Should Britain help save the Iran nuclear deal?

UK support for the 2015 deal is wavering after the execution of a British-Iranian dual citizen

Iran mural
The West is in a dilemma over how to deal with Iran’s nuclear threat
(Image credit: Atta Kenare/AFP via Getty Images)

Western powers are considering their options to prevent Iran from expanding its nuclear programme as relations with the Islamic Republic reach a new low.

Tehran’s repressive protest crackdown, executions and support for Russia has tested international leaders, but the US and Europe are “keeping the door open to diplomacy” in order to “save what is left” of the nuclear deal signed in 2015, said the Financial Times.

There is a fear among world powers that there are “no credible alternatives to the accord”, leaving them grappling with the risk of “triggering a broader crisis by ending all avenues of diplomacy” while not wanting to “engage with Iran while it sells drones to Moscow and uses repression to crush civil unrest at home”.

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UK support in the balance

Britain is “reconsidering its support” for the nuclear deal following the execution of a British-Iranian dual citizen earlier this month, said The Times. The former deputy defence minister of Iran, Alireza Akbari, was hanged by the Iranian government on charges of espionage on behalf of MI6, a charge he denied.

While sanctions from the UK against senior Iranian officials followed, Foreign Affairs Select Committee chair Alicia Kearns told the paper that the government is now “reappraising everything” in terms of Iran including the nuclear deal. She added that the “deal hasn’t worked” and hasn’t “significantly stopped Iran pursuing its nuclear ambitions”.

The UK is also deliberating whether it designates the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC) a terrorist group, a move that would “risk a severing of diplomatic ties”, said the FT.

It would make it “even harder to revive the ailing international talks” aimed at saving the nuclear deal, said the BBC.

‘Britain should have nothing to do with it’

The nuclear deal was a “terrible idea even when Barack Obama cooked it up” in 2015, said The Telegraph. Attempting to revive it after Donald Trump ditched it was “dangerously stupid” and Britain “should have nothing to do with it”.

It is “good news” that “the UK is clearly much cooler on the deal now than it used to be” and the West should apply to Iran the “same energy and unity that has been applied to containing Putin”, said the paper in an editorial.

A revival of the deal would also be seen as a “gross betrayal” by those protesting in Iran, and it would pave the way for the regime to “make billions of dollars in oil exports”, said Patrick Wintour, diplomatic editor of The Guardian.

However, even if resurrecting the 2015 deal seems “out of reach”, diplomacy remains the “most effective pathway forward”, said Ellie Geranmayeh in The Washington Post. Without change “the world is headed inexorably for a new nuclear crisis” and Western powers need “to find a way to contain Iran’s nuclear threat before it becomes a broader crisis”.

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Richard Windsor is a freelance writer for The Week Digital. He began his journalism career writing about politics and sport while studying at the University of Southampton. He then worked across various football publications before specialising in cycling for almost nine years, covering major races including the Tour de France and interviewing some of the sport’s top riders. He led Cycling Weekly’s digital platforms as editor for seven of those years, helping to transform the publication into the UK’s largest cycling website. He now works as a freelance writer, editor and consultant.