EU ministers ask US to respect Europe's commitment to Iranian deal

Foreign and Finance Ministers of France, Britain and Germany, as well as EU's foreign-policy chief Frederica Mogherini, have sent a letter on 4 June to both US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, in which the ministers ask the US administration to grant European companies an exemption from the extra-territorial sanctions threatening to punish entities engaged in business with Iran. The letter explains that this request is motivated by "security interests" which dictate that the EU continues to provide sanctions relief to Iran to prevent it from pulling out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which would result in an expansion of the conflict in the Middle East.

The document argues in favour of the JCPOA as the only credible instrument preventing Teheran from acquiring nuclear weapons, and indicating that it has no alternatives at the moment. In spite of US efforts to replace the 2015 deal, its new maximalist demands (unrelated to the 2015 terms), coupled with a certain loss of American credibility resulting from it unilaterally breaking the accord, make it difficult and even humiliating for Iran to consider a new agreement. The EU has been working with the State Department for some time now in order to persuade the US to regard Iran's ballistic program, or its military involvement in Syria and Yemen separately from the 2015 nuclear deal. But the Trump administration refuses to consider such an approach and intends to pressure Teheran to enter into a new format of negotiations that would nullify the JCPOA, and settle issues ranging from the 2015 sunset clauses which would allow Iran to resume nuclear activity in the future, to its role in the region. This approach prioritises the interests of US Israeli and Gulf allies, who are Iran's arch-enemies, over the European ones. 

Iran's 5 June announcement that it prepares to resume large-scale uranium enrichment should Europe fail to uphold the deal, confirms EU's fears with regard to escalation as a consequence of the JCPOA failure. Moreover, the letter is a quiet acknowledgement that Europe's efforts to preserve the 2015 accord might be failing, as, under the sanctions threat, its companies (such as Total, Peugeot, Siemens, etc) are leaving Iran, in spite of the efforts in Brussels to persuade them of the contrary

About author: Mihai Turcanu

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