Daniel Kawczynki is MP for Shrewsbury and Atcham.
In 2015, a nuclear deal was struck between Iran and six world powers – the US, UK, Russia, France, China, and Germany – and has since been called the signature foreign policy achievement of the eight year Obama Presidency. This is unsurprising, given the notable lack of foreign policy achievements under Barack Obama’s tenure as President and Hillary Clinton’s as Secretary of State. The deal essentially lifted economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for limitations to the country’s nuclear energy programme.
Unsurprisingly, the Iranian nuclear deal was not without its detractors, who claimed that it fell short of guaranteeing that Iran could not develop a nuclear bomb, and concerns were also raised, most notably by Benjamin Netanyahu, that a strengthened (and financially bolstered) Iran would simply support other extremist countries in their quests for nuclear weapons.
As we pull out of the EU, we will regain our ability to pursue our own independent foreign policy, and this presents the perfect opportunity to back the US over the EU in regard to improving the situation with Iran in the Middle East.
The new President of the United States is a vocal critic of the nuclear Iran deal secured by his predecessor in conjunction with the EU’s representative Cathy Ashton. In light of this, we need to assess why Donald Trump has announced an end to American support for the deal, and evaluate how we can support him should he attempt to renegotiate the settlement.
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 in the region.
In recent years, we have witnessed Iran meddling in Iraq and Syria, attempting to destabilise Bahrain, providing economic and military support for the Houthi rebels in Yemen and continuing its support for Hezbollah in Lebanon. This aggressive behaviour has contributed to the area becoming highly unstable and increasingly dangerous, particularly for the numerous minorities who live there.
If these examples weren’t sufficient, it was recently revealed that Morocco has broken off diplomatic relations with Iran, following the alleged Iranian backing of the Polisario in the Western Sahara.
Trump’s upcoming visit to the UK is the perfect opportunity to showcase a new and improved relationship between our two nations and to push forward for a renegotiated deal as a united front.
The agreement with Iran must be updated to take into account the growing concerns of our many strategic partners in the region. Notably, it should be renegotiated to ensure that Iran ceases its attempts to destabilise governments throughout the Middle East by rescinding its support for Hezbollah and adhering to transparency regarding foreign dealings.
Britain has done more than most to push for greater security in the region, most notably by establishing a permanent naval base in the Gulf of Bahrain. This is important in demonstrating our commitment to ensuring that security in the Gulf is maintained and it is a practical demonstration to our allies of our long term commitment to the region.
The Iranian nuclear deal in its current form is not enough, and we should move to engage with America 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 affirming that it needs to be updated to better meet the needs of our allies in the region.
Obama famously stated that he had a red line which, if crossed, would lead to repercussions but, when the time came, his deeds did not match his words. It is up to the UK and to America’s President to ensure that we renegotiate the Iranian nuclear deal and guarantee that our red lines are never crossed.