As the Trump administration continues its hardline approach on Iran, the European Union – in a bid to preserve the Iran nuclear deal – is reluctant to impose sanctions for potential violations of that deal, two diplomatic sources told CNN.
Federica Mogherini, the top EU foreign affairs official, has conveyed this sentiment in meetings over recent days, the sources said, even as Tehran has said it would scale back its commitment to the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
One source told CNN, “The EU will not be quick to act here. Don’t expect sanctions to fall into place.” Another noted that Mogherini “seems to be putting a great deal of process into the mix.”
Representatives for the EU did not immediately reply to a CNN request for comment.
On Monday, Iran’s atomic energy agency spokesman, Behrouz Kamalvandi, said that the country would accelerate its low-grade uranium enrichment and surpass the 300-kilogram uranium stockpile deal limit on June 27.
Mogherini downplayed the comments when asked about them on Monday.
“Announcements are relevant elements of political dialectics, but our assessment on the implementation of the agreement is based on the factual, technically sound assessment and evaluation that the IAEA makes in its reports,” she said during a press conference in Luxembourg.” And so far Iran has been compliant with its nuclear commitments as we had expected it to be, as we had encouraged it to be. And the majority of the international community together with us has cooperated with Iran in helping this implementation to continue.”
“If the IAEA assessments and reports will change, we will assess the situation further, but so far our assessment is based on the technical reports of the IAEA, which also means that I would not elaborate on what happens if and when. As I said, at the moment, today, Iran is still compliant and we strongly hope, encourage, and expect that Iran continues to comply with its commitments under the JCPOA in full,” she added.
Weeks ago, when Iran first announced it would speed up its enrichment – though not necessarily exceed limits – some European officials expressed concern that partners to the nuclear deal might have no choice but to sanction Iran.
Then, a UK foreign office source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told CNN “it’s too early to talk about reimposing sanctions, but if Iran ceased meeting its nuclear commitments, there would be logical consequences. In that case it would be hard not to sanction them.”
Mogherini met with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington on Tuesday, where she “reaffirmed the EU’s commitment to the nuclear deal as key to preserving stability and security in the region and as an essential component of the global non-proliferation architecture,” according to an EU readout of their meeting.
Despite the EU high representative’s private slow-walking, European allies have voiced messages of accountability and restraint amid escalating tensions in the region.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Monday said they would “not accept less for less regarding the #JCPOA” and expected Iran’s continued compliance, according to a tweet from the German Foreign Ministry. He and his French counterpart, Jean-Yves Le Drian, discussed Iran on Wednesday and Reuters reported Tuesday that the E3 countries – Germany, France and the United Kingdom – are preparing a new push to keep Iran in the deal. The State Department announced Wednesday that special representative for Iran Brian Hook would meet with E3 counterparts in Paris next week.
Following meetings at US Central Command on Tuesday, Pompeo claimed that the administration’s pressure campaign against Tehran had been “very effective.” And at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Wednesday, Hook reiterated the Trump administration’s position that the US was right to leave the 2015 landmark nuclear deal.
CNN’s Jennifer Hansler contributed to this report.