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Better Together: Brexit, the E3, and the Future of Europe’s Approach towards Iran

Aniseh Bassiri Tabrizi, Thierry Coville, David Ramin Jalilvand
Other Publications, 18 April 2018
International Security Studies, Europe
The paper provides insights into what London, Paris and Berlin think about the prospects of survival of the E3 format in light of Brexit; it also explored their views as to what the future of Europe’s approach towards Iran and the nuclear deal will be moving forward.

Executive Summary

  • The E3 – comprising France, Germany, and the UK – has become a cornerstone of international diplomacy towards Iran. In 2003, the E3 initiated negotiations with Tehran to address the crisis over the Iranian nuclear issue, and was subsequently joined by the EU, as well as world powers China, Russia, and the US (altogether forming the E3/ EU+3). After years of nuclear diplomacy and international sanctions, the Iran nuclear deal – the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – was concluded in July 2015. The E3 enabled the EU to play a fundamental role in a major political issue, thus also triggering the support for the initiative by non-E3 countries within the EU.
  • From the European point of view, the JCPOA marked a constructive solution to the international stand-off over Iran’s nuclear programme. However, the change in the US presidency from Obama to Trump, who is an emphatic opponent of the nuclear deal, has made matters dramatically more complicated. In January 2018, the US presented Europe with an ultimatum to »fix« what Washington considers to be the JCPOA’s flaws. In March, the US Secretary of State and the National Security Advisor were replaced by known Iran hawks. Complicating matters even more, the E3 will also need to take into account Brexit’s implications for the format.
  • Remarkably, there is a strong consensus that the E3 format shall and will be maintained, regardless of Brexit. Seeking to convince the US that the deal is advancing political stability in the Middle East, Europe considers transatlantic co-operation to be vital – both to ensure the survival and full implementation of the deal. Europe maintains that meaningful progress can be realised most effectively through dialogue with Iran. To address concerns outside the JCPOA, the E3 plus Italy entered into a 'Structured Dialogue' with Iran in January.

Author

Dr Aniseh Bassiri Tabrizi
Research Fellow

Aniseh Bassiri Tabrizi is a Research Fellow at RUSI and a Visiting Fellow at War Studies, King's College London. Her research is... read more

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