If they don’t know it by now, they will soon enough. Iran’s official response to the three European signatories of the JCPOA for filing a notice of dispute within the rules of the treaty is to warn them of a potential military retaliation. The remarks from Iranian president Hassan Rouhani likely also references NATO’s interest in transitioning the US out of Iraq, when Tehran would rather have it all to themselves.

So much for negotiations, eh, Boris Johnson? Actually, there’s more to that angle of the story, but first let’s focus on Rouhani’s threat:

The president of Iran warned Wednesday that European troops in the Middle East “could be in danger” after three countries challenged the country over breaches of its nuclear deal.

Meanwhile, Iran’s foreign minister acknowledged that the population “were lied to” for days about their military accidentally shooting down a Ukrainian passenger jet.

President Hassan Rouhani gave the warning in a televised Cabinet meeting after the United Kingdom, France and Germany activated a formal dispute clause in the nuclear deal following Iran’s decision to lift limits on uranium production.

“Today, the American soldier is in danger, tomorrow the European soldier could be in danger,” Rouhani said, according to a translation by The Associated Press. He did not elaborate on what this could mean in practical terms.

Does that require elaboration? Given that Iran has spent the last several years attacking American troops through its proxy militias in Iraq, Rouhani’s meaning couldn’t be any clearer. Invoking the dispute mechanism is the first step to restoring full sanctions on Iran, including — theoretically — at the UN, at a moment when US-based sanctions are doing significant damage already. Rouhani can’t afford that to happen and neither can the mullahs.

That’s why this response is so telling about the nature of the regime, as well as its fragility. This didn’t come out of the blue, after all; the E-3 nations are responding to Iran’s own declaration that they will stop complying with the JCPOA. The sanctions from the three European nations are only held in abeyance due to Iran’s supposed continuing compliance with the pact. Rouhani wants to eat his cake and have it too — at the point of a gun if need be. If that’s not a wake-up call for our European partners, then nothing will suffice.

Although it probably didn’t require this heavy-handed push reported by the Washington Post this afternoon:

A week before Germany, France and Britain formally accused Iran of breaching the 2015 nuclear deal, the Trump administration issued a private threat to the Europeans that shocked officials in all three countries.

If they refused to call out Tehran and initiate an arcane dispute mechanism in the deal, the United States would impose a 25 percent tariff on European automobiles, the Trump officials warned, according to European officials familiar with the conversations.

Within days, the three countries would formally accuse Iran of violating the deal, triggering a recourse provision that could reimpose United Nations sanctions on Iran and unravel the last remaining vestiges of the Obama-era agreement.

The E-3 had already decided to act, though, which made this awkward, to say the least:

European officials complained privately that Trump’s threat only complicated their decision on Tuesday to invoke the mechanism, which starts the clock on 65 days of negotiations with Iran about returning to full compliance with the deal. If the dispute isn’t settled, U.N. sanctions could be reimposed on Iran, including a blanket arms embargo.

Officials in Britain, France and Germany say they had planned to initiate the mechanism, but Trump’s threat nearly caused them to backtrack out of concern that they could be viewed as stooges of Washington if word of the threat ever leaked.

Ugh. That might explain Boris Johnson’s testy challenge to Trump yesterday, which suddenly doesn’t look as surprising as it did yesterday. With Iran all but declaring their cooperation dead, why not just allow the E-3 to come to the obvious conclusion on their own?

Part of Iran’s reaction is being driven by desperation, though, which is becoming more recognizable after the dispatching of Qassem Soleimani. If their legendary Quds force commander were still around to control the streets, the mullahs might not have had to hit reverse on their story on the shootdown of Flight 752. Now, however, they’re still trying to find ways to blame it on the US while trying to defuse the rage in the streets by arresting a handful of people involved in the incident:

This claim of accountability might be even a little credible … if the regime hadn’t arrested the man responsible for taking the video which all but proved that the jet got hit by a missile strike. Don’t let this fool you; without that evidence and the pictures from the crash site, the Iranians would never have admitted to this. Even now, they’re clinging to a defense that they explicitly rejected from the US in the USS Vincennes incident in 1988, when there was actual mutual conflict taking place.

The regime is running scared. And they should be, from the people who deserve justice the most — the Iranians themselves.