This week, Iran breached the 300kg limit on its stockpile of enriched uranium. This is in blatant violation of the JCPOA and contrary to the shared international desire to de-escalate regional tensions. Washington rightfully classified the development earlier this month as “nuclear blackmail”, in what is tantamount to a scarcely concealed, increasingly desperate effort to force the Europeans into action.

The news came from Behrouz Kamalvandi, a spokesperson for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization (AEIO). Kamalvandi also announced that Tehran restarted the process of enriching uranium up to 20% from early July. As the regime in Tehran breaches the 20% threshold, bomb-grade material will be within relatively easy reach.

The latest announcement comes against a backdrop of surging tensions in the Middle East, of which Iran has been at the centre. Two weeks ago, a second oil tanker attack took place in as many months in the Gulf of Oman. In the days following, independent investigations conducted by the US and the UK separately concluded that Iranian forces were responsible for the attack, which not only threatened to ignite conflict in an extremely volatile region but also led to a surge in oil prices.

Beyond the tanker attacks, Iranian backed-Houthi forces continue to fire rockets into Saudi Arabia – most recently an attack on Abha airport, which led to one death and twenty-one injuries.

Iranian support for Shiite Houthis, often overlooked in Western media coverage, is a significant factor in the continuation of the war in Yemen. As documented by the UN, the Houthis are responsible for some of the war’s worst abuses, including the use of child soldiers and torture. A recent World Food Programme report also found them guilty of diverting aid to Yemenis most in need, further stalling the path to peace.

In contrast to the White House’s robust stance against the Iranian regime’s announcement that it is breaching the 300kg limit on enriched uranium, the response from Europe has been muted. After a meeting with foreign ministers, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Frederica Mogherini, said that the EU’s focus remains to “keep the agreement in place”, telling reporters that Europe will consider Iran to be “fully compliant” with the nuclear agreement until evidence from the International Atomic Agency proves otherwise.

Since President Trump withdrew the United States from the JCPOA, the flawed agreement has been kept on life support by the European signatories. Tehran has consistently been pushing for Europe to do more; even more than it is capable of delivering, many would argue.

Europe has been working to implement a special purpose vehicle that will allow countries to continue trading with Iran, despite US sanctions, known as INSTEX. Its implementation, however, has been fraught with difficulty.

There is no doubt that the latest announcement from Tehran will trigger European officials back into making hasty efforts to ensure that INSTEX is viable and can go some way to protecting the Iranian economy.

This will be precisely the response Tehran had hoped for. Cowering to demands to do more in order to keep the deal alive, while Iran is clearly doing less, is making Europe look foolish – a sentiment echoed last week by German foreign minister, Heiko Maas. The latest announcement marks a new chapter in an extremely protracted, and dangerous, game of brinksmanship between Iran and the other signatories to the JCPOA.

This demands a strong response from Europe. By surrendering to Iran’s extortion attempts, Europe will fail to curb Tehran’s regional and global ambitions and will be, in effect, giving Tehran the greenlight to continue its march towards becoming a destructive nuclear force.

There may still be some in Europe who cannot see beyond what they consider to be the value of the JCPOA, but it is time to recognise that the agreement is not “comprehensive” at all. It is a compromise, and bowing to nuclear extortion is a compromise too far.

Europe must now focus its diplomatic efforts on countering the clear and present threat that aggressive Iranian behaviour across the region poses. It is time for Europe to move its efforts away from keeping the failing deal alive. It is time for Europe to switch off the life support for the JCPOA.