Iran has upped the ante. Its counter-mobilisation comes when Donald Trump has been going through a rough patch, notably the Congress essay towards impeachment and America’s unanticipated isolation at the Asean summit in Bangkok. Tehran has reneged on its commitment to the nuclear deal with the Western powers, concluded in 2015 when Barack Obama was at the helm and subsequently binned by his successor. With radically different perspectives, both Iran and the United States of America have now accorded the short shrift to an agreement to curb nuclear proliferation.

The clash of personalities had come to bear on an issue that is as sensitive as matters nuclear. It thus comes about that Iran has announced a ten-fold increase in enriched uranium production, effectively signifying that it is backing away from the nuclear deal, indeed reducing the pact to irrelevance. The date of the announcement has been carefully calibrated. Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s atomic energy organisation, has unveiled the plan of action on the 40th anniversary of the Iranian takeover of the US embassy.

The nuclear deal has been denuded since May 2018 when President Trump withdrew the US and reimposed sanctions on Iran. Tehran said earlier this year it would gradually shed its commitments under the deal and is due to announce its next step within days unless the US lifts economic sanctions. Admittedly, the crippling curbs have blighted the economy, but have scarcely brought the regime of the moderate President, Hassan Rouhani, and the overarching Supreme Leader, the orthodox Ayatollah Khamenei, to its knees. In a sense, this explains Monday’s robust, even defiant, announcement. It has been calculated that the new centrifuges mean it would take Iran a year to develop a nuclear bomb, something it has insisted it has no intention of doing. It is altogether a fraught juncture.

A dangerous miscalculation on the part of Iran could mean dangerous consequences. The move has almost immediately caused a flutter in the European roost. The Continent had thus far acknowledged that Tehran has abided by the terms of the agrrement; not any more, however. In what has been called an “early warnig shot”, the European Union has let it be known that its support for the nuclear deal depended on Tehran fulfilling its commitments. Equally, Iran is no longer prepared to wait for Europe to fulfil its commitment to boost trade with Iran, made at the time of the deal in 2015.

Europe has made promises to find ways to circumvent the US sanctions, but little that is substantial has emerged from extensive talks between Tehran and the three main European powers ~ Britain, France and Germany. Arguably, this could be Europe’s strategic weakness caused by the distraction over Brexit. Trilateral distrust is central to the emergence of three blocs over the past three days ~ Iran and the continents of Europe and America.