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Co-operation on regional and global issues

32 - Relations with the US on Iran and weapons proliferation

Grade: A
Unity 4/5
Resources 5/5
Outcome 9/10
Total 18/20
Scorecard 2012: A- (16/20)

The E3+3 successfully negotiated an interim deal with Iran on its nuclear programme and are negotiating a final comprehensive agreement.

The negotiation of an interim deal between the E3+3 and Iran in November 2013 was a significant accomplishment for US foreign policy and the EU gave it very important support. The EU championed the E3+3 process as a diplomatic alternative to war and it was chaired by High Representative Catherine Ashton. Although the negotiations had been ongoing for some time, the unexpected election of President Hassan Rouhani in August gave them a major boost. Rouhani’s election and his policies vindicated the US and EU’s approach of tough sanctions with negotiations.

The US shared Europe’s assessment that Rouhani’s election provided a rare opportunity to agree an interim deal and deepened its engagement. While welcoming direct talks between the US and Iran, the EU3 were also keen that the process not become a purely bilateral affair. France was the most forthright in this regard and took a harder line on the terms of an interim deal. The differences between France and the US bubbled to the surface in November 2013. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius insisted that Iran should halt construction of the Arak plutonium facility, which led to a short delay in the negotiations in November. But although several media reports indicated that Washington was frustrated with Fabius, the Obama administration quickly adopted the French position as its own.

The interim deal provides for a six-month suspension of Iranian nuclear activity in exchange for some sanctions relief and negotiations for a final and comprehensive agreement. But although the interim deal was an achievement in itself, the next phase will be much more difficult. It is not clear if the E3+3 will remain united, especially if an imperfect deal is the only one on offer. If the negotiations fail, there is also the question of whether the sanctions relief already offered will be reversed or extended, thus making the interim deal permanent.