Britain, France, and Germany Triggers Dispute Mechanism With Iran In Blow To Nuclear Deal

A file photo shows German Chancellor Angela (L), UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson (R) and French President Emmanuel Macron speaking on the sidelines of an EU summit in Brussles, Belgium.

Britain, France, and Germany, collectively known as the EU3, have formally triggered a dispute settlement mechanism featured in a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, a step that could lead to the restoration of UN sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

On Tuesday, the three European signatories to the Iran deal released a joint statement the mechanism was activated in response to what they claimed to be Iran’s repeated violations of the nuclear deal, officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

After the mechanism is implemented, Iran would be given 15 days to resolve the dispute with the threesome states. The process can ultimately lead to a “snapback” — which refers to the re-imposition of the UN Security Council’s sanctions that were lifted after the nuclear was reached in 2015.

The JCPOA lifted nuclear-related sanctions imposed on Iran by the UN and some other signatories of the deal, particularly the US.

The Islamic Republic, in return, voluntarily changed some aspects of its nuclear program. The agreement was later ratified in the form of Security Council 2231, which terminated previous UN resolutions against the Islamic Republic.

The United States was a partner to the accord until May 2018 when it unilaterally left the deal and re-imposed its sanctions. Washington took the move within the framework of a so-called “maximum pressure” policy against Iran that came into force under President Donald Trump.

Bowing to Washington’s pressure, the three remaining European signatories failed to protect Tehran’s business interests under the deal after the US’s withdrawal and started to tow Washington’s sanction line.

A year later, Iran began in May 2019 to gradually reduce its commitments under the JCPOA to both retaliate for Washington’s departure and prompt the European trio to respect their obligations towards Tehran.

Recently, Iran took a final step in reducing its commitments, and said it would no longer observe any operational limitations on its nuclear industry. The announcement came two days after US drone strikes assassinated senior Iranian commander Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani.

Tehran has, however, reminded that all its retaliatory steps fitted within Paragraph 36 of the JCPOA, and that its countermeasures are “reversible upon effective implementation of reciprocal obligations.”

The EU3, however, refuted “the argument that Iran is entitled to reduce compliance with the JCPOA.

The trio also claimed that they meant no harm by launching the mechanism, and that they were not falling into line with the US’s pressure campaign against Iran.

“[We are acting] 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 dialog, while preserving the agreement and remaining within its framework,” they said.

“Our three countries are not joining a campaign to implement maximum pressure against Iran. Our hope is to bring Iran back into full compliance with its commitments under the JCPOA,” they added.

The trio has already informed the European Union, which monitored the negotiations that the led to the deal’s conclusion, about their decision.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell confirmed he has received a letter about the launch of the mechanism.

The EU now has to notify the other parties, namely Iran, Russia, and China, about the prospect.

Observers, however, says the European states’ adoption of the measure belies their repeated assertions that they value the JCPOA’s continued existence, and rules out the supposition that they choose to distance themselves from Washington’s hardball attitude.

Earlier on Tuesday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson even echoed Trump’s branding of the agreement as “the worst deal ever” by saying he would be willing to work on a “Trump deal” to replace the JCPOA.

“If we are going to get rid of it then we need a replacement," Johnson said. "President Trump is a great dealmaker, by his own account. Let's work together to replace the JCPOA and get the Trump deal instead," he added.

Last December, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) had said that if the European signatories to the landmark accord activated the dispute mechanism to pressure Iran, it would mean the demise of the deal.

Tehran has also called on the European deal partners to start minding their obligations to the accord instead of walking in Washington’s footsteps by either threatening the country or trying to bring it under more pressure.