Jean-Yves Le Drian told Europe 1 radio: “This initiative is unwelcome. It shows a sort of irritation. It is always dangerous to flirt with the red lines, but the initiative was taken… remains totally within the framework of the Vienna (nuclear) deal.”

He continued: “If they go to a higher level then yes the agreement would be violated, but they need to realize that if they do then they will expose themselves to new sanctions and the Europeans will not remain passive.”

This came after Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei said on Monday that he had ordered Iranian scientists to prepare to increase uranium enrichment capacity if the nuclear deal collapses, following Donald Trump’s withdrawal of the US from the deal in May.

Iran also informed the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog that the country has “tentative” plans to produce the feedstock for centrifuges (machines used to enrich uranium).

Tensions have been rising between Iran and the West, ever since Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal on May 8, calling the international accord deeply flawed and citing that it was not in the US’s national security interests. Trump announced that he would be reimposing unilateral nuclear sanctions on Iran, which would come into place in November and would also affect foreign businesses that traded with Iran.

A kick in the teeth for Europe

European powers have been struggling to save the deal, which was supposed to curb Iran’s nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief, so these comments must seem like a kick in the teeth. They want to preserve the nuclear deal to protect their own trade deal with Iran and also because they say this is the best way to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons, but then Iran threatens to restart its nuclear programme.

Europe has already warned Iran to stick to the terms of the 2015 deal, or they will be forced to withdraw from the deal too and reimpose sanctions of their own.
Of course, Iran never really ended its nuclear programme, so they have already violated the deal. Therefore, France is well within its rights to withdraw from the accord and reimpose sanctions.

Le Drian’s comments came just one day after Benjamin Netanyahu urged France to focus on tackling Iran’s regional aggression, as economic pressure would kill the 2015 deal anyway.