Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi confirmed on Friday that his country will scale back on its commitments under the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) if Europe does not fulfil its economic obligations.

Tehran insists that its “strategic patience” cannot last forever. Last week Iran’s UN Ambassador, Majid Takht Ravanchi, reiterated that “a multilateral agreement cannot be implemented unilaterally.”

Iran’s Supreme National Security Council leader, Ali Shamkhani, was more explicit. Addressing the European signatories to the agreement, Shamkhani said that Iran’s patience should not be confused with weakness, warning that Iran would begin to phase off its commitment to JCPOA on July 8.

On that day, Iran will begin enriching uranium up to 20%, far above the 3,6% level envisaged by the 2015 agreement.

Last week, Washington scaled up sanctions against Iranian officials following the downing of a US drone near the Strait of Hormuz.

US sanctions are crippling to Iran’s economy. Oil exports have dropped from 2,7 million barrels a day in April 2018 to just half a million in June 2019, while the International Monetary Fund (IMF) projects a 6% contraction of the Iranian economy this year.

Despite Washington’s unilateral withdrawal from the JCPOA deal in 2018, Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the European Union are keen to maintain a deal that took 12 years to negotiate. The EU stepped up in January with a barter trade vehicle and is now ready with a multimillion-euro credit line to get the barter trade deal functioning.

The barter system, referred to as Instex, is designed to circumvent the use of US dollars. Barter trade will initially focus on food and medicine, which are not subject to Washington’s sanctions. Although the platform will not substantially increase trade, EU partners hope it will provide diplomacy with some much-needed time.

Time is of the essence, as Iran warned on May 8 that it will begin phasing off its commitment to the 2015 deal if concrete steps were not taken by its partners to uphold their end of the agreement. Last week, Federica Mogherini said that Instex was ready to go, both in Europe and Iran.

Russia has stepped up to reiterate its commitment to the 2015 agreement, while Chinese President Xi Jinping has also made clear that China stands by the deal. In the final communique of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit in Tajikistan, all parties committed to upholding their obligations,

On the sidelines of the G20 summit in Osaka, US President Donald Trump and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin confirmed that they want to find a diplomatic way out of the current standoff with Iran. To date, Washington has not announced a diplomatic initiative to address the crisis.