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Report | 28 June 2023

Workshop report: Track 1.5 Dialogue on Iran, the JCPOA and future scenarios

In April 2023, the European Leadership Network (ELN), with support from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF), convened a Track 1.5 Dialogue at Chatham House in London that brought together a wide range of European, American, Asian and Iranian experts, as well as current and former diplomats, to assess the dimensions of three possible scenarios in the event that the JCPOA cannot be revived: resumption of nuclear negotiations, building regional solutions, and regional conflict.

The workshop report, by ELN Senior Associate Fellow, Roxane Farmanfarmaian, captures the core highlights from the report. The workshop’s findings differed from those from a similar gathering held six months ago, indicating that the situation both in the region and globally has moved on in material and symbolic ways. In particular:

  • The original JCPOA is unlikely to survive as drivers for the different players
    have evolved. Priorities in the West and Iran have changed, regional détente in
    the Gulf has grown, and the perception that the world is becoming more
    multipolar is encouraging rising powers to be more active in the region. A new
    approach to nuclear diplomacy is now needed that addresses different
    questions and incentives, including regional collective security.
    Iran is now seen by many as a threshold nuclear-weapon state. This is a major
    strategic setback for the P5+1 negotiators, especially the European states
    who have done the most to try to restore the JCPOA in recent years. The rise
    in Iran’s nuclear capabilities adds to a wider set of pressures on the global
    non-proliferation regime.
  • New dialogues between Iran and Western negotiators, between Iran and its
    Gulf neighbours, and between Iran and China are opening opportunities for
    alternative solutions to regional security dilemmas. Moreover, neither the US
    nor Iran are yet prepared to take the blame for killing the JCPOA, and it has
    been confirmed that indirect talks between the two have resumed.
    In the interim, the JCPOA provides a useful reference point while talks
  • The red lines that would trigger conflict between Israel and Iran appear to be
    clear: Iran cannot breach the 90 per cent enrichment threshold, nor supply
    arms directly to Hezbollah through Syria, and Israel cannot use either Saudi
    Arabian or Azerbaijani airspace to mount an attack on Iran.
    Although a shadow war between Israel and Iran has grown in intensity, with
    clearly stated US support for Israel’s actions, neither side currently sees
    outright benefit in crossing the line into open conventional warfare.

Read the full workshop report here.

The opinions articulated above represent the views of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of the European Leadership Network or any of its members. The ELN’s aim is to encourage debates that will help develop Europe’s capacity to address the pressing foreign, defence, and security policy challenges of our time.

Image: Flickr, U.S. State Department