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.

unscr2231

What is Resolution 2231?

On 20 July 2015, the fifteen members of the UN Security Council unanimously passed Security Council Resolution 2231 (S/RES/2231). This resolution endorses a long-term plan agreed by the international community to provide enhanced international monitoring of Iran’s nuclear program and modifications to Iran’s proliferation-sensitive nuclear activities in exchange for relief from sanctions.

The full text of Resolution 2231 can be accessed here.

The UN also maintains a website dedicated to UNSCR2231. It can be accessed here.

What is the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action?

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is the long-term plan agreed between Iran and China, France, Germany, Russia, the United States, United Kingdom and European Union (known as the P5+1 or E3+3). It contains a detailed set of obligations to be undertaken by Iran and the E3+3 over the next 25 years in order to manage Iran’s nuclear programme, reduce sanctions on Iran, and improve international cooperation between Iran and the E3+3. The JCPOA will also permit Iran to legally purchase equipment for its nuclear programme under what is known as the procurement channel.

The text of the JCPOA can be accessed here.

Who will implement Resolution 2231 and the JCPOA?

Resolution 2231 and the JCPOA place requirements on all parties involved in the negotiations on Iran’s nuclear programme, and indeed on all other nations. Implementation will be monitored by the United Nations Security Council. The European External Action Service will also play a key role in coordinating the implementation of Resolution 2231 and the JCPOA. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will continue to monitor Iran’s obligations under its nuclear safeguards agreement with the IAEA.

Alpha In Depth: Iran’s missile industry

Available now to purchase at the Project Alpha page at the King’s College London e-Store

Iran’s missile industry: A baseline study for non-proliferation efforts after the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and UN Security Council Resolution 2231

The recently finalised negotiations on Iran’s nuclear programme leave Tehran’s missile-related activities a matter of substantial international concern. Under the terms of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231, passed on 20 July 2015, international restrictions on Iran’s missile activities and procurement will remain in place for the next eight years. Various UN, European Union and United States sanctions on Iranian missile-related entities will also continue during this time, and most likely beyond.
Continue reading Alpha In Depth: Iran’s missile industry

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?