What's behind the latest European bid to save the Iran nuclear deal and how it could end up killing it




  • In World
  • 2020-01-15 00:22:29Z
  • By ABC News
What\
What\'s behind the latest European bid to save the Iran nuclear deal and how it could end up killing it  

What's behind the latest European bid to save the Iran nuclear deal and how it could end up killing it originally appeared on abcnews.go.com

While the European powers hope they have found an avenue to fix the Iran nuclear deal, it may actually spell its end.

France, Germany and the United Kingdom filed a formal complaint within the nuclear agreement on Tuesday to force its remaining parties to convene and discuss Iran's breaches of its commitments since last May. The step, known as the dispute mechanism, is meant to resolve differences within the deal when one party believes another is not meeting its commitments.

If there's no resolution, it could lead to United Nations sanctions on Iran resuming as quickly as 65 days from now. The Trump administration welcomed the announcement, hoping that the increased political pressure of Tuesday's move will drive Iran to the negotiating table. But critics say it could instead accelerate the end of the nuclear deal and push Iran to abandon its last constraints -- the international inspections and its commitment under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons not to build a nuclear bomb.

(MORE: What Iran's latest nuclear deal announcement really means)

All of that leaves the road ahead very unclear. Iran said last week it will no longer abide by the agreement's operational restraints on its nuclear program and President Donald Trump called for Europe, Russia and China to abandon the deal and join him in pressuring Iran to negotiate a new, more comprehensive agreement -- something that Iran has said it will not do and one that critics say was never feasible.

The president seemed to have at least one proponent: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the BBC Tuesday that he understands the Trump administration sees the nuclear deal as flawed, so, "If we're going to get rid of it, let's replace it, and let's replace it with the Trump deal."

The original deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, lifted U.N., U.S. and European sanctions on Iran in exchange for Iran agreeing to limits on and inspections of its nuclear program. Trump withdrew the U.S. from the deal in May 2018 and reimposed crippling U.S. sanctions in what his administration calls a "maximum pressure" campaign. Last April, he ended waivers that allowed countries to purchase Iranian oil, the government's largest source of revenue, and has targeted its other industries with economic penalties too.

In the face of that U.S exit, Iran urged Europe to find a way around U.S. sanctions and ensure economic activity with Tehran could continue. European countries developed a trade channel known as INSTEX to keep business flowing, but fearful of U.S. sanctions, most businesses fled the Iranian market.

MORE: Pompeo, Mnuchin detail new sanctions to tighten pressure on Iran's economy

The European powers said they had done their part, but unsatisfied, Iran has moved -- step by step -- out of the JCPOA since last May, on the one-year anniversary of Trump's withdrawal.

It has now breached the 300 kg cap on enriched uranium and the 3.67% limit on enrichment levels, for example -- caps that Tehran was supposed to abide by for 15 years. On Jan. 5, the Iranian government announced its "fifth and final" step, to disregard the 5,060 limit on the number of centrifuges, although it didn't specify how many it would install. More importantly, the statement said Iran would no longer abide by any operational constraints on its nuclear program.

After months of warning Iran to return to compliance, that announcement was apparently a step too far for the deal's European signatories. The French, German and British, or E3, foreign ministers informed the European Union, which oversees the deal's implementation, that they were triggering the dispute mechanism -- again condemning U.S. withdrawal but saying it does not give Iran grounds to breach its commitments.

"We do this in good faith with the overarching objective of preserving the JCPoA and in the sincere hope of finding a way forward to resolve the impasse through constructive diplomatic dialogue, while preserving the agreement and remaining within its framework," the three foreign ministers said in a joint statement, adding explicitly that they "are not joining a campaign to implement maximum pressure against Iran."

MORE: Trump calls for new nuclear deal while bashing old one with misinformation

Under the deal, the parties now have 15 days to resolve the dispute, although they can give themselves more time. If there's no resolution, the dispute can be brought to the level of the signatories' foreign ministers, giving them an additional 15 days to find a solution or again extend for more time. At the same time, if those two groups are stuck, an advisory board can be convened -- one person chosen by Iran, one by the E3, and one independently -- to propose a resolution.

