The founder of the Black Entertainment Television (BET) cable network on Tuesday commended U.S. President Donald Trump’s unprecedented wave of sanctions that have crippled the Iranian economy, urging Europeans to join him.
Asked by CNBC to comment on European efforts to save the controversial 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and U.S.-led world powers, Robert Johnson declared, “I think the most important thing is to try to pull away from any thought of any kind of military action against Iran.”
Johnson, who reportedly became the first black American billionaire after selling BET, later added:
I think President Trump has taken the right position in saying to the Iranians, “Look, I’m not looking for a fight, but I am looking for a change in the nuclear arms agreement as related to the processing of nuclear weapons.” And if the Europeans go along with that, I’m not sure that the Iranians have many other options in terms of the impact of the sanctions on [their] economy. And if they do that, I think the Iranians have an opportunity to join the world community and in a postive way, particularly moving away from using surrogates to engage in sort of military action in the region.
The U.S. government has repeatedly accused Iran of using proxies such as Shiite militias in Iraq and the Lebanese narco-terrorist group Hezbollah to destabilize the Middle East and beyond, including the Western Hemisphere.
Johnson noted that both the United States and the Europeans understand that “applying joint pressure in the form of sanctions” will ultimately pressure Iran into “serious negotiations” about its nuclear program.
Johnson voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 but has since praised Trump, particularly on the strong U.S. economy.
Like Johnson, the Trump administration believes its maximum pressure campaign will push Iran onto the negotiating table in exchange for economic relief. President Trump’s historic sanctions have crippled the Iranian economy, triggering a deep recession and fueling rising inflation.
Arguing that the nuclear deal was not tough enough on Iran, the U.S. commander-in-chief pulled the United States out of the pact.
President Trump reimposed economic restrictions suspended under the nuclear accord as part of the wave of historic sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
Other signatories — China, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany — have vowed to remain committed to the agreement, which is supposed to limit Tehran’s nuclear activities in exchange for the lifting of punishing international economic sanctions.
However, on Sunday, Iran increased its uranium enrichment beyond the limit allowed by the nuclear accord, bringing the Islamic Republic closer to weapons-grade levels.
Now that Iran has violated the accord, the pressure is on European members of the agreement “to trigger a dispute procedure in the accord that could end with international sanctions being reimposed on Tehran,” the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reports, adding:
France, Britain, and Germany are under growing pressure from Washington to isolate Tehran. However, their partners in the accord—Russia and China—are primarily blaming the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear accord in May 2018 as the reason for Iran’s escalation, and are urging Europe to take no action that could unravel the deal.
Tehran’s latest move threatens the overall future of the deal. On Monday, Iran’s Foreign Ministry gave the non-U.S. signatories of the agreement an ultimatum — 60 days to find ways to circumvent the punishing American sanctions on Tehran or it would continue to violate the deal.
French President Emmanuel Macron traveled to Iran over the weekend to try to save the deal, but the Islamic Republic still moved ahead with increasing the enrichment of its uranium.
Echoing Johnson, Brian Hook, the U.S. Special Representative for Iran, told lawmakers last month the the president’s maximum pressure campaign is “working,” noting that it has hindered the Islamic Republic’s ability to enhance its military capabilities and continue funding its proxies like the narco-terrorist group Hezbollah, which maintains a presence on the Western Hemisphere.
So far, Iran has rejected U.S. negotiation offers.