The European Union last week threatened Iran that they may withdraw from the international nuclear deal and resume global sanctions on Iran if Tehran takes another sizable enough step in their nuclear program. The Guardian reported last Thursday that the message comes as Iran—having already withdrawn from certain components of the deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—have threatened a fourth move in November if economic relief is not granted them. Before re-engaging sanctions, Europe would need to engage the JCPOA’s dispute mechanism to arbitrate the disagreement between the sides.
The response from Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman on Monday, according to the Fars News Agency, was to call a move by Europe to trigger the dispute mechanism “illegal” and “already dead”. Seyed Abbas Mousavi was quoted by Fars as saying that if Europe does not make a significant enough economic move for Iran, the Islamic Republic would carry out their threat to continue its withdrawal from the nuclear deal.
With that in the background, the United States believes the recent Iranian drone and missile attack on the Saudi oil industry has changed the calculus for Europe and that a number of European allies believe the JCPOA needs to be amended—something the Trump Administration has been demanding for years.
“I think it just pulled us together with our European partners, how brazen this attack was… many of them see that the JCPOA is not something we should be returning to, that that has to be fixed. And also any future agreements have to encompass a wider, broader sort of purview that includes also the regionally destabilizing behavior and ballistic missile development,” an unnamed senior US State Department official told reporters last week. “And I think this is a good thing.”
The US official, speaking on background last Friday in comments released by the State Department, said in his view the attack on Saudi Arabia was “an eye-opener for many of our European partners of what the Iranians are actually capable of.”
“It’s not only how advanced and sophisticated the attack was and how accurate the missiles were, but it’s how brazen that they would do this,” he was quoted as saying. “It was unimaginable I think to many of them that the Iranians would until this point pursue things that had elements of plausible deniability, that that was maybe how far they would go. But this, I think it changed things for many of our European allies.”
The main European countries in the nuclear standoff with Iran—the United Kingdom, France and Germany—did not go so far as to walk away from the JCPOA in a joint statement last week. Yet while they said they “recall our continued commitment to the JCPOA,” they hinted that broader negotiations with Iran were needed.
“Conscious of the importance of collective efforts to guarantee regional stability and security, we reiterate our conviction that the time has come for Iran to accept negotiation on a long-term framework for its nuclear program as well as on issues related to regional security, including its missiles program and other means of delivery,” said the European statement, which was published to the UK government website. The Trump Administration has long called for a broader deal that includes Iran’s missile program and support for terror.
According to the senior US State Department official, the Americans are still interested in cooperating with Europe to address the Iran threat.
Said the official last week, “The administration is committed to this multilateral approach… and we’re working on getting a more multilateral, international approach from our partners, who will join with us in trying to isolate Iran for this type of behavior.”
(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, September 30, 2019)