Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei vowed on Tuesday that Iran will continue violating the nuclear deal until European powers meet Tehran’s demands.
The European Union scrambled to portray Iran’s violations to date as insignificant and easily reversed, sending a message that Iran had not crossed any red lines yet.
“According to our foreign minister, Europe made 11 commitments, none of which they abided by. We abided by our commitments and even beyond them. Now that we’ve begun to reduce our commitments, they oppose it. How insolent! You didn’t abide by your commitments!” Khamenei thundered at the Europeans on Tuesday.
The Iranian leader added a specific threat to the United Kingdom, which enraged Iran by seizing an oil tanker that was violating European sanctions against shipping oil to Syria.
“Evil Britain commits piracy and steals our ship … and gives it a legal appearance. Iran and those who believe in our system will not leave such evil deeds unanswered,” Khamenei promised.
European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini responded to Iran’s increasingly belligerent rhetoric, and growing stockpile of uranium, by insisting none of its breaches of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) constitute “significant noncompliance” and all of them can be easily undone.
“The deal is not in good health, but it’s still alive. We invite Iran to reverse the steps and go back to full compliance,” Mogherini said on Monday.
“Technically all the steps that have been taken, and that we regret have been taken, are reversible,” she said, indicating that none of the European powers have yet seen a reason to trigger the dispute resolution mechanisms in the JCPOA or impose sanctions on Iran.
The New York Times interpreted these comments as Mogherini and other EU ministers “scrambling to save the nuclear agreement with Iran” by giving it more room to misbehave and signaling to the United States that they will not abandon their support for the JCPOA, which they still regard as the only effective means of slowing Iran’s march to nuclear weapons.
This did not sit well with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has joined the Trump administration to pressure Europe into recognizing Iran as a major security threat.
“The European Union’s response to Iranian violations reminds me of the European appeasement of the 1930s. Then as well, there were those who buried their heads in the sand and did not see the approaching danger,” Netanyahu said on Monday, dropping one of the stronger rhetorical bombs in his inventory.
“There are probably some in Europe who will not wake up until Iranian missiles fall on European soil. Then it probably will be too late,” he warned.
The big problem facing Europe is that Iran seems determined to keep escalating its violations until the EU meets its impossible demands. As Khamenei indicated, Iran thinks nothing the Europeans have done so far is adequate. They demand rescue from U.S. sanctions that the EU simply cannot deliver.
“The Europeans claim they were willing to maintain the JCPOA, but we have not seen Europe yet to be ready for an investment,” sniffed Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Sunday after Britain, France, and Germany denounced U.S. sanctions and urged Iran to act responsibly.