EU warns Iran it may be forced to withdraw from nuclear deal

EU warns it may have no choice if Iran takes further steps away from deal

The European Union has privately warned Iran that it will be forced to start withdrawing from the nuclear deal in November if Tehran goes ahead with its threat to take new steps away from the deal.

Iran has already taken three separate calibrated steps away from the deal, and has warned it will take a fourth in November unless the US lifts economic sanctions.

The warning to Iran, pre-agreed by the three EU signatories to the 2015 deal, was made at a meeting on Wednesday, and makes clear that the agreement is now on life support.

The EU told Iran that it would put the issue of Iranian non-compliance into the agreement’s formal dispute mechanism if the next Iranian move away from the deal is significant.

Iran says it has been taking advertised, reversible and calibrated steps away from the deal as a reprisal for US sanctions, including its ban on Iranian oil exports, and the failure of the EU to do more to build trade with Iran. Tehran is due to take a fourth step on 7 November.

One source said: “The difficulty is that Iran says the steps are reversible, but if they learn about building a nuclear bomb, that is irreversible.”

Once the deal’s dispute mechanism is triggered, both sides have 30 days to prove significant non-compliance, and if necessary a world-wide sanctions snap-back occurs.

Such a move would be a huge blow to the EU, which has refused for 16 months to join the US in pulling out of the deal. The Trump administration has been trying to persuade the EU to abandon the deal, and the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, this week claimed the September 14 attack on the Saudi Aramco oil facilities represented “an awakening” for Europe.

The EU warning also came after the French president, Emmanuel Macron, failed to broker a new deal between the US and Iran in which the Washington would lift sanctions, and the Tehran would return to full compliance with the agreement.

Macron had hoped the shock of the attack on the Saudi oil fields, ascribed to Iran by both the EU and the US, would jolt the two sides into compromise.

But Washington’s refusal to lift any sanctions before talks with Iranian officials, and Tehran’s refusal to have any contacts before sanctions were eased significantly made Macron’s mission impossible.

Speaking to reporters in New York on Thursday, Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, urged the United States to “cease this policy of maximum pressure” in favour of “dialogue, and logic and reason”.

He said: “If we reach a time when these preconditions are taken off the table, of course the possibility exists to talk with America.”

EU diplomats do not see an appetite in Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates to lead a war against Iran. Riyadh wants the US to lead a military response, something President Trump is reluctant to do. The UAE argues that Iran’s move is ultimately counter-productive since it is forcing the EU to rethink its approach.

But European diplomats still argue that the American strategy is incoherent: Washington has applied a sanctions regime so severe that Tehran has responded militarily, but the president is not yet willing to respond in kind, meaning his only real option is more sanctions.

In early June, the Iranian government announced it would break from a key component of the Iran deal – the joint comprehensive plan of action – by ramping up its enrichment of low-grade uranium and increasing its stockpile beyond the limitations outlined in the deal.

So far, Iran has announced that it would breach on its commitments to increase the low-enriched uranium stockpile above the 300kg limit of 3.67% enriched uranium and enrich uranium above the 3.67% level. In September Iran said it would develop more advanced centrifuges that allow for more rapid uranium enrichment.


Patrick Wintour in New York

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
UK and other powers to hold crunch talks with Iran over nuclear deal
Talks in Vienna follow decision by Iran to hold back on threat to breach enriched uranium limit

Patrick Wintour Diplomatic editor

27, Jun, 2019 @6:43 PM

Article image
Iran to limit inspectors' access to its nuclear facilities
Move announced by senior MPs represents another step away from nuclear deal signed in 2015

Patrick Wintour Diplomatic editor

16, Oct, 2019 @5:04 PM

Article image
Iran refuses to end breach of nuclear deal until it gets 'full rights'
French envoy visits Tehran as Rouhani warns UK tanker seizure will have repercussions

Patrick Wintour Diplomatic editor

10, Jul, 2019 @6:06 PM

Article image
Don't scrap Iran deal, MPs from UK, France and Germany urge US
Joint statement published in Guardian calls for rethink before 12 May deadline set by Trump

Patrick Wintour Diplomatic editor

19, Apr, 2018 @4:51 PM

Article image
Macron pitches new Iran deal to sweeten existing agreement for Trump
French president’s offer seems calculated to appease Donald Trump’s discontent with the current ‘bad deal’ on Iran’s nuclear programme

Julian Borger and David Smith in Washington

24, Apr, 2018 @6:59 PM

Article image
Iran voices optimism over nuclear deal after talks with France
Tehran says gap is closing on views after phone conversation between Macron and Rouhani

Patrick Wintour Diplomatic editor

02, Sep, 2019 @1:12 PM

Article image
Iran nuclear deal: US dismisses latest move from Tehran as ‘not constructive’
US state department rejects what Iran characterised as a bid to ‘finalise the negotiations’ in latest efforts to agree a deal

Julian Borger in Washington and Patrick Wintour

02, Sep, 2022 @3:16 AM

Article image
Europe urges Mike Pompeo and US to show restraint towards Iran
Jeremy Hunt warns of conflict erupting in the Gulf by accident after Saudi ships sabotaged

Patrick Wintour Diplomatic editor

13, May, 2019 @7:28 PM

Article image
EU team submit ‘final text’ at talks to salvage 2015 Iran nuclear deal
Revival of agreement awaits ‘political decisions’ in Tehran and Washington after negotiators in Vienna agree text

Patrick Wintour Diplomatic editor

08, Aug, 2022 @6:25 PM

Article image
Trump to blame for failure of US-Iran nuclear talks – Rouhani
Iranian president tells cabinet the country had been ready to accept terms of French UN plan

Patrick Wintour Diplomatic editor

02, Oct, 2019 @11:59 AM