Iran is calling on Europe to help salvage the nuclear deal, saying current European efforts just aren't enough.
The U.S. has gradually reimposed sanctions on Iran after pulling out of the nuclear deal last year, hitting Iran's economy hard.
In May, Iran started to roll back some of its commitments under the nuclear deal after issuing its remaining parties an ultimatum: Lessen the pressure put on Iran by U.S. oil and banking sanctions within 60 days, or Iran will "suspend compliance with the uranium enrichment limits" and take measures to update its heavy water reactor.
The next month, President Donald Trump imposed "hard-hitting" sanctions on Iran that bar Iranian officials — including the country's supreme leader — from accessing key financial resources and support. Then on Monday, Iran said it officially surpassed the nuclear deal limit on its stockpile of low-enriched uranium.
The remaining parties of the Iran nuclear deal — France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China — have all reiterated their support for the deal. Politico reports that for the first time in some 40 years, the international community is almost unanimously supporting Iran and agrees that it was following through on its end of the deal.
The countries have also been trying to prevent Iran from breaking the agreement by implementing a payment system to facilitate trade exchanges with Iran designed to avoid U.S. sanctions. That system will help with the transfer of humanitarian goods that aren't subject to U.S. sanctions, but Iran also wants Europe to use it to finance oil exports — one of Iran's largest exports — though those are subject to sanctions.
Iran's foreign minister Javad Zarif says the payment system doesn't meet Iran's demands or uphold Europe's obligations as part of the nuclear deal, though it does have "strategic value" in that the U.S.'s allies are taking a step back from economic relations with the country.
The EU has pledged to protect companies doing legitimate business with Iran. But the U.S. has warned European businesses that they have the option of doing business with the U.S. or Iran, not both.
And, at the moment, there really isn't much else Europe can do to help Iran. Europe could move to use the payment system to help boost Iran's oil sales, but that would involve violating U.S. sanctions. It's not clear if Europe is willing to take that step.