Britain, Germany and France recently issued a statement in Brussels on trigger mechanism what is known as the “snap-back” mechanism.
In the snap-back mechanism, legally, the dispute resolution sessions will be requested, and after that, the UN sanctions will eventually be returned by referring to UN Security Council, if the Europeans are not convinced.
Under this mechanism, the UNSC take a vote on continue lifting Iran’s sanctions, and if US, French or British veto the resolution and does not ratify it within thirty days, then all sanctions will be automatically returned against Iran.
Accordingly, no country, including Russia and China, will have a veto, not be able to help Iran in this case.
It was on this basis that Russia had stated that this process should not be initiated and that an agreement had to be reached with the Iranian Foreign Ministers in the Brigham Commission.
So Russia opposes Snapback launch, calls for joint commission on conflict resolution with Iran.
If no agreement is reached between the parties of nuclear deal, the six resolutions under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, including Resolution 1929, will be returned against Iran.
If sanctions are returned, Iran must immediately suspend uranium enrichment, and ships headed for Iran can be inspected, which will make the current economic situation even more difficult in Iran.
The positions of Russia and China
An analysis of Russia’s and China’s positions and their previous actions indicate that the two countries will also implement UN resolutions and adhere to possible UN sanctions against Iran.
Russia also strongly opposes Iran’s withdrawal from the NPT. In fact, China’s and Russia’s support for Iran will be so long as Iran adheres to its obligations under the IAEA.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov also warned against likely Iran’s withdrawal from the NPT and called Iran to abide by its NPT obligations.
It is best for Russia and China to maintain tensions between Iran and the West at the current level, and Iran’s withdrawal from JCPOA is not desirable for Russia and China.
In fact, if Iran withdrawal from JCPOA and does not accept IAEA oversight, Russia and China will not support Iran.
Despite Russian and Chinese criticism of the US withdrawal from JCPOA and escalating tensions in the region, but when they support Iran that Iran cooperates with the IAEA.
Russia and China also have no ability to counteract the Snapback mechanism because according to the mechanism, they cannot veto the return of sanctions.
So, a day after the European Troika activated the dispute resolution mechanism, Geng Shuang, China’s foreign ministry spokesman said: “It will not help resolve the problem or ease the tension.”
China’s view has always been that there are strong reasons to reduce Iran’s obligations in JCPOA. The United States unilaterally withdrew from this (nuclear) agreement and by disregarding international law and obligations, it exerted too much pressure on Iran and thwarted other efforts to maintain JCPOA.
Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia’s permanent representative to the Vienna-based international organizations, has said: that E-3 decided to engage Dispute Resolution Mechanism as set out in para. 36 of JCPOA. They stated that they did it “in good faith” to preserve the deal and that it has nothing to do with maximum pressure policy. Let’s hope that this step will not complicate the situation further.
Iran is currently cooperating with China, Russia, Turkey and India in various areas, and if the UN sanctions are returned, the Iran’s economic problems will further.
European Troika Goals; Buy Time or take a case to UNSC
France has always pursued dual positions in Brigham.
France and French President, Emmanuel Macron claims European leadership and does not want to withdraw from JCPOA like United States withdrawal from JCPOA.
In fact, France is trying to express its positions in the independent on JCPOA.
But in fact Macron expresses the same Trump’s remarks about JCPOA in a different way. Macron had spoken on Iran’s regional and ballistic missile issues at the United Nations a few years ago and he want to include this issue in JCPOA.
Macron made the same remarks while activating the Snapback mechanism, and during his recent trip to Israel, he said that wants to include missile issues in nuclear deal.
Germany follows the same stance as France.
But Britain is taking a tougher stance against Iran, and British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson has called for a new deal to be implemented as the trigger mechanism is activated.
But Britain is taking a tougher stance against Iran, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called a new deal to be instead of JCPOA as the snapback mechanism is activated.
Analysis of the European Troika’s stances shows that although European countries tend to extend JCPOA to further issues, they are also concerned about Iran’s complete withdrawal from the JCPOA or even NPT.
Western countries certainly do not want a nuclear-armed Iran, and more importantly, Iran also has an Islamic ideology that is very different and harder than North Korea.
