Why UK-US Divide on Iranian Nuclear Deal Matters

Unable to critique Tehran on the implementation of its commitments under the nuclear deal, Trump has cited Iran’s regional behavior as the primary reason for his decision to decertify that Iranian compliance with the JCPOA meets congressional requirements.

However, the JCPOA relates only to Iran’s nuclear program and nothing else. Under the deal, Tehran agreed to scale back its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of nuclear-related sanctions. The JCPOA is simply irrelevant to other outstanding issues between the West and Iran such as Iran’s regional behavior, missile testing or domestic human rights violations. This explains why sanctions relating to non-nuclear issues remain in place. In an interview with this reporter earlier this year, Sir Simon Gass, the UK lead negotiator during the nuclear talks with Iran and former British ambassador to Iran, strongly emphasized that Tehran’s regional policy was “completely off the table” during the nuclear talks, stressing that the JCPOA was exclusively about Iran’s nuclear program.

Addressing the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Iran on Oct. 24, Middle East Minister Alistair Burt reiterated Gass’ remarks, saying, “The UK never took the view that this was an all-encompassing deal that dealt with every article of disagreement between the UK and Iran.” Speaking in the House Commons, Burt underlined that although the UK shares concern over Iranian behavior in the Middle East, Tehran’s regional policy was “not part of the JCPOA,” adding that the nuclear deal presents an “opportunity” to work on other disagreements with Iran.

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