In recent weeks Iran announced that it had begun work on enriching uranium to 20 percent -- just short of the level required to produce nuclear weapons -- as well as informing the International Atomic Energy Agency that it was to resume work on producing uranium metal, for which, according to the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany, there is "no credible civilian use." Pictured: The Isfahan uranium enrichment facility in Isfahan, Iran. (Photo by Getty Images)
When the European Union starts warning the ayatollahs that the Iran nuclear deal is at a "critical juncture", it is a clear sign that Tehran's increasingly aggressive conduct in relation to its nuclear activities will make US President Joe Biden's hopes of reviving the deal almost impossible.
From the moment the nuclear deal was agreed to between Iran and six of the world's leading powers -- the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany -- in 2015, the EU has been an enthusiastic champion of the deal.
Even though neither Iran nor the EU itself was a signatory to the deal, the organisation's then foreign policy chief, the British Labour politician and veteran Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament activist Catherine Ashton, led a sustained campaign on behalf of the EU to support the agreement.
Consequently, the EU has remained a dogged supporter of the deal, even when incontrovertible evidence has emerged that Iran has been in breach of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the deal's official title.
The EU's devotion to the flawed agreement was highlighted when, in response to the Trump administration's decision to withdraw from the agreement and reimpose sanctions on Tehran, Brussels responded by attempting to set up its own trading mechanism with Tehran -- the so-called "special purpose vehicle" -- to enable European companies to continue trading with Iran without being hit with US sanctions.
Even though the initiative ultimately failed, as business leaders were more concerned about incurring US sanctions than trading with Iran, the EU has remained an enthusiastic champion of the nuclear deal, to the extent that, prior to Mr Biden's inauguration, the commission had already expressed its hopes for reviving the deal.
"We welcome President-elect Biden's positive statements on the JCPOA, and look forward to working with the incoming US administration," EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a statement on behalf of the bloc earlier this month.
The EU supported "intensive diplomacy with the goal of facilitating a US return to the JCPOA and Iran's return to full JCPOA implementation," Borrell added.
The EU's unfettered enthusiasm for the nuclear deal, however, has been dealt a significant blow as a result of Iran's increasingly aggressive conduct on the nuclear front, to the extent that Mr Borrell has been forced to concede that the future of the agreement has now reached a "critical juncture".
In recent weeks, Iran announced that it had begun work on enriching uranium to 20 percent -- just short of the level required to produce nuclear weapons -- as well as informing the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN-sponsored body responsible for monitoring Iran's nuclear activities, that it was to resume work on producing uranium metal.
Both these developments represent a clear breach of the JCPOA. Under the agreement, Iran committed to keep uranium enrichment at 3.5 percent, the level required for civilian use, and signed up to a 15-year ban on "producing or acquiring plutonium or uranium metals or their alloys".
Iran's announcement that it was proceeding with the production of uranium metal has prompted a furious response from the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany, who, in a joint statement earlier this month, warned that there is "no credible civilian use" for the element, and that "The production of uranium metal has potentially grave military implications."
The EU, too, has been forced to issue its most critical condemnation to date of Iran's blatant breaches of the JCPOA, with Mr Borrell issuing a statement warning that the "very concerning developments on the nuclear side... risks undermining diplomatic efforts, including ours, to facilitate a US return to the JCPOA."
When an organisation as totally committed to the nuclear deal as the EU voices grave concerns about Iran's wilful disregard for the terms of the agreement, it raises serious questions about the ability of the Biden administration to revive the deal.
Many of the appointments Mr Biden has made to his foreign policy team to date include veterans of the Obama administration who helped to negotiate the original, flawed deal.
Now, not even the most enthusiastic supporters of the nuclear agreement, whether in Europe or the US, can entertain the hope of reviving a deal with Tehran so long as the ayatollahs remain determined to ignore their international obligations. Most importantly, what makes anyone think Iran would honour a new deal any more than they honoured the old one? Why enter a new sham deal at all?
Con Coughlin is the Telegraph's Defence and Foreign Affairs Editor and a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Gatestone Institute.