Stratfor's 2018 Second-Quarter Forecast said that the United States and European Union would likely come to a weak agreement on methods to contain Iranian activities — such as the country's ballistic missile program — prior to a May 12 deadline. The reported willingness from France, Germany and the United Kingdom to issue additional sanctions might satisfy White House demands to strengthen oversight of Iran — at least for now.
The European Union is still working on its response to U.S. President Donald Trump's promise to scuttle the Iran nuclear deal unless more is done to counter Iran's destabilizing activities in the Middle East. According to media reports, the EU3 powers — France, Germany and the United Kingdom — are working on a proposal to meet Trump's demands through new sanctions. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said March 19 that there was no formal EU proposal in place for such sanctions, but she stopped short of denying that discussions over such a proposal were occurring. In addition, Mogherini urged adherence to the bloc's consistent position that the Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), must succeed before the bloc will agree to further action against Iran.
Unless the United States or the European Union takes increased action against Iran, Trump has said that he will not continue to support the framework keeping the JCPOA in place. From the European Union, Trump is looking for commitment and willingness to issue sanctions that push back against Iran's ballistic missile program and regional activities. And right now, the EU3 are leading the efforts to meet those requirements. France and the United Kingdom, for example, have been vocal about their willingness to seek and issue sanctions as long as they remain separate from those lifted by the JCPOA itself. By making sure the new sanctions don't directly contradict the terms of the JCPOA, EU countries are hoping to preserve the nuclear deal and their ties to Iran. However, Iranian leadership has reiterated its position that any new sanctions will be viewed as a violation of the JCPOA — regardless of whether they attempt to blur the lines of the nuclear accord.
Germany, meanwhile, is on board with French and British efforts to issue sanctions that contain Iran without breaching the JCPOA. But German leadership has been less vocal on the issue, which has played well in Iran. French and British rhetoric on working to contain Iran's destabilizing activities, on the other hand, has increasingly caused outspoken frustration among Iranian leadership.
The White House has set a deadline of May 12 for the United States, the European Union and Iran to strengthen the nuclear deal with additional agreements. But on the U.S. end, it's unclear how much progress Congress has achieved in crafting legislation to meet Trump's requirements. With the clock ticking and the European Union contemplating its own next moves, lawmakers in Washington appear divided on the best strategy to counter Iranian influence without jeopardizing the nuclear deal.