breaches their commitments.