Prior to this, on Sept. 9, Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, told Der Spiegel, “If the United States leaves the treaty and Europe follows, then this deal will certainly collapse and Iran will go back to what it was before and, technically speaking, to a much higher level.”
While European countries continue to assure Tehran that they will remain committed to the deal under any circumstances, the bitter experience of the 2000s — when then-US President George W. Bush pressured the European troika and caused the collapse of the nuclear negotiations — is vividly remembered by Iranian politicians.
They believe that if the United States abandons the JCPOA, Europe will also be forced to follow suit or, at the very least, implement the deal in a weak manner without taking Iran’s economic demands into consideration. This same concern has prompted many Iranian decision-makers into thinking that in case of a US withdrawal, the best option for Iran would be to quickly exit the deal and return its nuclear program to what it was prior to the accord.
Another informed source at the Iranian Foreign Ministry told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, “We know that if the United States increases its pressures and the Europeans are left with a choice between Iran and the United States, they are definitely not going to choose Iran. Therefore, in case the US withdraws from the JCPOA or if Washington continues the snake-like behavior it has adopted toward the JCPOA, trying to create intangible holes in its implementation process, the decision of the heads of the establishment [in Iran] will be to leave the JCPOA.”
Under such circumstances, the ball will be in Europe’s court to pressure the United States to remain committed to the JCPOA. If not, the world will likely witness a new crisis.