As the tough new US sanctions against Iran came into force on Monday, European officials remained determined to follow their path, but their progress on a matter strongly divided by the United States and its closest allies stopped, at best case.
Europeans believe that the 2015 nuclear agreement is vital to their national interests and they say they intend to continue honoring it. So far, however, they have failed to create a mechanism to hinder penalties without competing with the Trump administration.
Their attitude has become more complicated than Denmark's recent charge that the Iranian government has attempted to assassinate an Arab separatist who lived there. France has a similar category.
In May, when the Trump administration which had withdrawn from the nuclear agreement, said it would reintroduce harsh economic sanctions that had been lifted under the agreement, aimed at Iran's oil exports and the banking sector. President Trumpa described the deal as "the worst in history," saying he is doing nothing to curb Iran's non-nuclear attack, including the murder of dissidents abroad, a major missile program and support for Hezbollah, the Syrian government, Shiites dissenting throughout the region.
The members of the European Union, including Britain, France and Germany, said they would continue to comply with the nuclear agreement, like China and Russia. They also try to keep Iran in compliance, offsetting US financial sanctions.
However, Europeans have struggled to create an alternative payment mechanism to bypass the banking system dominated by the US government and allow Iran to continue to sell its oil and commodities. The so called the special purpose vehicle would serve as a clearinghouse: Iran's revenues from oil and gas sales were offset against the Iranian markets, a form of exchange without explicit financial transactions.
So far, however, no European country has agreed to host the vehicle because it feared the American retaliation.
In a joint statement issued Friday, European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and the foreign and finance ministers of Britain, France and Germany said that "we deeply regret" the resumption of US sanctions and that work will continue to create a special payment vehicle.
"We remain committed to implementing the" nuclear agreement "as a matter of respecting international agreements and our common international security, and we expect Iran to play a constructive role on this issue," the statement said.
Indeed, according to European officials, they could only retain 20% to 30% of the current trade with Iran, since large European companies ties with the United States have already moved away from Iran or are in the process of avoiding sanctions. Stefano Stefani, a former Brussels-based consultant and former diplomat, said European officials believed that 40% would be optimistic.
Of all the issues between Europe and the Trump administration, Iran has become the most divisive one. Europeans are actively working against United States policy, which effectively puts them in a union with Russia, China and Iran.
"There is tremendous pressure on the transatlantic relationship," said Stefanis.
If Europeans manage to create "a small violation of the US's attitude to international financial transactions, this could be duplicated," he said. And if they fail, he said, "it will be another big grievance with Washington, creating another minefield."
So far, European unity is under way, but there are concerns among some European officials that Britain may not remain so stable in front of a Washington that wants to give Iran a small quarter.
Russia, which has less exposure to US sanctions and is an ally with Iran in Syria, said it would continue to buy and sell oil and gas from Iran – many of which are then sold to other countries.
And Washington has also granted exemptions to eight countries, including Turkey and China, to continue buying Iranian energy, but only, Washington says, to keep the oil market stable. These exemptions are not permanent.
Iran is keen to stay in the deal and has promoted European support for it at home despite the growing financial pain of sanctions.
"Iran will have patience for another five or six months, but the roads are important," said Ellie Geranmayeh of the European Council of Foreign Relations, referring to Iranian public opinion and public demonstrations.
At the same time, the murders in Denmark and France "do not mean that Europeans will pull the plug of the deal," he said, "but it definitely turns off the stance to move further into economic relaxation."
Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen She called the case "totally unacceptable", Denmark reminded her ambassador to Iran and possible joint European action is on the agenda of the meeting of EU foreign ministers on 19 November.
In France, a bombing against Iranian dissidents was attempted in October. The French reaction was quiet but firm, with sanctions imposed on Iranians, including the intelligence minister, said Dolphin O, a French lawmaker from the party of President Emmanuel Macrona, who heads the French-Iranian Friendship Group at the National Assembly.
Lady O recently returned from Iran and said the mood was provocative and cautious. "There is a general sense of desperation among the interlocutors," he said. "It is increasingly difficult for them to support the commitment to the West."
Mr Trump said his main goal is to force Iran's leaders into negotiations that include restrictions on their missiles and their support for regional allies. Foreign Minister Mike Pombeo said the sanctions are intended to make Iran choose: "Whether it strives to keep its economy away from home life support or continues to waste valuable wealth in overseas races. He will not have the resources to do both. "
Speaking to Fox News on Sunday, Mr Pompeo said that Mr Trump "has told the world that the terrorist regime threatening Israel with Iran funding from Lebanese Hezbollah, that the terrorist regime that attempted to assassinate Denmark over the last few weeks, that the terrorist regime that continues to fund Haiti's rocket launcher in Riyadh and Dubai is about to stop. "
"This behavior needs to change," Pompeo said, "and the United States sanctions will be resumed at midnight tonight."
Ali Vaez, who heads Iran's work on the International Crisis Group, said there was little historical correlation between Iran's sanctions and policies. In an informative letter naming illegal sanctions, the group has examined Iran's economy and regional behavior over the past 40 years and has found that "Tehran seeks what it considers vital for its national security to be hell or high water" said Vaez.
"The extent to which Islamic democracy feels threatened or feels an opportunity in its neighborhood greatly determines its behavior," the report said. "Measured against this pattern, Trump's aggressive policy is more likely to push Iran's regional activism than to curb it."
Meanwhile, European and Iranian officials are following the mid-term elections in the United States, like the rest of the world, and are trying to measure how likely Mr Trump will be re-elected in two years.