A year after US President Donald Trump announced his nation’s withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, the European signatories to the deal remain broadly committed to upholding it. But the latest tensions between the United States and the Islamic Republic are testing the extent of the European commitment.
On Wednesday, Iran regime’s President, Hassan Rouhani, announced his intention to limit Iran’s compliance with JCPOA or Iran nuclear deal effective immediately, setting the stage for resumption of higher levels of uranium enrichment in 60 days if the remaining signatories of JCPOA do not take adequate steps to provide Iran with economic benefits under the deal.
Representatives of United Kingdom, France, and Germany, as well as the European Union made no apparent move to bow to the blackmail. They urged Tehran, however, to reconsider its decision while rejecting the regime’s ultimatum.
The UPI also reported that the EU and three European signatories to the JCPOA have all rejected Iran’s demands concerning the agreement and the issue of US sanctions. The report quoted a joint statement by these three governments and one multinational body as saying, “We reject any ultimatums and will assess Iran’s compliance on the basis of Iran’s performance regarding its nuclear-related commitments under the (nuclear deal) and the [Nonproliferation of Weapons Treaty].”
The Iranian regime has criticized the EU member states for failure to stand up to the US in the face of diplomatic pressure and rising levels of economic sanctions in recent months.
Much of the criticism on European signatories of JCPOA has focused on the establishment of the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (Instex), a joint venture of the UK, France, and Germany which is ostensibly designed to facilitate transactions with the Islamic Republic in defiance of the US sanctions. But although the mechanism, also referred to as the European JCPOA, was formally established earlier this year, it has yet to become active and there are serious doubts about its practicality. It is also criticized as a fata morgana or false hopes for a mirage rather than a silver lining on the horizon.
Tensions between U.S. and Iran have been escalating for a while following President Trump’s announcement last year that the U.S. would withdraw the “deeply controversial” 2015 Iran nuclear deal, or JCPOA, that “rewarded the world’s leading state sponsor of terror with $150 billion, but received absolutely nothing in return.”
Calling JCPOA the “worst deal in the U.S. history,” Trump said the nuclear deal did not contribute to “regional and international peace and security.”
Earlier, the U.S. Secretary of State announced that the U.S. would reimpose sanctions if Iran does not abide by its international obligations. This was followed by re-imposition of U.S. sanctions, most recently against Iran’s metal exports and tightening the sanctions on Iran’s oil exports.
After Tehran exhibited defiant attitude as part of the mullahs desperate strategy to compel international community to yield to the regime’s bluffs and empty threats and stand down in order to let the mullahs continue their malevolent behavior and tyrannical rule against the Iranian people’s will, the U.S. administration reimposed tough economic sanctions and announced last month that the waivers allowing certain countries to continue importing Iranian oil would not be renewed.
On Sunday, John Bolton, the National Security Adviser to President Trump, announced that “the U.S. is sending an aircraft carrier strike group and bomber task force to the Middle East” after it received a ‘credible threat‘ from Iran regime. According to Bolton, the move is intended to send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests or on its allies will be met with unrelenting force.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Central Command Chief, Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, said the US would counter any dangerous actions by Iran by deploying the necessary resources including the decision to deploy the aircraft carrier and task-force to the Middle East to send a very clear message to the regime in Iran and its allies that any attack it instigates “will be met with unrelenting force”.
At the same time, Brian Hook, the United States Special Representative for Iran said on Wednesday that the U.S. is not seeking war with Iran, but stands ready to respond to any attack on America by the mullahs.
While it remains unclear whether the European signatories to the JCPOA share Washington’s perception of the seriousness of those threats, their response to Iran’s ultimatum suggests agreement with the broader message about the regime’s failure to conduct itself properly on the global stage. Accordingly, even as French President Emmanuel Macron insisted on Thursday that it was imperative for the relevant parties to work toward preserving the JCPOA, his recommendations focused on convincing the Islamic Republic to maintain its own commitments, rather than appeasing it with additional incentives for doing so.
According to the Associated Press, Macron continued to express disagreement with his American counterpart over the value of the nuclear deal while speaking to the press before an EU summit in Romania. But at the same time, he echoed Trump’s sentiment concerning the need for a much more broad-ranging agreement that addresses Iran’s ongoing development of ballistic missiles and its destabilizing role in the surrounding region.
An underlying unity of purpose was also essential to the message of Pompeo who emphasized at a conference on Wednesday that the US and Britain were “on the same side” concerning the need to address Iranian threats and promote the Iranian people’s freedom from a repressive theocratic regime.
In addition to teasing its possible withdrawal from the JCPOA 60 days after the announcement of its ultimatum, the Islamic Republic has also threatened that it may pull out of the nonproliferation treaty. Foreign Ministry spokesman, Abbas Araqchi, suggested that such threats were features of a strategy to meet the “maximum pressure” from the US with “maximum resistance” by the Iranian regime. But as the immediate European responses indicate, this strategy may put Tehran at risking the crucial support that it enjoys among European partners at the moment.
The specific details of those responses vary, but as Reuters reported on Wednesday, the French government has acknowledged the possibility of either unilateral French sanctions or collective sanctions by the entire EU if Iran ultimately reneges on the JCPOA.
The following day, according to AFP, French army minister Florence Parly had reiterated this point, while the British Foreign Ministry spoke more vaguely but still warned the Islamic Republic of “consequences” for actions in defiance of international will.
As we mentioned earlier, far beyond Iranian regime’s bluffs and empty threats in the Middle East, one should look into the activities of the regime’s main pillar for repression inside the country, the Terrorist IRGC, that has a long track record of terrorist activity on foreign soil and support for well-known terrorist proxies like Hezbollah, as well as the regime’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) that has been directly linked to the planning of bombings and assassinations as recently as last year, often targeting Western nationals or Western territory through the logistical backing of the regime’s embassies and under their diplomatic cover.