EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: US President Donald Trump’s staunch opposition to the nuclear agreement with Iran (the JCPOA) has sparked a serious transatlantic rift. The EU is, however, attempting to balance its appetite for business with an examination of security risks. In so doing, it is slowly awakening to Israeli and Sunni Arab sensitivities regarding Tehran’s hegemonic aspirations in the Middle East.
When US President Donald Trump decertified the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in October 2017, the EU thought a “solved” problem had returned to the agenda for no real reason. It almost immediately issued a statement calling the JCPOA “a key element of the nuclear non-proliferation global architecture and crucial for the security of the region” and encouraged the US to maintain it.
From a European perspective, though issues related to Iranian ballistic missiles as well as rising tensions in the region were matters of concern, they were to be addressed “outside the JCPOA.” In January 2018, following another speech by Trump on Iran that essentially issued an ultimatum to Europeans that they reconsider their approach, High Representative Federica Mogherini said: “The deal is working; it is delivering on its main goal, which means keeping the Iranian nuclear program in check and under close surveillance.”