European leaders are assembling a playbook to preserve the Iran nuclear deal that puts the Continent on course for direct conflict with the United States.
Analysts are deeply skeptical that the measures under consideration will embolden big European multinationals to continue doing business with Iran in the face of powerful U.S. sanctions. However, the dispute puts the two sides in uncharted territory that could shake the trans-Atlantic alliance and undermine U.S. authority in ways that are difficult to predict.
The root of the disagreement is President Donald Trump's decision to abandon the 2015 nuclear accord that Iran negotiated with the Obama administration, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia. European leaders tried to persuade Trump to leave the deal intact while the allies addressed Tehran's role in Middle East conflicts and ballistic missile tests. But the White House ultimately decided to leave the deal and restore a punishing slate of sanctions against Iran.