Despite their many differences, the members of the European Leadership Network have been united in their support for a diplomatic way out of the Iran nuclear crisis, recognizing its direct link with the security of Europe.
They wholeheartedly backed the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in July 2015. In a statement signed by over 70 ELN members, including former Prime Ministers, Foreign Affairs and Defence Ministers, diplomats and military leaders, the agreement was described as a “sound framework for ending the crisis over the Iranian nuclear program and a foundation for re-integrating Iran into the international community”. The statement urged specific actions to implement the deal by the U.S. Congress, EU countries and Iran.
When the JCPOA found itself under threat due to the actions of President Trump and his administration, the ELN members again rose to the challenge. The September 2017 statement which warned the US against stepping out of the agreement, attracted a record 80 signatures. At the same time, the statement offered the US European cooperation in limiting some of Iran’s activities such as ballistic missile development.
It received a broad media coverage around the world and amplified Europe’s efforts to ensure the future of the JCPOA across the Atlantic.
The ELN statements and actions thus formed a part of a major European diplomatic offensive, which most likely have played a role in the Trump administration’s decision to refrain from recommending to the Congress a simple withdrawal from the deal.
To continue its support of the E3’s and the EU’s efforts, in early January 2018 the ELN took a very senior non-governmental European delegation to Washington DC at a crucial moment in US decision-making to discuss the future of the JCPOA.
The delegation were received and heard with courtesy and attention. They believe their weight, seriousness and arguments resonated privately with US interlocutors. Interlocutors on Capitol Hill asked the ELN to continue to feed in European arguments and material.
Two members of the delegation, Professor Angela Kane (former UN High Commissioner for Disarmament and Arms Control) and Sir Simon Gass (former UK Ambassador to Iran and senior UK official working on the JCPOA), also took part in a press briefing, organised and presided over by Diplomacy Works. Their case usefully reinforced the positions of European governments. Links to some of the resulting media reports can be accessed here.
Feedback from senior governmental contacts described the work of the delegation as a valuable contribution to the official diplomatic initiatives and a worthwhile endeavor whose impact is much appreciated.
The day after the visit ended (12th January), President Trump announced that he was extending the US waiver of nuclear sanctions one last time. This was to give Congress time to agree bi-partisan legislation and to give European Allies a final chance to negotiate not amendments to the JCPOA itself but a “supplemental agreement”. Essential components to address in such an agreement included inspections, break-out, permanence and missiles.
The battle over the JCPOA is far from finished, and the ELN will continue to press for adherence to the deal by all sides, including by direct engagement in Washington DC and in Tehran, and work towards maintaining a unified European approach Iran and the JCPOA.