Détente with Iran; how Europe can maximise the chances of a final nuclear deal

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Europe should be more active in optimising the chances of reaching and implementing a final nuclear deal with Iran according to a new ECFR publication. As the E3+3 countries and Iran embark on an intense round of negotiations to draft a nuclear agreement by the 20 July deadline, ECFR’s policy fellow Ellie Geranmayeh outlines the capacity for Europe to do more to safeguard the diplomatic track. She highlights that a nuclear deal advances Europe’s interests on non-proliferation, avoids military escalation and could create openings to address regional security with Iran.

Geranmayeh outlines four broad scenarios that could shape the future of the nuclear talks and recommends how Europe should position itself where:

  • A settlement is reached by the interim deal 20 July deadline
  • The interim deal is extended for another six months
  • The US Congress blocks implementation of a final deal
  • The negotiations are derailed

Geranmayeh argues that, if a deal is reached, Europeans can play a key role in implementing it. In the more likely event of the interim deal being extended, it may be necessary for Europeans to offer Tehran economic relief in exchange for a continuation of the restrictions placed on Iran’s nuclear programme. At the same time, Geranmayeh recommends that Europe should devise a damage limitation plan in case of a breakdown caused by hardliners in the Majlis or Congress. In a scenario where the US legislature prevents the White House from implementing a final deal, Europe should not blindly follow an obstructionist Congress and in doing so risk undermining its own interests. Rather, if Tehran shows commitment to diplomacy and to agreements reached, Europe should try to salvage negotiations by going further than the US in easing unilateral sanctions. If it does so, it will need to ring-fence European companies from the secondary impact of US sanctions. 


The E3+3 countries and Iran embark on an intense round of negotiations to draft a nuclear agreement by next month’s deadline.

In another new ECFR publication, Aniseh Bassiri Tabrizi highlights the difficulties faced by Europe in delivering the limited concessions granted to Iran under the interim nuclear deal.


The European Council on Foreign Relations does not take collective positions. ECFR publications only represent the views of their individual authors.

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