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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (right) and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on July 4, 2018, in Vienna. Photo: Michael Gruber via Getty Images

Convening for the first time since the United States' withdrawal, foreign ministers of the remaining parties to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal failed to announce new measures to compensate Iran for the re-imposition of U.S. sanctions.

Where it stands: Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China, meeting with Iran in Vienna under EU auspices, issued a bland communiqué that “reconfirmed their commitment to the full and effective implementation” of the deal. But there was no there there, apart from naming Britain to replace the U.S. as co-chair of a panel, alongside China, on reconfiguring a heavy-water reactor in Arak.

The communiqué listed “objectives,” including maintaining economic and sectoral relations with Iran, preserving financial channels, continuing to import Iranian oil and petroleum products and protecting companies “from the extraterritorial effects of U.S. sanctions.”

But the ministers did not announce any concrete means to achieve these objectives. There are doubts about whether the European Investment Bank will extend credits to Iran given the bank’s need to raise money on U.S. capital markets. The EU has also yet to unveil an updated blocking statute to protect European companies doing business with Iran from being barred from the much larger American market. The Atlantic Council's Brian O’Toole, a former senior advisor to the director of the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, told me that the current statute — which exposes European companies quitting the Islamic Republic to Iranian legal action — would not work because the European and U.S. economies are so closely entwined.

However, O’Toole predicted that China, Turkey, Russia and India would ignore U.S. sanctions, and that the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” strategy would achieve at most 85% of the impact of the Obama administration's campaign. That campaign, which peaked in 2012–2013, was a key component of a clear, diplomatic agenda for negotiations aimed at limiting Iran’s nuclear program in return for sanctions relief. The Trump administration has no such agenda — just a wish list of demands for Iran to abandon the nuclear-fuel cycle and reverse its longstanding Middle East policies.

The big questions: Will Iran stay in the deal and try to get by with support from China, Russia, Turkey and India and the proceeds from oil smuggled on murky markets? Or will it take the even riskier route of accelerating its nuclear program in hopes of a better deal from the Trump administration or its successor?

Barbara Slavin directs the Future of Iran Initiative at the Atlantic Council.

Go deeper

Updated 23 mins ago - Health

WHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron

Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Health measures taken to combat COVID-19 before the emergence of Omicron would also help against the new variant of concern, World Health Organization officials said Friday.

What they're saying: Takeshi Kasai, WHO regional director for the Western Pacific, said during a virtual briefing broadcast from Manila, Philippines, that border controls imposed by the U.S. and other nations can "buy time" to deal with the variant, but warned "every country and every community must prepare for new surges in cases."

2 hours ago - Health

Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak. Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Nevada's Public Employees' Benefit Program Board voted Thursday to charge workers enrolled in public employee health insurance plans a surcharge of up to $55 a month if they're not vaccinated against COVID-19, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports.

Why it matters: Nevada is the first state to announce such a move, per AP.

Oklahoma sues Biden administration over Pentagon vaccine mandate

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin testifies before a House Armed Services Committee hearing on Sept. 29 in Washington, D.C. Photo: Olivier Douliery/Pool via Getty Images

The state of Oklahoma filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration on Thursday in an attempt to block the enforcement of its vaccine mandate for federal employees.

Why it matters: The move comes one day after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin denied Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt's (R) request to exempt the state's National Guard from the mandate.

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