Category Archives: Iran

Putin, Trump and the JCPOA

By Ian K. Bolton, Research Associate Interdictions and PSI (ian.bolton@kcl.ac.uk) and Alexandra V. Dzero, Associate Sanctions and Illicit Trade (Alexandra.dzero@kcl.ac.uk).

The counter-proliferation world holds its breath just near two weeks on from the inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th US President. What has been of key concern is the future of the Iran deal – the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). During his presidential campaign Donald Trump stated several times that if he became president he would rip up the deal which he stated was “one of the dumbest deals ever”. However, despite the raft of Executive Orders issued by President Trump so far, there has been no action on Iran so far. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remains opposed to the deal and keen to see Trump deliver on his promise. However, Israel’s military, intelligence and foreign services are advocating the deal remain in place but be rigorously enforced. US allies France, Germany and the UK also back the deal. During her US visit, Theresa May has made clear that she understands Iran’s ‘malign influence’ in the world but sees the Iran Deal is vital to regional stability.

One of the key factors in any US reneging on the JCPOA will be the Kremlin, especially if Trump is interested in establishing more positive relations with Russia. Any move by Trump to renege on the deal will almost certainly cause tensions between Washington and the Kremlin. Russia’s President Putin will almost certainly push the US to allow the JCPOA deal to remain in place. For the Kremlin, the JCPOA allows Iran to re-establish itself as a ‘normal’ state, and allows for increased trade and nuclear cooperation. Given their geographic proximity, Russia and Iran have had ongoing relations, both positive and antagonistic, since Tsarist times. In modern years, they have been drawn together by a mutual distrust of the US. Russia’s views Iran as a strategic neighbour, and a key state along its southern periphery with whom it shares mutual interests in energy, security and trade. The Russian defence industry however has been one of the primary beneficiaries of Russian-Iranian relations, selling Iran weaponry and hardware not allowed to be sold by Western states.

Russian trade with Iran has been relatively small – in 2015 amounting to only 1.2bn USD, having declined from around 3.5bn USD since Russia reluctantly joined in with UN mandated sanctions in 2010-2011. However, this is expected to grow substantially. With ongoing sanctions against Moscow and Iran’s gradual opening to trade following the JCPOA, Russian business stakeholders have already begun to scope out the opportunities. Soon after Iranian sanctions were lifted, Lukoil wasted no time in beginning to investigate investments in Iran’s oil and gas sector. Rosatom, the Russian nuclear energy corporation, is looking for new orders to complete after it finishes constructing reactors at Bushehr. The Russian aerospace industry has also become involved, with an alleged agreement for the license-production of Sukhoi Su-30MK fighter variants in Iran’s aerospace factories.

The Kremlin will try to dissuade Trump from ripping up JCPOA and will almost certainly aggressively advocate for the deal to remain in place if Washington insists to renege it. Russia-US relations will be soured significantly if President Trump acts on his statements. If Trump does go ahead with his plans for the deal, Russian pressure will play a key role in preventing the JCPOA’s demise.

Updated: The Iranian Nuclear Procurement Channel: the most complex part of the JCPOA?

Note: this is an update of the article that first appeared on the website of the World Export Control Review. The main changes in this article relate to the adoption of Security Council Resolution 2231, which had not been adopted when the original article was adopted. The main additions of the JCPOA relate to changes in the terms of the existing embargo on Iranian imports of arms and missile technology. Continue reading Updated: The Iranian Nuclear Procurement Channel: the most complex part of the JCPOA?

The case of MCS Technologies – did Iran use a German factory for illicit procurement?

MCS’s factory. Image via MCS-Int.de

Iran’s illicit procurement of goods and technology has been a longstanding hallmark of its nuclear and missile programmes. While procurement agents working for these programmes have regularly been caught attempting to purchase goods and materials from foreign companies, one modus operandi Iran is not known to have undertaken is the purchasing of overseas factories to produce sensitive components for nuclear- or missile-related end-users. Continue reading The case of MCS Technologies – did Iran use a German factory for illicit procurement?

Project Alpha and the Iran Deal

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Image credit: Islamic Republic News Agency

Project Alpha is pleased to make available a wide range of resources on Iran. This includes detailed analysis of the 14 July 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (and its implementation) and analysis of Iranian illicit procurement. It also includes information, guidance and training for companies on trade compliance issues.


Project Alpha’s Work Related to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran (the Iran Deal)

Project Alpha Proliferation Case Study Series:

Other work on Iran:

Project Alpha is a semi-autonomous project in the the Centre for Science and Security Studies at King’s College London. Additional resources on the Iranian nuclear challenge produced by CSSS can be found here.

An Architecture for Controlling Nuclear-related Trade with Iran

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Image credit: Mashregh News

The framework agreement for a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA) reached on 2 April 2015 between Iran and the E3+3 (China, France, Germany, Russia, UK, and US, also known as the P5+1), creates the basis for a solution to the Iran nuclear issue over the next 10-20 years. Continue reading An Architecture for Controlling Nuclear-related Trade with Iran