Why UK-US Divide on Iranian Nuclear Deal Matters

With all this in mind, the UK’s support for the JCPOA should not go unnoticed — not least by Iran’s leaders. Iranian hard-liners often blame the failure of the 2003-2005 nuclear talks between Iran and the EU3 on Britain’s reluctance to diverge from then-US President George W. Bush’s hawkish position on Tehran. This may be unfair, but at least Iran should acknowledge that now the UK has not only split with the US position but is also proactively challenging it.

Sir Peter Westmacott, former British ambassador to the United States, told me late last month that British diplomats were again lobbying Congress to dissuade it from reimposing nuclear sanctions on Tehran, which would de facto kill the JCPOA; the diplomats are doing so just as the six world powers that negotiated the deal with Iran did two years ago when there were strong moves on Capitol Hill — encouraged by the Israeli government — to strangle the deal at birth. Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson also traveled to Capitol Hill on Nov. 8, where he urged congressional Republicans to stick to the agreement. Johnson is now preparing to visit Tehran to discuss the release of a dual citizen imprisoned in Iran. While there, it is likely that he will reiterate the UK’s commitment to the nuclear deal.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has frequently referred to the nuclear agreement as a test to see if Iran can trust the West. And while it is true that the Trump administration has broken this trust, Britain, France and Germany have kept to their word. Given the nature of the special relationship between the UK and the United States, however, it is London more so than Paris and Berlin that could prove essential in determining the fate of the JCPOA.

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