Future of the JCPOA: an Atlantic Council/Iran Project Symposium

Future of the JCPOA: an Atlantic Council/Iran Project Symposium

 By Brad Hanson

Last month we shared information about an upcoming symposium at the Atlantic Council in Washington, DC. Five Iran RPCVs attended that event. Here is Brad Hanson’s report:

This half day symposium at the Atlantic Council’s Washington headquarters took place on January 30, soon after the first anniversary of the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA – the Iran nuclear agreement), focused on answering the question: “Does the Iran Nuclear Deal Help or Harm US Interests in the Middle East?” Key takeaways: Discussants, including diplomats, arms control experts, and keynoter Senator Chris Murphy (D – CT), agreed that all parties – Iran, the US, the Europeans, Russia, and China – had abided by the agreement its first year. The few possible minor infractions or misunderstandings by Iran were all quickly resolved under the agreement to the satisfaction of all parties. Recent public opinion polls in Iran show a growing disillusionment with the agreement as most Iranians have not felt their lives improved economically by the agreement and they blame the US. Most thought the Iranian leaders had oversold the benefits of the agreement for Iran as had some American proponents of the agreement in suggesting it would lead quickly to resolving other problems with Iran, such as support for terrorism, ballistic missile testing, and human rights violations.

The Iran nuclear deal will be a big issue in the upcoming May presidential election in Iran, with hardliners boosted by the recent executive order temporarily banning nationals of Iran from traveling to the US. There was some speculation regarding the Trump Administration’s policy toward the Iran nuclear deal, but no consensus, other than to expect more sanctions to be proposed by the Republican-controlled Congress and Administration against Iran on other issues, such as their testing of ballistic missiles. Some cautioned against reimposing the same sanctions lifted under the nuclear agreement by another name in connection with these other issues, as they would be seen by the Iranians as a violation of the agreement. A European Union diplomat made clear that the EU opposed renegotiating the current agreement. Many discussed a possible follow-on the nuclear agreement with Iran to deal with the period after the sunset clauses take effect. Some diplomats saw regional parties, including Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Iran, with tacit support from Israel, becoming more active in resolving regional security issues themselves.

The symposium was well-attended, including by five Iran RPCVs.  There is more information about this symposium here, and information about the New York-based Iran Project here.