KEY POINTS

  • The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action provides a dispute resolution mechanism that triggers a 60-day negotiating period
  • If Iran does not agree to come back into compliance with the nuclear deal, U.N. sanctions, lifted in 2015, could be reimposed
  • Iran's economy already is reeling from U.S. sanctions that President Rouhani estimates has cost Tehran $200 billion

Britain, France and Germany on Tuesday began trying to pressure Iran back into the 2015 nuclear deal, threatening reimposition of U.N. sanctions unless Tehran lives up to the agreement’s restrictions, the three countries, known as the E3, announced in a joint statement.

Iran has been reducing its adherence to the agreement since President Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in May 2018, and announced last week it would begin enriching as much uranium as it wanted in the wake of the targeted U.S. drone strike that killed the commander of the Quds Force. Iran insists its nuclear program is for strictly peaceful purposes.

The E3, rejecting Iran’s claim that it was entitled to reduce its commitments in response to sanctions, said they would prefer the Islamic state recommit to the agreement -- negotiated by the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China -- rather than having to reimpose sanctions.

The action was announced in a tweet from the German Foreign Office.

"Our goal is clear," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said. "We want to maintain the agreement and come to a diplomatic solution within the agreement."

Tuesday’s action triggered a 60-day negotiating period and had been expected for more than a week.

“We have therefore been left with no choice,” the countries said in a joint statement.

Since withdrawing from the agreement, the United States has imposed several rounds of sanctions on Iranian companies and individuals, and even the country’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps. Trump also has threatened to impose sanctions on European companies doing business in Iran, prompting the

E3 to act.

A senior European official told the New York Times the countries hope to coax Washington and Tehran back to the negotiating table. The European countries had opposed Trump’s decision to drop out of the agreement and had been resisting his campaign to cripple Iran’s economy, which is suffering from the collapse of its oil exports and seen the value of its currency plummet. President Hassan Rouhani has estimated the sanctions have cost the economy $200 billion.

Tehran had no immediate response to the E3 action, but earlier in the day Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif accused London, Paris and Bonn of appeasing the Washington and blindly following the U.S. lead.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the BBC Tuesday the original agreement with Iran was flawed and should be renegotiated.

“We’ve got to stop the Iranians acquiring a nuclear weapon. … That’s what the Joint Comprehensive agreement does,” Johnson said.