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Cooperation on regional and global issues

20 - Relations with the US on Iran and weapons proliferation

Grade: A-
Unity 5/5
Resources 5/5
Outcome 7/10
Total 17/20
Scorecard 2012: A- (16/20)
Scorecard 2013: A- (17/20)
Scorecard 2014: A (18/20)

Europe and the US continued to cooperate in the Iran negotiations but actions by the US Congress threaten to complicate talks in 2015.

After a year of intensive negotiations, the E3+3 and Iran were unable to reach a comprehensive agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme and instead extended the 2013 interim agreement (the JPoA) for seven months until 30 June 2015. Although an agreement has not been reached, the JPoA continues to freeze Iran’s nuclear programme and the agreement on its extension places additional constraints upon Iran, including unannounced inspections for centrifuge production facilities.

There was little substantive daylight between the EU and the Obama administration on the talks in 2014. Both had similar assessments of what constituted a good deal and remained unified throughout the negotiations. It appeared that the Obama administration would have been willing to support an agreement if it could have been reached, despite vigorous opposition from the Republican Party and from US allies in the Middle East. President Obama wrote to Iran’s Supreme Leader in advance of the deadline. As it turned out, Iran was not willing to make the necessary compromises.

There was some speculation in the US that the Obama administration would seek Iran’s assistance in the fight against ISIS but the White House denied it would coordinate its efforts with Iran. More generally, US officials believed that linking other issues to the nuclear talks would be counterproductive, as Iran would see its help as something to be exchanged for concessions in the negotiations. However, the apparent intention of the Republican Party to impose additional sanctions on Iran has the potential to derail the negotiations and cause the JPoA to collapse. If an agreement is reached, the Republican-controlled Congress could also cause a deal to unravel after it is agreed by the Obama administration. Finally, if the Obama administration concludes that the necessary compromises on both sides are unachievable, the EU and the US may well differ on how to handle the aftermath.