Statement by the President of the Luxembourg Forum Viatcheslav Kantor at the online conference “The New Iranian Crisis: Ending Escalation”

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Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished colleagues!

I thank you all for taking part in our online conference, despite the difficulties posed by different time zones. And a special thanks, of course, to the members of the Forum’s Supervisory Council Bill Perry, Rose Gottemoeller, Sergio Duarte, Bill Potter.

You know the topic of the conference. You are also well aware of the chaotic situation in the Middle East, where the interests and actions of almost all the states in the region, as well of a number of great powers, are intertwined. The situation in Syria, the confrontation and hostilities in Libya, the long war between Saudi Arabia and Yemen, intensifying clashes between Israel and Palestine, which Iran supports – these are entangled issues and discussing any one of them separately would be nonsensical. Old disagreements, as well as new, constantly emerging ones, prevent us from even drawing close to rational solutions that would be acceptable to all the main stakeholders.

This backdrop has overshadowed the crisis around the Iran nuclear deal, which risks plunging more than just the region into a spiral of nuclearization. Indeed, the de facto termination of the 2015 JCPOA, which was the culmination of many years of painstaking work by the US, Russia, China, United Kingdom, France and Germany with Iran, has essentially brought the acute crisis surrounding the Iranian nuclear program back to a situation in which Iran is capable of building a nuclear weapon in very little time (in under a year).

Iran is currently breaching one after the other the restrictions and prohibitions established by the JCPOA, and is openly hindering the IAEA’s legitimate activities (the country is raising its enrichment levels, increasing its uranium stockpiles, and denying IAEA inspections access to suspicious sites).

At the same time, it continues to test longer-range missiles and now has a whole range of missile systems capable of striking not only countries in the region but also all of Europe.

At the end of June, and in connection with a U.S. resolution aimed at extending the arms embargo, Iran’s ambassador to the UN, Majid Takht Ravanchi, threatened the United States with grave consequences if the Trump administration were to insist on re-imposing UN sanctions.

France, United Kingdom and Germany said last week that they would not support re-imposing sanctions but called on Tehran to allow access to two classified facilities where nuclear materials may be stockpiled.

The escalation of political tensions and violence in the Middle East is one of the world’s most dangerous regional crises festering against a backdrop of contention between the world’s great powers and of the devastating consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

I consider that urgent measures are needed to de-escalate the crisis in the Middle East. In our resolution, I believe that we should point out that a new Iranian nuclear crisis became possible in 2018 when one of the 5 countries withdrew from the JCPOA, while the other participants of the deal continued to comply with their obligations. European Union countries remain unable to fully meet their obligations under the nuclear deal due to certain contradictions that have arisen.

I consider it would be advisable to recommend that the Trump administration amend its attitude towards the Iranian nuclear issue and that it not prevent other states from complying with all the conditions set out in the JCPOA.

The European participants of the deal could develop economic ways and means to honour their obligations under the JCPOA, especially given that it is Europe that would be most threatened by any further development of Iran’s nuclear program and missile systems.

The leadership of the Islamic Republic must cease its provocative activities and return to strict compliance with all of the JCPOA’s provisions, since all parties but one continue to fulfil their obligations. Otherwise, anti-Iranian sanctions will be expanded, both in terms of their impact and of the number of participants.

I believe that implementing these proposals would allow for a de-escalation of the new Iranian nuclear crisis, which otherwise could well lead to a major war in the Middle East.

The format of our conference requires us to be brief.

Therefore, I thank you for your attention and hand over to Professor Vladimir Dvorkin.