A senior Iranian delegation arrived in Paris on Monday to work out the details of a financial bailout package that France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, intends to use to compensate Iran for oil sales lost to American sanctions. In return for the money, Iran would agree to return to compliance with a 2015 nuclear accord, The New York Times reported.
Iranian press reports and a senior American official say that the core of the package is a $15 billion letter of credit that would allow Iran to receive hard currency, at a time when most of the cash it makes from selling oil is frozen in banks around the world. That would account for about half the revenue Iran normally would expect to earn from oil exports in a year.
Macron’s government has declined to provide any details of its negotiations with the Iranians, though it was the subject of discussion between the French president and President Donald Trump at the Group of 7 summit last weekend.
While Macron and Trump gave no hint of their differences in public comments, administration officials say the French effort, which other European nations appear to support, is undermining the administration’s effort to exert what Trump calls “maximum pressure” on Tehran, the Times added.
And it is far from clear that Trump would go along with any bailout: His national security adviser, John Bolton, has made it clear that he opposes such an agreement. So does Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, who opposed the 2015 deal and pressed Trump to make good on his campaign promises to abandon it.
“This is precisely the wrong timing to hold talks with Iran,” Netanyahu said last week.
Without Trump administration support for the deal, it is not clear whether European banks would risk American sanctions by extending credit to Tehran or whether the credit might be extended by the European Central Bank, or France’s central bank, which would be more difficult for Washington to sanction.