European powers are looking to the incoming Biden administration to swiftly reduce nuclear tensions with Tehran but won’t press Washington to re-enter the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran quickly, according to senior diplomats.
While European countries remain supportive of the 2015 nuclear deal, officials from France, Britain and Germany—countries that helped negotiate the accord—say a full return to the agreement might not be achievable or even desirable before Iran’s presidential elections in June.
Amid increasing European concerns about Iran’s nuclear research, the diplomats say they will urge a swift agreement in the first months of a Biden administration next spring to offer some easing of sweeping U.S. sanctions on Tehran in return for steps by Iran toward reversing its expanding nuclear activities. The hope would be to provide some tangible economic benefits to Iran before June’s vote, creating an incentive for a new Iranian government to pursue diplomacy.
For Iran, that would likely mean reducing its growing stockpile of nuclear material—enriched uranium—which is currently 12 times the limit permitted in the 2015 agreement. That is enough material, experts say, for two nuclear weapons if the low-enriched uranium is further refined to weapons-grade fuel.
More significantly, it would require a swift halt to some of Iran’s nuclear research, work that European officials fear could undermine the core of the 2015 agreement. Iran is expanding its work on advanced centrifuges, used to enrich uranium, and moving more of that work underground.