You are here: UN All-Party Parliamentary Group hosts discussion on the future of the Iran Nuclear Deal

23 March 2020
Houses of Parliament

On Tuesday 11 February the United Nations APPG and the APPG on Global Security and Non-Proliferation hosted an event exploring the current state of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly known as the Iran Nuclear Deal. 

The event was attended by members of both Houses and chaired by Lord Hannay, with speakers Alistair Burt (Former Minister for the Middle East and North Africa) and Dr Aniseh Bassiri Tabrizi (RUSI Research Fellow, Middle East Security).

As stressed by Lord Hannay, following US withdrawal the Iran Nuclear Deal is in a delicate state. He outlined wider issues surrounding the deal, including:

  • The difficulty of sustaining the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) based approach to managing nuclear proliferation 
  • The risk of a nuclear arms race in the Gulf region if the Iran Nuclear Deal were to fail
  • The threat of further wars in the middle east, and the threat posed to wider global energy supplies as a consequence

Lord Hannay went on to discuss the E3’s (France, Germany, and the UK) recent triggering of the JCPOA’s dispute settlement mechanism to consider Iranian acts of non-compliance with the agreement. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) recently reported that while Iran has declared its intention not to abide by the obligations it entered into in the JCPOA, it has not yet done so. 

Alistair Burt expressed his support for the JCPOA, and highlighted that the deal was met with optimism following its signing. He explained that although imperfect, the agreement has so far been successful in its chief aim of curbing the Iranian state’s nuclear ambition.

Addressing the current state of the deal, Mr Burt noted it is unlikely any progress will be made before the result of the US Presidential election in November this year. In his view, the future of agreement will be heavily shaped by the result of the US Presidential election; the - still unclear - consequences of the killing of Qasem Soleimani; and where Iran chooses to see itself in the world.

Following on, Dr Tabrizi highlighted the perspective of the Iranian government, noting Iran’s ongoing commitment to the JCPOA. Dr Tabrizi cautioned against a false perspective that Iran has been withdrawing from the deal because it wishes to pursue a nuclear weapon. In her view, Iran's current actions are instead motivated by the need for leverage and negotiating power. By extension, Dr Tarbizi argued Germany, France and the UK triggered the dispute mechanism out of a desire to create space for negotiation rather than to collapse the deal.

According to Dr Tabrizi, the Iranian government hopes to return to the situation prior to US withdrawal and the re-imposition of sanctions, despite a common understanding that it is extremely unlikely. To this end, the 2019 plan proposed by President Emmanuel Macron remains appealing to Iran; due to the immediate economic incentive it promises and its stipulation for American engagement. Unfortunately, US policy makers continue to believe their campaign of maximum pressure will be successful in bringing Iran to the negotiating table instead. 

Dr Tabrizi closed her remarks by noting the opportunity for the UK to play an important role in bridging the divide between Iran and the US. The event was concluded with an engaging Q&A session amongst all attending and those speaking.

Another United Nations APPG and the APPG on Global Security and Non-Proliferation meeting was held on the 2 March. It provided an opportunity for parliamentarians and civil society to hear more on the challenges facing the 2020 NPT review conference. Professor Daryl Press (Associate Professor of Government, Dartmouth College) offered insight on how technological advancements in remote sensing are undermining the foundations of deterrence. You can read more about the event, chaired by Baroness Faulkner of Margravine, here.

Photo: Houses of Parliament. Credit: Adrian Pingstone