White House Open to Sanctioning European Companies That Do Business With Iran

John Bolton expects Europe to join the US in exiting Iran deal, or else.

National security adviser John Bolton with President Trump during an April cabinet meeting at the White House. Evan Vucci/AP

Making the rounds on the Sunday morning shows, National Security Adviser John Bolton expressed hope that European countries would follow President Trump’s lead and exit the Iran nuclear deal. But Bolton left open the possibility that if they do not, the US might sanction foreign corporations that continue to do business with Iran.

“Is the US going to impose sanctions on European companies that continue to do business with Iran?” Jake Tapper, the host of CNN’s “State of the Union,” asked Bolton. “The answer is, it’s possible, it depends on the conduct of other governments,” Bolton replied.

Bolton went further in an interview with Martha Raddatz on ABC’s “This Week.” “I think the president said in his statement on Tuesday that countries that continue to deal with Iran could face US sanctions,” he said. “Europeans are going to face the effective US sanctions, already are really, because much of what they would like to sell to Iran involves US technology, for which the licenses will not be available.”

These questions get at the heart of whether the Iran nuclear deal can continue without the support of the US. After years of crippling economic sanctions, the deal opened Iran to business with the US and Europe, and companies around the world began doing business in Iran. Boeing, which signed a contract to supply new planes to Iran’s aging aircraft fleet, stands to lose around $20 billion now that the US is reimposing sanctions. If the US punishes European companies for doing business with Iran, foreign companies will likely walk away from Iran. Without access to foreign markets, the deal will essentially be over.

Bolton expressed optimism that European allies will follow Trump’s lead and exit the deal, despite the assertions of the leaders of France, the UK, and Germany that they intend to remain in the agreement. 

At the same time that the Trump administration is looking to torpedo one multilateral nuclear agreement, it is touting the possibility of setting up a new one with North Korea. Bolton told Tapper that the president will demand verifiable and irreversible denuclearization for a deal to be reached with North Korea. “There’s real utility in bringing these bringing these two leaders together,” Bolton said of the upcoming in Singapore meeting between Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un. “Let them see each other, and decide, in our case, whether we judge that Kim Jong-Un has made a strategic decision to give up nuclear weapons.”