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On 11 April and 30 October 2017, RUSI and the British Council co-hosted two events aimed at discussing the state of Iran–West relations regarding the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Taking advantage of the reopening of Iran–UK relations, these initiatives were significant as they constituted one of the first opportunities since at least 2011 for dialogue, public as well as private, on Iran–West relations between experts in Iran and the UK in London.
The goal was to use the framework of academic collaboration to assess the current state of Iran–West ties, to explore the reasons why expectations of rapprochement and Iran’s reintegration into the international community had not been met, and to lay the groundwork for meaningful and enduring bilateral relations by addressing mutual misconceptions and increasing understanding of the two countries’ respective positions on sensitive issues.
To achieve this, RUSI and the British Council brought together leading Iran- and UK-based scholars familiar with the issues at stake and who are able to provide insights into challenges and opportunities facing the normalisation of ties between Iran and the West.
As part of the programme, two public events were attended by about 200 people from academia, government, the private sector, and research institutions. These public proceedings were followed by two closed-door workshops in which about 30 participants (UK- and Iran-based academics, as well as government officials) discussed the overall topic in greater detail.
The events were timely, particularly considering the election of US President Donald Trump, and characterised by lively and in-depth discussion.
This report summarises the major conclusions and talking points of the events, with a focus mainly on the high hopes raised after the announcement of the JCPOA in terms of economic and political developments between Iran and the West, and the low returns in this respect, especially over the past year. The concluding section summarises how participants envisioned the next stage of bilateral ties and what steps were perceived as helpful to avoid a reversal of the progress made.
Banner image: (From left) RUSI Vice-Chairman Sir John Scarlett, the former chief of the British Secret Intelligence Service; Kayhan Barzegar, Chair, Department of Political Science and International Relations, Islamic Azad University; Seyed Jalal Dehghani Firoozabadi, Allameh Tabatabai University; Michael Axworthy, Senior Lecturer, University of Exeter; Former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw; and Aniseh Bassiri Tabrizi