On this basis, German Chancellor Angela Merkel at her speech at World Economic Forum in Davos, warned against prematurely scrapping an international nuclear deal with Iran, saying that it would be wrong to abandon an “imperfect” deal with nothing better in place.
Accordingly, the aim of the European countries to activate the snapback mechanism, in the first place, was to respond appropriately to a reduction Iran’s obligations in JCPOA and to stop Iran’s actions.
Europeans also want to show Washington that they are not lenient to Iran rather they are tough.
Europe’s toughening on Iran is important to Europeans because the Trump administration has threatened European countries with more tariffs on the auto industry, and so European countries are moving to tighten and activate the Snapback mechanism.
European countries, on the other hand, are trying to persuade Iran to return to its previous commitments by maintaining agreement and negotiating. That is why they have decided to buy time by extending the time to resolve the dispute and to persuade Iran to return to full compliance in JCPOA. So, EU foreign policy chief, Joseph Burrell recently announced the extension of the dispute resolution mechanism’s time.
In these circumstances, it seems that until Iran doesn’t expand its nuclear program beyond the current stage, the Europeans will not want to return international sanctions by UNSC and terminate nuclear deal.
Given this, the “Freeze for freeze” method may be favored by the parties in JCPOA.
The “Freeze for freeze” method means that Iran does not go beyond the fifth step of reducing its obligations in JCPOA and that the Europeans extend the process of resolving disputes at least until the end of Trump’s presidency.
At the moment, It is important to note that at the present stage, what is important for Europe is that Iran’s nuclear program is under IAEA supervision and that Iran’s nuclear program does not expand.
In fact, the Europeans in this way, while not fulfilling their commitments in JCPOA, also they continue to threaten Iran with the snapback mechanism.
So, given Iran has not done thing beyond the fifth step in reducing its nuclear commitments, this has given Europeans hope to maintain nuclear deal.
Iran’s stance and the options ahead
Iran has stated that long before and before the European reference to the Dispute Settlement Mechanism, Tehran had resorted to the Dispute Settlement Mechanism under Articles 36 of JCPOA when the United States withdraw from JCPOA.
Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abbas Mousavi dismissed the claims by Britain, France, and Germany on repeated violations of the nuclear deal by Iran, saying ” The Europeans are claiming that activated a dispute settlement mechanism but this claim is not legally correct and Iran did so six months ago … The fifth step is the final step of our obligations reductions in JCPO but if they will take more action, We will take effective steps.”
Accordingly, the European Troika invoked a dispute settlement mechanism under articles 26 and 36 in JCPOA after of obligations reduction in JCPOA by Iran.
In fact, obligations reduction in JCPOA by Iran when did that the United States’ breach of its obligations in nuclear deal and withdraw from JCPOA and after that Europe countries did anything for maintain interest of Iran in JCPOA.
European countries tried to maintain JCPOA after the US withdrawal, but failed to meet the economic interests of Tehran in nuclear deal, While economic benefits was Iran’s primary target for signing the nuclear deal. For this reason, Iran, after months of waiting and waiting, finally reduced its commitments in nuclear deal, but Europe did not take action for Iran and also Europe delay implementation of the SPV and INSTEX financial channel and under these circumstances, Iran has further reduced its commitments in JCPOA.
For Iran, there are different scenarios in reaction to Europe: Iran could terminate cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), could withdraw from JCPOA, or could continue cooperation with the IAEA, but at same time ignore Security Council resolutions, for example, it could continue uranium enrichment program and could prevent its ships to be inspected.
But the fact that withdrawal from JCPOA and stop voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol and even the withdrawal of the NPT by Iran may put Iran in a bad position and even countries like Russia and China would not support Iran if Iran withdraws from NPT.
Therefore, the appropriate solution for Iran is to maintain JCPOA and remain under NPT.
Therefore, it is also appropriate for Europe to pursue a long-term settlement of disputes with Iran in JCPOA.
For Europe, it is actually better that could reach a mutually acceptable agreement with strong commitments to Iran to meet some economic benefits.
Therefore, extending of dispute resolution process time by EU has now provided a positive perspective to continue this path.
*Javad Heirannia Ph.D, International relations, Visiting Fellow of the Persian Gulf Department in the Center for Middle East Studies, head of the international desk of Mehr News Agency (MNA), a semi-official, state-funded news agency and one of Iran’s biggest agencies.