EU backs Iran nuclear deal as Pompeo visits

Now live
02:17 mins.

Risk of war in the Gulf

The German, French and British foreign ministers have met to find ways to keep the pact alive amid Iran's partial withdrawal. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a surprise visit, as the EU called for restraint.

EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini, who met privately with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday, said EU member states continued "to fully support the nuclear deal with Iran."

Washington has increased its pressure on the European Union to isolate Iran internationally and walk away from the 2015 nuclear deal.

Read more: Iran nuclear-deal crisis: Is war with the US ahead?

What was said

  • The German, French and British foreign ministers gathered to discuss the state of the Iran nuclear deal in Brussels.
  • Pompeo held talks with his counterparts on the sidelines of the summit.
  • Mogherini said the EU had called on Pompeo and the US to show restraint at a crucial moment in dealing with Iran.
  • German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said he had again told Pompeo that Berlin did not want a military escalation.
  • Maas also stressed that in Europe's view, the pact was the best way to prevent Iran from building an atomic bomb.
  • British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the UK was worried about the risk of accidental conflict between Iran and the US.

Read more: US military flare-up 'would be a godsend to Iran hard-liners'

'Joint effort'

Holly Dagres, non-resident fellow at the Washington-based Atlantic Council, told DW that the EU's options were limited when it comes to preserving the nuclear deal.

"The one thing that the EU could do right now is stand up against the Trump administration," Dagres said. "But the reality is that Europe is limited in terms of telling its companies to go and do business in Iran. These multinational companies don't want to because they're afraid of being sanctioned."

But she noted that the deal stands a chance if a joint effort is made along with other signatories of the agreement, including China and Russia.

"It should've been Britain, France, Germany and the EU coming out firmly against the Trump administration a year ago when they pulled out of the multilateral agreement. Now they still can. When there's a joint effort, there is strength in numbers versus if a single country is taking a stance to save the accord," said Dagres.

Read more: Opinion: US-Iran escalation a threat, but war unlikely

Now live
00:33 mins.
DW News | 09.05.2019

Merkel urges 'united front' on Iran

Rising tensions in the Gulf
Since last week, the US has deployed an aircraft carrier, bombers, an assault ship and a Patriot missile battery to the Persian Gulf in a sign of escalating tensions in the region.

Over the past month, the US has taken an increasingly aggressive position against Tehran. It labeled Iran's Revolutionary Guard a terrorist group and ended all sanctions wavers on Iranian oil.

Frustrated by the EU's response to the unraveling of the nuclear deal, Iran announced last week that it would withdraw from "voluntary commitments" made in the 2015 accord. 

While the EU rejected "any ultimatum" on the deal, it said Iran's announcements "are not a violation or withdrawal of the nuclear deal."

Infografik Einschränkungen des Atomprogramms EN

What is the Iran nuclear deal?

The nuclear deal was orchestrated by Germany, France, the UK, Russia, China and the US under former President Barack Obama's leadership and Iran in 2015. It provided a framework for Tehran to end its nuclear program in exchange for the international community dropping crippling sanctions.

Every evening, DW's editors send out a selection of the day's hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.

Iran nuclear deal — treaty under threat

The deal breaker

President Donald Trump announced on May 8, 2018 that he was pulling the United States out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, arguing that the international accord was not in America's "national interest." The decision threw a cloud of uncertainty over the future of the nuclear accord and raised tensions with US allies in Europe.

Iran nuclear deal — treaty under threat

Slap in the face

Britain, France and Germany lobbied the Trump administration and Congress to remain in the nuclear accord, arguing that the deal was working and a US violation without a follow up plan would be destabilizing. In European capitals, the Trump administration's withdrawal was viewed as a slap in the face of allies.

Iran nuclear deal — treaty under threat

Iran scrap 'voluntary commitments'

A year to the day after Trump's announcement, Iran informed the other signatories of the accord that they would no longer adhere to certain "voluntary commitments." Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the signatory nations had 60 days to implement promises to protect Iran's oil and banking sectors or Iran would resume the enrichment of uranium.

Iran nuclear deal — treaty under threat

Response to US pressure

The decision came after the United States deployed an aircraft, the USS Lincoln, along with a bomber task force to the Middle East. Washington said the deployment was intended as a "clear unmistakable message." Iran said it took action because the European Union and others "did not have the power to resist US pressure."

Iran nuclear deal — treaty under threat

A triumph of diplomacy

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), better known as the Iran nuclear deal, was signed in 2015 by United States, China, Russia, France, Germany and Britain (P5+1) and Iran following years of negotiations. Under the international agreement, Iran agreed to dismantle its nuclear program and be subject to monitoring in exchange for the lifting of international nuclear related sanctions.

Iran nuclear deal — treaty under threat

Compliance and verification

The JCPOA includes a robust monitoring, verification and inspection regime carried out by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The UN watch dog has verified Iran's compliance with the deal in 12 quarterly reports. The JCPOA allows Iran to pursue a peaceful nuclear program for commercial, medical and industrial purposes in line with international non-proliferation standards.

Iran nuclear deal — treaty under threat

Obama's achievement

The Iran nuclear deal was President Barack Obama's signature foreign policy achievement. Seeking to undo nearly every Obama administration legacy, Trump came into office calling it the "worst deal ever." The Trump administration argues the nuclear deal doesn't address other unrelated issues such as Iran's ballistic missiles, regional influence, support for "terrorist" groups and human rights.

Iran nuclear deal — treaty under threat

Iranians approved

The nuclear deal and lifting of punishing nuclear related international sanctions created optimism in Iran after years of economic isolation. However, even before Trump pulled the US out of the deal, Tehran blamed the US for holding back international investment and not fulfilling its end of the bargain due to the uncertainty created by Trump's threats.

Iran nuclear deal — treaty under threat

The opponents

After eight years with Barack Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu found the US president he wanted in Donald Trump. The Israeli leader repeatedly slammed the deal despite his own military and intelligence chiefs' assessment the that JCPOA, while not perfect, was working and should be maintained. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are the other main opponents of the nuclear deal.

Iran nuclear deal — treaty under threat

Who's left?

The EU-3 (Britain, France, Germany) have scrambled to ensure that Iran receives the economic benefits it was promised in order to avoid Tehran pulling out of the deal. As EU businesses face retaliation from the US for doing business with Iran, many are opting to avoid Iran. This would likely be a present to Chinese and Russian businesses.