Why UK-US Divide on Iranian Nuclear Deal Matters

As expected, Trump has hit back at the European defense of the JCPOA. Tweeting shortly after the Oct. 13 joint statement issued by Britain, France and Germany, the president accused the supporting parties of the nuclear deal of “making lots of money on trade with Iran.” Contrary to Trump’s claim, however, major trade deals between Britain and Iran have been few and far between. This is primarily because, despite the lifting of international sanctions, major banks are still reluctant to handle Iran-related transactions. In July, Parliament member Richard Bacon, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Iran, told me that senior officials at the Bank of England had made it clear to him that “at present, no major Western bank seeks to facilitate trade with Iran due to primary US sanctions that still remain in place.”

Moreover, in late October, former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw underlined to me that “virtually none of the Department for International Trade’s 500 million pound line of credit for Iran has been used, almost certainly due to US pressure on the banks.”

The absence of banking facilities has prevented Iran from enjoying the full benefits of sanctions relief in the way agreed to under the terms of the JCPOA. Therefore, as Straw says, while there is “not a shred of evidence” that Iran is not implementing its side of the deal — as confirmed by the IAEA — it is the West that is failing to implement its side of the bargain by not providing adequate banking provisions to facilitate trade with Iran. This argument is beginning to gain resonance in both Westminster and among frustrated city businesses, which view Iran as a key target economy.

Beyond this point, however, the lack of trade between the UK and Iran since the JCPOA proves that contrary to Trump’s assertion, Britain’s defense of the nuclear deal is not about economic interest; rather, it is grounded in principle.

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