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Analysis: Iran nuclear deal on the brink

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Analysis: Iran nuclear deal on the brink
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Deal or no deal? With Iran diplomacy in limbo, the nuclear agreement seems at the brink of falling apart.

Yet, the European guarantors of the deal, France, Germany and the UK, triggered the mediation mechanism in a last-ditch effort to save what was praised in 2015 as one of the biggest diplomatic accomplishments of our time.

Today the signatory powers are barely on speaking terms. So is there a way out of this diplomatic gridlock?

"The only thing now that the Europeans are asking the Iranians is to come back to the nuclear deal. But what the Iranians are asking the Europeans is, well, 'your end of the bargain'. Why are you not fulfilling the terms of the deal by providing economic relief? If you do that, which means standing up to the Americans to some extent, then we are willing to reverse these steps that we have taken since May 2019," explains Joost Hiltermann, International Crisis Group

So far the Europeans have been reluctant to challenge the unpredictable Trump on Iran - and chances are they will never do it. Partnering with Moscow and Beijing is a no-go as well

"I find it hard to believe that the Europeans would make a deal with Iran in concert with Russia and China in opposition to the United States, at the great risk of causing a real breach in the transatlantic alliance. For Europeans, if it is a choice between Iran and the United States, the Europeans are going to chose the United States even with Trump in the White House. This is of long standing and it has, this relationship has, brought peace to the continent for 70 years. That's not going to fall apart over a very important nuclear deal that hopefully will stop proliferation in the Middle East," says Hiltermann.

The Europeans see the ball in the Iranian court right now. Tehran, under pressure domestically and internationally, is on the defensive. The big unknown is whether the mullahs will chose reconciliation over confrontation.

Following on from the extraordinary foreign affairs meeting last week, EU foreign ministers are due to meet Monday 20 January, with Iran and the nuclear deal likely to feature high on the agenda.

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