Britain, France and Germany, the three European signatories of the Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), have activated the agreement’s dispute mechanism in an effort to force Tehran into compliance with its commitment to curb its nuclear program.
The three European countries — also known as the E3 — triggered the so-called Dispute Resolution Mechanism (DRM) on January 14, a week after Iranian authorities announced that they would no longer be bound by any of the agreement’s restrictions in terms of the numbers or type of centrifuges that they can operate or the level of uranium enrichment that they can pursue.
The DRM (Paragraphs 36 and 37 of the JCPOA) starts the clock on a process that could result in the return of international sanctions on Iran. The deal’s signatories now have up to 30 days to resolve their differences, although that time period can be extended by consensus. If the dispute cannot be solved, the matter could be brought before the UN Security Council and could result in the re-imposition of sanctions that had been lifted under the deal. That effort, however, could also easily be blocked by a Chinese or Russian veto.
Iranian authorities said that they were justified in violating the deal because the United States broke the July 2015 agreement by withdrawing in May 2018. In a statement, the E3 foreign ministers rejected Tehran’s argument:
“We do not accept the argument that Iran is entitled to reduce compliance with the JCPOA. Contrary to its statements, Iran has never triggered the JCPOA Dispute Resolution Mechanism and has no legal grounds to cease implementing the provisions of the agreement.”
he E3 stressed that their objective was to save the JCPOA:
“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 3 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.”