Europe finds itself between a rock and a hard place: on the one hand seeking to salvage the 2015 Iran nuclear deal amidst continuing US pressure to abandon the JCPOA, and on the other taking action against alleged Iranian terror plots in the heart of Europe.
EU officials announced Monday the European bloc would back a French government decision to sanction Iranian nationals who were accused last month of plotting a major bomb attack on an Iranian opposition rally in Paris on June 30th. Though the sanctions on the individual plotters and their alleged Iranian intelligence agency handlers would be effectually symbolic, the move has huge implications in European-Iranian relations given the sanctions could potentially take effect across the bloc.
Per the breaking Reuters report:
The ministers said technical work could now start on an EU-wide asset freeze on two Iranians and the Iranian intelligence service over a failed plot to carry out a bomb attack at a rally near Paris organized by an exiled Iranian opposition group.
This comes simultaneous ongoing Danish investigation after police uncovered another alleged plot involving a wide-ranging assassination plot in his soil. Denmark has since pushed for similar EU-wide sanctions, according to diplomats.
Sanctions on Iran intelligence agencies which investigators are pointing the finger to would be tantamount to anti-government sanctions, and could lead to a further breakdown in attempts by both sides to keep trade relations alive as US sanctions peel away foreign companies from maintaining a presence in Iran.
Iran for its part has insisted both the bomb and assassination plots are fabrications and has called for talks. Iranian media and commentators have long pointed the finger at Israeli Mossad as well as anti-Iran western linked groups such as the MEK for essentially staging 'false flag' operations at the most sensitive moments in which Iran is trying to keep its suffering economy afloat.
Reuters concludes of the significance of Monday's announcement:
Though largely symbolic, the EU’s readiness to target Iranians marks a shift after months of division within the bloc over how to punish Iranians accused of destabilizing activities in Europe and the Middle East.
Meanwhile the US establishment, which has long sought regime change in Tehran as the ultimate goal of broader Mid-east policy has pointed to Iran's alleged terror activities abroad a prime reason for tearing up the Obama brokered JCPOA, with Trump himself focusing on this as a perpetual theme. The White House has also used the latest terror allegations against Iranian intelligence serves to argue that Europe must withdraw from trade with Iran.
Allegations of thwarted terror plot in June: "Three terror plot suspects were arrested in France and Germany... over an alleged terror attack plot to bomb a rally organised by the National Council of Resistance of Iran in Paris."
Europe has thus far largely stuck by the Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's calls warning that “European banks should safeguard trade with the Islamic Republic.”
“Europe should fully guarantee Iran’s oil sales. In case Americans can damage our oil sales,” he said just as Washington pulled out of the JCPOA. “Europeans should make up for that and buy Iranian oil.”
However, as EU endorsement of limited sanctions gain steam and as potential future allegations of Iran-sponsored "terror plots" could emerge at any inopportune moment, it's possible the writing is already on the wall in terms of the nuclear deal unraveling further into final dissolution.