analysisMiddle East

Europe ready to take tough stand against Iran, experts say

While the Biden administration wants to avoid increasing tension with Tehran, it also doesn't want to be seen taking a back seat to Europe on the issue, experts tell JNS.

U.S. President Joe Biden participates in a phone call with Quint leaders Emmanuel Macron of France, Giorgia Meloni of Italy, Olaf Scholz of Germany and Rishi Sunak of the United Kingdom on Oct. 9, 2023, in the Treaty Room of the White House. Credit: Adam Schultz/Official White House Photo.
U.S. President Joe Biden participates in a phone call with Quint leaders Emmanuel Macron of France, Giorgia Meloni of Italy, Olaf Scholz of Germany and Rishi Sunak of the United Kingdom on Oct. 9, 2023, in the Treaty Room of the White House. Credit: Adam Schultz/Official White House Photo.
Amichai Stein. Credit: Courtesy.
Amichai Stein
Amichai Stein is the diplomatic correspondent for Kan 11, IPBC.

“Enough is enough,” a European diplomat told JNS. The words weren’t aimed at the war in Gaza, but at Iran’s behavior in recent months—advancing its nuclear program; supplying Russia with drones and missiles for use in Ukraine; launching ballistic missiles at Israel and trying to strike Israeli, Jewish and Iranian opposition targets around Europe. 

The International Atomic Energy Agency Board of Governors is set to meet in Vienna on Monday to discuss the Iranian nuclear program, which has generated a conflict between Europe and the American administration. 

The latest IAEA report on Iran’s nuclear program shows an increase in Tehran’s stockpile of 60% enriched uranium. The overall amount of enriched uranium (at all levels) is 30 times the number allowed under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreement, implemented in 2016.

According to Ran Zimmt, a senior researcher and Iran expert at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies, while Iran is “progressing slowly” with enrichment, we’re already past the point of no return. “They’re already there,” he told JNS.

David Albright, president of the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security, concurred, saying, “Iran can produce enough weapons-grade uranium [90%+] for eight nuclear weapons in a month, 10 by the end of the second month and 12 by the end of the third month.”

And Iranian officials have recently begun to threaten to do just that.

“We used to hear it only from extremists; today we also hear it from pragmatic parties,” said Zimmt. “And this discourse certainly produces normalization of the option,” he added. 

The series of recent statements by Iranian officials regarding a change in Tehran’s nuclear weapons policy is “very disturbing,” said Zimmt. “Even if they have no intention of breaking through, the discourse itself shows that there is talk on this in the corridors of the Tehran regime,” he added.

Iran’s ongoing and increasing violations have convinced the E3 countries (France, Germany and the United Kingdom) to demand at the IAEA’s next board of governors meeting that the agency take a tougher stance, the European diplomat told JNS.

While the United States initially disagreed, Europe’s determination on the matter has caused the Biden administration to come around, according to a source with knowledge of the talks. 

“The Biden administration’s strategy is not to increase tension with Iran,” the source told JNS. “They wanted to continue their previous approach, which was ‘let’s try and calm things down.’” But the Europeans have put on the table a strong-language motion which has induced the United States to rethink its position, the source explained.

“The United States doesn’t want to be seen as the country that allows Iran to get off the hook while the Europeans are the ones leading the fight,” the source told JNS.

Among the reasons Europe is not backing down is that the West faces a deadline with regard to Iran. On Oct. 18, 2025, U.N. Security Council sanctions against the Islamic Republic are set to expire, causing the cancellation of the so-called “snapback” mechanism. This mechanism allows JCPOA signatories to impose a wide range of sanctions against Iran if it fails to comply with the restrictions in the nuclear agreement. 

“The threshold is thinning and we are getting closer to the deadline,” said the European diplomat. “Letting Iran off the hook, despite its constant lack of cooperation on its nuclear program, has not led Tehran to be any more cooperative,” he added.

Amichai Stein is the diplomatic correspondent for Kan 11, IPBC.

You have read 3 articles this month.
Register to receive full access to JNS.

Just before you scroll on...

Israel is at war. JNS is combating the stream of misinformation on Israel with real, honest and factual reporting. In order to deliver this in-depth, unbiased coverage of Israel and the Jewish world, we rely on readers like you. The support you provide allows our journalists to deliver the truth, free from bias and hidden agendas. Can we count on your support? Every contribution, big or small, helps JNS.org remain a trusted source of news you can rely on.

Become a part of our mission by donating today
Topics
Comments
Thank you. You are a loyal JNS Reader.
You have read more than 10 articles this month.
Please register for full access to continue reading and post comments.
Never miss a thing
Get the best stories faster with JNS breaking news updates