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Iran nuclear deal: Dead or just dying?


In invoking the dispute mechanism for the Iran nuclear agreement or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) - in other words, in deciding to hold Tehran to account for its breaches of the deal - the UK, France and Germany insist that they are still firmly behind the deal.


"Our hope is to bring Iran back into full compliance with its commitments under the JCPOA," their joint statement reads.

三國發表聯合聲明稱:“我們希望讓伊朗重新遵守履行它的在協議中許下的承諾?!?br />

So the JCPOA exists, but in a kind of limbo - abandoned or largely abandoned by its two most important signatories. So what are the Europeans seeking to do ?


UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson sought to sketch out a way forward.


Speaking on the BBC on Tuesday morning, he said the UK and other signatories would stick with the agreement until it was changed. He understood why the Trump administration was opposed to the deal.


But he emphasised that the goal remained "to stop Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. If we are going to get rid of it, we need a replacement," he said. And in an optimistic appeal to the Americans (and perhaps the president''s vanity), he said: "Let''s replace it with the Trump deal."


But is his optimism misplaced? President Trump says he wants a more restrictive agreement with Tehran, but one of his recent tweets suggests that actually he is not much interested in negotiating with the Iranians at all.


The whole context within which this nuclear dispute is unfolding has changed dramatically since US drones killed Iranian Quds Force commander Gen Qasem Soleimani, and the Iranians'' modest retaliation, and then the tragic downing of a passenger airliner by Iran''s air defences that followed.


The scenes of protest on the streets of the Iranian capital may well have bolstered the Trump view that pressure on the Iranian regime is working. It is very hard to imagine Mr Trump lifting the sanctions now.


The deal was intended to constrain Iran''s nuclear effort for a period of time. It was far from perfect. It did not address wider issues. But there was an underlying hope that the regime would perhaps become less disruptive in the region as it received the economic benefits of engagement.


Now in invoking the dispute mechanism, the Europeans are taking the first formal step towards writing the JCPOA''s obituary. They insist that they will stand by it for as long as it exists and that they want a better deal - one that the US can support.


For months, analysts have been arguing that the JCPOA was ailing or on life support. It now may be slowly slipping away.