The Joint Commission would have five days to consider the advisory board's recommendation, but if after this 35-day process there's still no resolution, the issue is punted to the U.N. Security Council. That body would have 30 days to study the dispute and vote to keep sanctions lifted, and if not, they are automatically restored -- 65 days after the process began.

Analysts say while the E3 statement makes clear they hope to keep the deal alive, and they appear to be trying to use the threat of U.N. sanctions to get Iran to negotiate, their move could backfire, accelerating the deal's demise.

U.N. sanctions "snapback could exhaust whatever leverage Europe retains without producing any gains; and closing the door on Europe's ability to even mediate tensions between Iran & the U.S.," according to Ali Vaez, director of the Iran Project at the International Crisis Group and a professor at Georgetown University.

MORE: US dismisses Iran's threats to withdraw from nuclear deal, imposes new sanctions on Iran's metal industries

"By triggering the (dispute resolution mechanism), the E3 might provoke a crisis that they claim they are trying to prevent unless the time and space created by intense diplomatic engagement is used to provide Iran with some economic reprieve as means of returning it into JCPOA compliance," he tweeted.

Iran was dismissive of the move on Tuesday. Its foreign ministry spokesperson Abbas Mousavi said Iran had already triggered the dispute mechanism, even though it has never formally done so, and said "no new situation" had been created, according to the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency.

Despite Trump's call for a new deal and Johnson's seeming support, Mousavi again blamed the United States' "illegal withdrawal" and "any violation of the commitment, bad intention, and unconstructive measures" for the current crisis.

COMMENTS

More Related News

Bolton Was Concerned That Trump Did Favors for Autocratic Leaders, Book Says
Bolton Was Concerned That Trump Did Favors for Autocratic Leaders, Book Says
  • World
  • 2020-01-28 13:16:18Z

WASHINGTON -- John Bolton, the former national security adviser, privately told Attorney General William Barr last year that he had concerns that President Donald Trump was effectively granting personal favors to the autocratic leaders of Turkey and China, according to an unpublished manuscript by Bolton.Barr responded by pointing to a pair of Justice Department investigations of companies in those countries and said he was worried that Trump had created the appearance that he had undue influence over what would typically be independent inquiries, according to the manuscript. Backing up his point, Barr mentioned conversations Trump had with the leaders, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of...

Trump Call
Trump Call 'Less Than Perfect,' Defense Says: Impeachment Update

(Bloomberg) -- Donald Trump's defense lawyers resume their presentation at 1 p.m. Monday after opening their arguments Saturday by saying House managers failed to prove the president should be removed from office.Here are the latest developments:Trump Call 'Less Than Perfect,' Defense Says (7:45 p.m.)Former independent counsel Robert Ray said Trump's July 25 call with Ukraine's president was "less than perfect," but that doesn't mean it's an impeachable abuse of power.It would have been better for Trump to have pursued an investigation "through proper channels," said Ray, a member of Trump's legal team."While the president certainly enjoys the power to do otherwise, there is consequence...

Fox News Anchor Chris Wallace Tears Into Conservative Pundit:
Fox News Anchor Chris Wallace Tears Into Conservative Pundit: 'Get Your Facts Straight!'

Sparks flew Monday on the Fox News set between Fox News anchor Chris Wallace and conservative contributor Katie Pavlich, with Wallace demanding his colleague get her "facts straight" after Pavlich insisted that certain witnesses had not been called in the impeachment trial.Moments before President Donald Trump's defense team began its arguments in the Senate impeachment trial, Pavlich noted during Fox's pregame coverage that while Republican senators are now weighing whether to call former National Security Adviser John Bolton following his bombshell claims, the House should have presented a more thorough case."The Senate is not the House, the House did not come with a complete case, and...

Democrats demand Bolton testify after NYT report Trump directly told him Ukraine aid tied to investigations
Democrats demand Bolton testify after NYT report Trump directly told him Ukraine aid tied to investigations

President Donald Trump told John Bolton he wanted to freeze military aid to Ukraine until it investigated his Democratic rivals, a report said.

Senate should remove Trump, majority of independent voters say in Fox News poll
Senate should remove Trump, majority of independent voters say in Fox News poll

Overall, 50% of registered voters said in a Fox News poll that President Trump should be convicted and removed in the Senate; 44% said he should not.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply

Comments

Top News: World