This is a summary of an event with Dr Liam Fox, chaired by Henry Jackson Society Research Fellow Tom Wilson, on 20th July 2015. It reflects the views expressed by the speaker and not those of the Henry Jackson Society or its staff.
On July 20th 2015, Dr Liam Fox discussed the potential impact of the nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1 powers. As well as scrutinising whether or not the deal adequately addresses the concerns and expectations of the international community, Dr Liam Fox also gave consideration to the strengths and weaknesses of the West’s broader Iran strategy, in respect of Western engagement in the Middle East and Iran’s role in the war on the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
The Nuclear Deal
- The limitation of Iran’s nuclear goals is crucial. Iran’s cessation of their nuclear weapons programme is essential for the region and the wider world.
- There are too many risks and too much uncertainty in the nuclear deal, for which there is a bizarre structure for verification in place. The access to the sites is not as “unrestricted and unfettered” and therein lies the core risk.
- Whilst there are economic advantages with working with Iran, such as the increase in their oil and gas production, they’re not worth the gamble when there are only “potential” prizes involved.
- The White House was influenced by the idea of an Obama legacy in the region. It was a large part of the calculation and whether or not it turns out to be a good legacy, remains to be seen.
The alternative to a deal
- The alternative to the deal signed was not a war. The argument that it was either an agreement or war is “utterly false”.
- An alternative to the deal was the maintenance of sanctions, which we should have continued. Then Iran could be told to come back with a serious offer – the Iranians only came to the negotiating table in the first place because of the impact the sanctions had on them.
- Iran has not earned our trust but rather deceived and lied to Western and international officials. When the time limit runs out in ten years’ time, Iran, with their increased revenue, may no longer stick to the principles of the current agreement.
- It is difficult to believe that none of the unfrozen money will find its way into Iran’s proxies. The funding of Hezbollah and Hamas will certainly continue.
- Khamenei is one of the most consistent politicians in his hatred towards America and Israel. As for reform in Iran, there is not going to be any as long as Khamenei is there; Rouhani does not call the shots in Iran.
- We should have supported the Green movement during street protests in 2009 and beyond. Our abandonment of the Green movement was shameful and a low point of Western political morality.
- Britain played a very straight role in the nuclear deal. There is a worry that while Britain will still be talking about the agreement itself, Paris and Berlin will take advantage and sign contracts with companies in Tehran.
- Rational analysis, rather than wishing thinking, is now needed from Britain in their approach towards Iran. Wishful thinking is potentially a “catastrophic” security policy.
- Allies’ lack of willingness to combat Islamic State effectively is a concern. Countries in the region need to understand their security is largely their business and cannot expect to constantly rely on Britain for support.