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UK must renegotiate the Iranian nuclear deal

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, known as “the Iran nuclear deal”, was struck in 2015, between Iran and six world powers, the US, UK, Russia, France, China, and Germany. With a low bar set for foreign policy achievements during the eight year Obama presidency, it was hailed as the “signature” foreign policy achievement of the US Administration. The deal essentially lifted economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for limitations to the country’s nuclear energy program. But, this deal has been exposed for what it is – a flawed foreign policy decision – and the UK should support President Trump in new efforts to mitigate the threat posed by Iran.

The US’s withdrawal from the deal should not have come as a surprise. President Trump does not stand alone in his criticism of the deal. A host of detractors claim that it fell short of guaranteeing that Iran could not develop a nuclear bomb, with concerns raised, most notably, by Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, that a strengthened (and financially bolstered) Iran would simply support other extremist countries in their quests for nuclear weapons.

President Obama and his negotiating partners, in their haste to secure a deal and create a legacy for themselves, ignored the loudly-voiced concerns of our key Gulf strategic partners - and Israel - that the deal was so focused on nuclear weapons that it ignored potential Iranian interference and meddling in the region.

Despite the deal, we have witnessed the continued malign influence of Iran, in Iraq and Syria, via attempts to destabilise Bahrain, with continued military support for the Houthi rebels in Yemen and for Hezbollah in Lebanon, as well as a diplomatic standoff with Morocco following Iran’s alleged backing of the Polisario in the Western Sahara. The Iranian Regime’s muscle flexing across the region has created a fog of instability and made the area increasingly dangerous, particularly for minority groups.

Leaving aside this not insignificant meddling across the Middle East, Iran has also committed gross human rights abuses, including against UK citizens. These human rights abuses include abuse of the Baha’i community, Christians and other religious minorities. It should be noted that the UK government does not dispute Iran’s appalling record on human rights issues, with Iran a “human rights priority country” for the UK.

The UK’s exit from the EU provides us with a new opportunity to pursue our own independent foreign policy once again. It is an opportune moment to back the US over the EU in its quest to mitigate the problems posed by Iran and to support the US president should he attempt to renegotiate the deal. President Trump’s recent visit to the UK underscored the special relationship between our two countries, and the government should use this to push for a renegotiated deal with Iran.

Any attempt by Europe’s leaders to salvage the existing settlement wastes precious time to work towards a better agreement. Despite the efforts of the EU to enforce a “blocking statute” to protect businesses against the Trump administration, the reality for most European businesses is that trading with Iran will now incur the wrath of the United States.

The Iranian nuclear deal in its current form is not enough and we should move to engage with the US in order to renegotiate the deal to better reflect the genuine security needs of our Gulf-based partners. This does not mean simply terminating the deal altogether, simply that it needs to be updated to better meet the needs of our allies in the region.

Notably it should be renegotiated to ensure that Iran ceases its attempts to destabilize governments throughout the Middle East by rescinding its support for Hezbollah and adhering to transparency regarding foreign dealings. It should also enforce a ban on Iran developing long-range ballistic missiles, which are integral for carrying nuclear warheads, and therefore fundamental to the successful deployment of a nuclear weapon.

Britain has done more than most to push for greater security in the region, particularly by establishing a permanent naval base in the Gulf of Bahrain. This demonstrates our commitment to ensuring that security in the Gulf is maintained and puts down a tangible marker of our long-term commitment to the region.

Obama famously stated that he had a red line which, if crossed, would lead to repercussions. When the time came, his deeds did not match his words. It is up to the UK and to the US to ensure that we renegotiate the Iranian nuclear deal and guarantee that our red lines are never crossed.
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