Rift emerges between the US and EU over fate of Iran nuclear deal?

On the same day when EU officials insisted on the deal’s revival, Brett McGurk, US President Joe Biden’s aide on the Middle East, said that the revival is “highly unlikely” and hinted at more sanctions against Iran 

July 29, 2022 by Peoples Dispatch
Iran nuclear deal
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian (L) in a meeting with European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell (File Photo: Fars news agency)

When Iran is reportedly considering the draft proposal for the revival of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the Iran nuclear deal is officially known, that Josep Borrell, European Union’s high representative of foreign affairs and security policy, submitted earlier this week, Brett McGurk, US President Joe Biden’s advisor on the Middle East, asserted on Wednesday, July 27, that revival of the deal is “highly unlikely.” 

According to a report in Axios on Wednesday, McGurk blamed Iran for stalling the finalization of the deal by asking the US to “add something to the pot” before accepting it. Without clarifying what he meant, he said that the US is not going to do such a thing and instead is planning to impose more sanctions on Iran in order to ensure its “diplomatic isolation.”

This statement comes on the day after Borrell’s opinion piece in Financial Times (FT) claiming “now is the time to save” the deal. Borrell said that though Donald Trump’s so-called “maximum pressure campaign” failed, “despite the best efforts of remaining participants, Iran’s people have been deprived of the full benefits of the sanctions lifting.”  

Iranian chief negotiator Bagheri Kani has acknowledged the proposal and claimed that he will soon share his country’s responses and final proposal to “conclude the talks.”

Borrell emphasized that despite political risks involved for the US administration in the context of the upcoming midterm elections for the US congress, the draft of the proposal submitted by him should be taken into consideration and “decisions need to be taken to seize this unique opportunity to succeed.”

Borrell has been the leading figure in the indirect talks between the US and Iran in Vienna which went on for more than a year. The talks have been stalled for months now due to the US’ reluctance to give guarantees to Iranians that all sanctions will be lifted before the resumption of the JCPOA. 

Trump had withdrawn from the multi-party JCPOA unilaterally in 2018 and imposed various sanctions against Iran, questioning the effectiveness of the deal in curbing the Iranian missiles program and its regional policy. Iran has since then scaled down its commitments to the deal. 

The three European signatories of the deal, the UK, France and Germany, have refused to withdraw from the deal along with the other signatories Russia and China. These remaining signatories have been trying to revive the deal, which they claim is crucial for regional and global peace and disarmament.  

Supporting Borrell’s claims, French President Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday that the chances of JCPOA’s revival are still there and the ball is in Iran’s court now.  

Seyed Mohammad Marandi, professor at Tehran University and part of the official Iranian delegation at the Vienna talks, also hinted about the possible rift between the US and EU over the Iran nuclear deal. He claimed on Wednesday that Europeans had been willing to resume the deal for a long time now despite US reluctance. “If it was for the European Union to decide, the EU would immediately accept Iran’s conditions for the revival of the nuclear deal,” he said in a Twitter post. 

Biden, who had promised to revive the deal once in power, has failed to do so due to internal calculations and strict opposition from Israel.

Israel sees Iran as the main threat to its security in the region. Israeli objections to the 2015 nuclear deal were among the main reasons for Trump’s decision to withdraw. During his visit to Israel earlier this month, Biden signed a deal with Israel to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. He also claimed that the US is ready to take any measure, including the use of force if necessary, to stop Iran from doing so. This is despite the fact that Iran has officially declared that it does not seek to develop a nuclear arsenal.