The Iran nuclear deal is on the brink of collapse as Britain, France, and Germany trigger a dispute mechanism to directly confront Iran

eu iran nuclear deal talks

Leonhard Foeger/Reuters

Iran's top nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi and Secretary General of the European External Action Service (EEAS) Helga Schmit at a meeting of the JCPOA Joint Commission in Vienna, Austria, in June 2019.

  • The UK, France, and Germany confirmed Tuesday that they have officially triggered the dispute mechanism enshrined in the Iran nuclear deal.
  • The three countries are the European signatories of the 2015 nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
  • The Europeans said their decision came after Iran pulled away from its JCPOA commitments and ignored their attempts to bring Iran back to the deal.
  • Iran's pulling away from the deal was largely in response to President Donald Trump's withdrawal from the deal in May 2018.
  • The European statement comes hours after UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson called for a new "Trump deal" if the JCPOA no longer works.
  • You can see a step-by-step guide on how the dispute mechanism works below.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The UK, France, and Germany have officially triggered the dispute mechanism in the Iran nuclear deal, but highlighted that they won't impose US President Donald Trump's "maximum pressure" sanctions on the regime.

The three countries, also known as the "E3," negotiated the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran alongside the US, China, and Russia. Advertisement

The JCPOA was designed to stop Iran from producing its own nuclear weapons, and set up a framework limiting the amount and degree to which Iran was allowed to enrich uranium.

Iran nuclear

IIPA via Getty Images

The reactor building at the Bushehr nuclear power plant in southern Iran as seen in August 2010.

'We have ... been left with no choice'

The E3's decision comes in response to Iran's May 2019 announcement that it would stop meeting some of its JCPOA commitments, and full withdrawal earlier this month. European countries have attempted multiple times to salvage the deal, but Iran has refused to return to the agreement.
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"We have therefore been left with no choice, given Iran's actions, but to register today our concerns that Iran is not meeting its commitments under the JCPOA and to refer this matter to the Joint Commission under the Dispute Resolution Mechanism, as set out in paragraph 36 of the JCPoA," the E3 said in a statement on Tuesday.

Boris Johnson Donald Trump

Steve Parsons-WPA Pool/Getty Images

Donald Trump and Boris Johnson at the NATO summit in London in December 2019.

Here's how the dispute mechanism works after it is triggered, according to the text of the nuclear deal:

  1. The Joint Commission - made up of negotiators from the signatory countries - has 15 days of resolve the issue.
  2. If this fails after 15 days, any participant can refer the issue to the countries' ministers of foreign affairs. The ministers then have another 15 days to discuss and find a resolution.
  3. If the issue isn't resolved after those 30 days, it will be elevated to the JCPOA Advisory Board, which has five days to negotiate.
  4. If it still isn't resolved, then the complaining signatory country can treat the issue as "grounds to cease performing its commitments under this JCPOA in whole or in part," and/or refer it to the UN Security Council. The US, Russia, China, Britain, and France sit on that council.
  5. If referred to the UN Security Council, it has 30 days to find a resolution to continue with sanctions relief on Iran, which were enshrined in the JCPOA.
  6. If no resolution is adopted, then all previous sanctions on Iran would be re-imposed. This is also called a "snapback."
Emmanuel Macron Angela Merkel

REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysée Palace in Paris in July 2017.

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Europe vows no maximum pressure on Iran, apparently recognizing Trump's failed strategy

Iran's withdrawal from the JCPOA largely came in response to Trump's decision to pull the US out of the nuclear deal in May 2018, and to impose punitive "maximum pressure" sanctions that have crippled the regime's economy.

Trump had hoped that his "maximum pressure" economic strategy would force Iran's leaders to comply with the US' nuclear demands, but it has largely emboldened the regime against the US.

Britain, France, and Germany appeared to recognize Trump's failed "maximum pressure" strategy by stressing that they won't impose maximum pressure on Iran.Advertisement

They said on Tuesday, regarding the dispute mechanism trigger: "We do this 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 dialogue, while preserving the agreement and remaining within its framework."

"In doing so, 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."

The statement comes hours after UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson reiterated calls to curb Iran's nuclear limits, and called for a new "Trump deal" if the JCPOA no longer works.Advertisement

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