Iran’s Violations of Nuclear Deal Deeply Concern European Participants

The E3 Urge Iran to Comply With Its Commitments
September 17, 2020 Updated: September 17, 2020

The three European signatories of the Iran nuclear deal expressed on Tuesday their extreme concern about Iran’s violations of the agreement, which have undermined its objective to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, and called on Iran to comply with its commitments.

France, Germany, and the UK (the E3) said in a statement that they are “extremely concerned by Iran’s continued violation of its nuclear commitments under the JCPoA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, known as Iran nuclear deal] which seriously undermines the non-proliferation benefits of the agreement.”

“Iran’s non-compliance with its nuclear commitments is putting the JCPoA at risk,” the E3 said in the statement delivered to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors, and asked the Board to urge Iran to return “to full compliance of its commitments under the JCPoA.”

The E3 states remain committed “to the preservation and full implementation of the nuclear agreement” and have “worked hard to preserve it,” the three signatories stated, despite U.S. withdrawal from the agreement in 2018, which they said was regretable.

After Washington pulled out of the deal in 2018 and reimposed sanctions exerting “maximum economic pressure” on Iran by cutting off its oil exports and reducing its main revenue source to zero, Iran began violating the nuclear deal.

President Donald Trump has often criticized the JCPoA, which reduced sanctions on the Iranian regime, because it gave Iran more breathing room to pursue military action in the Middle East.

Following the Trump-approved airstrike to kill Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani in early January, Tehran announced it would pull back from key components of the nuclear deal, including the limit on centrifuges, thus breeching its obligations under the JCPoA even further.

Iran’s Nuclear Activities

Natanz uranium enrichment facility Iran
The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran released a photo of a building after it was damaged by a fire at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility, some 200 miles south of the capital Tehran on July 2, 2020. (Atomic Energy Organization of Iran via AP)

The E3 said that they triggered the mediation mechanism provisioned by the Iran nuclear deal in response to the Iranian violations in January, according to the statement.

Now, they are calling on Iran to refrain from its intention to “install new advanced centrifuges at the Fuel Enrichment Plant at Natanz” as “this would increase Iran’s enrichment capacity and cross JCPoA limits on the types, number, and locations of centrifuges.”

Iran has also amassed a stockpile of low-enriched uranium that roughly exceeds the limit set by the JCPoA by ten times, the statement said.

Another violation of the nuclear deal is uranium enrichment, which Iran said it is carrying out in its underground Fordow facility but that the E3 said “has no justifiable civilian use,” according to the statement.

The E3 pointed to the fact that the U.N. nuclear watchdog has already reported that Iran is making preparations to install advanced centrifuges at a previously unused part of its pilot enrichment plant, contravening the nuclear deal.

“Iran must halt any research and development of advanced centrifuges” prohibited by the provisions of the JCPoA, the three signatories demanded.

JCPoA ‘Should be Broadened’: UK Foreign Secretary

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told the press after meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday that Iran must never be allowed to obtain a nuclear weapon.

The UK shares the concerns of the United States regarding “the Iranian threat both on the nuclear side of things but also the wider destabilizing activities in the region,” Raab said. He also agreed that the JCPoA is not perfect and should be broadened. The UK “always welcomed the U.S. and indeed other efforts to broaden it,” he added.

The UK and the United States share the view “that the diplomatic door is open to Iran to negotiate a peaceful way forward. That decision, that choice is there for the leadership in Tehran to take,” Rabb said.

Pompeo said at the press conference that the sanctions imposed on Iran by the United States after its withdrawal from the JCPoA have been successful. Iranian resources to finance Hezbollah and the Shia militias operating in the wider region has been greatly reduced along with “their capacity to inflict harm around the world,” he added.

EU Trade with Iran

Heads of state of the E3 group of countries: (L) French President Emmanuel Macron during a news conference at the Elysee Palace in Paris on April 25, 2019. (Philippe Wojazer/Reuters), (C) German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends a press conference after the board meeting of Germany's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in Berlin, Germany, June 18, 2018. (Reuters/Hannibal Hanschke), (R) Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson is seen on Downing Street in London, Britain on Oct. 29, 2019. (Toby Melville/Reuters)
Heads of state of the E3 group of countries: (L) French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on April 25, 2019. (Philippe Wojazer/Reuters), (C) German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, Germany, June 18, 2018. (Hannibal Hanschke/Reuters), (R) Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson in London on Oct. 29, 2019. (Toby Melville/Reuters)

To preserve the JCPoA and continue trading with Iran, the E3 created in January 2019 a special mechanism called the Instrument for Supporting Trade Exchanges (INSTEX), which allows EU companies to “facilitate legitimate trade with Iran,” the statement said.

INSTEX was initially going to handle trade only in food, medicine, and other humanitarian goods permitted under the sanctions imposed by the U.S. after its withdrawal from the deal, Ziad Abdelnour, CEO of the New York-based private equity firm Blackhawk Partners, and chairman of the Financial Policy Council, wrote for The Epoch Times.

The founders of INSTEX also “attached a critical condition to its operation and possible expansion—that Iran fully comply with anti-money laundering and terrorism finance standards set by Financial Action Task Force (FATF),” a global money laundering and terrorist financing watchdog, Abdelnour wrote.

“But Iranian hardliners have prevented Iranian President Hassan Rouhani from adopting FATF standards, fearing that it will conflict with the regime’s illicit financing of terrorists and proxies abroad,” Abdelnour said.

“Even if Iran meets this condition, however, INSTEX will likely prove ineffective because circumventing the U.S. financial system doesn’t protect those who engage in illicit transactions with Iran either from detection or penalties,” he explained.

Before the establishment of INSTEX, the European Union urged its constituent governments not to abide by the U.S. sanctions and even provided some incentives for those EU members which did not comply with U.S. sanctions, Abdelnour wrote.

The first transaction facilitated by INSTEX did not occur until March this year, when Europe exported medical goods to Iran.

Jack Phillips contributed to this report.