Fate of Iran nuclear deal hinges on US election, says Raab

07 October 2020

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA) is unlikely to be improved or replaced before the US president is sworn in early next year, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said yesterday. Raab was responding to questions from the House of Commons foreign affairs select committee in a session held to discuss the work of the newly merged Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office.

Dominic Raab speaking to the foreign affairs select committee yesterday

Raab said the agreement was not designed to encompass "the wider destabilising activities" of Iran in the MIddle East region.

"We've always been open and willing, and indeed pressing, to try and incorporate a bigger agreement. Until we've got scope for that wider agreement, the JCPoA is what we've got. It provides a vehicle for some kind of restraint on Iran although I accept that it has been eroded because of systemic non-compliance and we'd be reluctant to move to something bigger until it is in place."

The E3 - France, Germany and the UK - triggered the JCPoA's dispute resolution mechanism in January, following Iran's further steps away from its commitments. In June, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) adopted a resolution calling on Iran to cooperate fully in implementing its NPT Safeguards Agreement and Additional Protocol. In August, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi held talks with Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran, as well as with President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, on access for IAEA inspectors to the country's nuclear sites.

Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the foreign affairs select committee, asked Raab: "If there have been significant violations of the JCPoA, why do we not declare it dead?"

The foreign secretary replied: "Let's face it, on all sides people are waiting to see what happens in November, in the US elections, but we think the JCPoA does provide at least a structure for addressing Iran’s non-compliance. The E3, which we very much pushed, has triggered the dispute resolution mechanism. We’re proceeding through that process and we envisage holding meetings at the ministerial level as well. What we want, is to try and prevent any further deterioration."

He added: "I'm not sure there's any sense in declaring the JCPoA 'dead' and junking it in advance of something better to put in its place, but that is basically a strategic question. I think after the election, not least because Tehran is waiting to see what happens, there will be further opportunities."


Grossi's visit to Tehran followed the US Administration's request to the UN Security Council to initiate the 'snapback' mechanism of the Iran nuclear deal. This mechanism allows a party to the agreement to seek the re-imposition against Iran of the multilateral sanctions lifted in 2015 in accordance with resolution 2231.

Raab said the E3 has not ruled out using the snapback itself, but that the USA "cannot avail itself” of this mechanism if it is no longer part of the JCPoA.

Tugendhat noted that the USA disputes that claim "on the grounds that they are cited" in the initial UN Security Council resolution.

Raab said: "I am fully conversant with the US position, but I have to say that none of the other UNSC members accepted that, with the exception of the Dominican Republic, and I think it's challenging ... I think there is always going to be a point at which we have to accept that the JCPoA has been left not just [as] a shell but unsalvageable."

He added: "I don't think we’re there yet and we need to try and contain the situation, prevent any further deterioration between now and early in the New Year, when we hope there will be more focus from Tehran as a result of the US elections having passed."

"Initiatives" to bring stability to the region, for example by the USA and by France, "can provide a model", he said, "to lift the ambitions of the JCPoA and address some of the defects".

"It's not a perfect deal and I don’t think anyone described it as a perfect deal, but as I’ve argued consistently, until we've got something better, I don’t think we should junk it. There are other different permutations, but a lot of that groundwork is there. What's required is the political will from Tehran that it wants to make the choice to improve its standing in the world and, frankly, the lives of its citizens."

The House of Commons foreign affairs select committee session was broadcast live.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News