Europeans set to face down US demands over Iran sanctions
Britain, France and Germany sustain united front despite new breaches of 2015 nuclear deal
The US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, has tried to put pressure on a group of European countries to reimpose sanctions on Iran after the discovery of growing stockpiles of uranium in contravention of the 2015 nuclear deal.
Mr Pompeo said in a tweet that Britain, France and Germany should “wake up to the reality” that the nuclear deal was history and join the US in more punitive measures aimed at preventing Iran securing a nuclear weapon.
The three countries have been steadfast in backing a diplomatic solution to bring Iran back to compliance with the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
The foreign ministers of the three countries, known as the E3, are due to meet in the UK on Thursday.
Analysts said there was little sign of them giving up their united front weeks before US elections that could bring a shift in policy if Donald Trump loses and his campaign of “maximum pressure” is consigned to history.
“I don’t see any movement from the E3 to the continuing pressure from the US on that front,” said Dr Aniseh Bassiri Tabrizi, a senior research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute.
Dr Tabrizi said it was difficult for the US to declare a win on this policy with two months to go before elections.
The 2015 nuclear agreement, which gave Iran sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear programme, has been shaky since Mr Trump withdrew in 2018.
In retaliation, Tehran started producing uranium at a higher grade than allowed under the deal.
Last week, the UN's nuclear watchdog said that Iran's stockpile of enriched uranium stands at more than 10 times the limit set down in the 2015 nuclear deal.
“Iran's uranium stockpile is reportedly more than 10 times the limit set by the [agreement]," Mr Pompeo said.
"The E3 and other nations must wake up to the reality that the nuclear deal is history and should join us in imposing strong sanctions. Pressure and comprehensive talks are the only path forward.”
The UK, Germany and France in June issued a statement giving their continuing support to the nuclear deal and expressed “regret and concern” that the US had withdrawn and reimposed sanctions.
The said they reaffirmed that they “are ready to engage in a meaningful and realistic approach, and await a constructive Iranian response”.
Britain’s Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, told MPs this week that the UK was reluctant to ditch the nuclear deal until a broader deal that addressed Iran’s destabilising activities in the region was in place.
Mr Raab said the deal provided “the vehicle for some kind of restraint on Iran, although I accept that it has been eroded because of systemic non-compliance”.
Dr Sanam Vakil, deputy director of the Mena programme at Chatham House, said a new initiative from the European countries could not be ruled out but the group’s main theme is likely to be continuity.
“They have held it together for the last two years so they will want to make sure they remain on the same page,” Dr Vakil said.
Updated: September 10, 2020 02:29 AM