The JCPOA Crisis and Heightening Tensions between the U.S. and Iran

News | May 28, 2019

The EastWest Institute and CARPO hosted a roundtable discussion on the JCPOA crisis, heightening tensions between the U.S. and Iran, as well as the role of China and the EU, on May 22 at the EWI Brussels Center.

One year after the U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear accord, signed between the P5+1 and Iran, Tehran has now announced that it will scale down its part of the implementation of the agreement, in response to U.S. sanctions. Within a time frame of 60 days, Iran may take additional measures that would constitute a gradual withdrawal from the deal, should the remaining parties of the JCPOA (EU, Russia and China) fail to secure significant prospects for Iran’s economic benefit through the Special Purpose Vehicle INSTEX. The roundtable aimed at shedding light on both Iran’s actions and rationale, Europe's role with INSTEX, as well how China could safeguard the JCPOA through complementary action with Europe.

During the roundtable, moderated by EWI’s Vice President for Middle East and North Africa Kawa Hassan, CARPO Researcher Julia Gurol presented a recently published policy report discussing how EU-China complementary action could protect the JCPOA, specifically how both EU and China can jointly use INSTEX to protect trade with Iran by European and Chinese companies from U.S. sanctions, possibly through China joining INSTEX. Further, CARPO CEO Adnan Tabatabai discussed inner-Iranian dynamics and gave insights into the Iranian thinking and rationale behind the recent measures, particularly the current cycle of rhetorical escalation between Tehran and Washington, as well as Iranian actions on the ground in the Middle East and how this affects regional issues. A representative from the European External Action Service gave the perspective of the EU, specifically the difficulties balancing the will to safeguard the JCPOA, the protection of European industries and companies from U.S. sanctions, and maintaining positive relations with the U.S.  

The roundtable ended with a discussion involving the Brussels policy community, including think tank representatives, NATO, the European Union and member states officials.