Can the EU meet Iran’s expectations for keeping nuclear deal?

Al-monitor | : President Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), has generated a new dynamic in the relationship between Iran and the European Union. There are strong forces on both sides who wish to sustain the deal, but they also know that many obstacles will have to be overcome to meet the expectations of the other side.

Tehran now finds itself in a unique position whereby if it remains committed to the deal it can genuinely isolate the United States as the only noncomplying party to the JCPOA. Meanwhile, there are signs that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s May 21 anti-Iran narrative compelled the top leadership in Iran to work more seriously toward sustaining the deal. Indeed, the first indication of a new domestic political atmosphere in Tehran came during the May 23 policy speech by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei where the inclusion of all factions —including former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and former Reformist political prisoner Mohammad Ali Abtahi — and even the seating arrangements were a presentation of regime unity.

In his policy speech, Khamenei urged all forces to have “realistic” expectations about the potential continuation of the nuclear accord and said the Iranian economy could not just rely on what he termed a “European JCPOA.” To this end, he outlined a number of political and economic demands for Europe. Some of the political expectations, including the request that EU powers pass a UN Security Council Resolution to condemn the United States’ violation of Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed the JCPOA, may not be feasible, especially as Washington could veto any such resolution. Nonetheless, one needs to view Khamenei’s rhetoric as part of Iran’s negotiation strategy similar to the preconditions he laid out out in October 2015 for the planned implementation of the JCPOA.

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