Beyond compliance: Iran and the JCPOA


Iran’s destabilising actions since 2015 have undermined any hope that the country has changed course. That’s the conclusion of “Beyond Compliance- Iran and the JCPOA“, a new report by The Henry Jackson Society to coincide with the two-year anniversary of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), known as the Iran nuclear deal. The report reveals: How Iran has used the relaxation of the UN arms embargo to acquire and develop missile defences, which it has used to better defend its enrichment sites – demonstrating that protecting its nuclear programme remains its primary political priority.

The first two years of the JCPOA have undermined hopes that the agreement would facilitate Iran’s adoption of a more moderate international posture. Renewed access to oil wealth has enabled the country to adopt a much more assertive approach towards the region. Iran has used the two years of the JCPOA era to greatly expand its ballistic missile capability and engage in regular testing. It has provided extensive support to proxy militant groups in its region, most notably in Iraq and Syria where it has formalised Shi’a militias into Popular Mobilisation Units (PMU). These actions have deepened the hostility that characterises Iran’s relationship with Gulf Arab states. Tehran has taken steps to profit from a relaxation of restrictions, resuming oil sales to international customers. However, foreign direct investment has been inhibited by the threat of “snapback” sanctions, and the continued insistence upon a protectionist “Resistance Economy” by the Iranian Supreme Leader.

A combination of the Trump administration’s election and Iran’s own actions have undermined the likelihood that Tehran and Washington will engage in the kind of meaningful rapprochement envisioned by supporters of the agreement. The report offers a number of recommendations, including: Adopting an appropriate sanctions policy in readiness for the UK’s departure from the European Union, and working behind the scenes to prevent American and European approaches from diverging. New policies to balance the desirability of Iran’s continued compliance with the JCPOA with the need to launch initiatives that discourage Iran from returning to nuclear enrichment in the future.

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