Dr Majid Rafizadeh is a businessman, board member, president, scholar and political scientist at Harvard University.
As G7 leaders gather in Biarritz this week, the ongoing disagreements over what to do with Iran will be at the top of the agenda. During his visit to the UK last week, national security adviser John Bolton urged British officials to adopt a harder line against Tehran, with the proposed Gulf Maritime Task Force suggesting this may have gained some traction.
The past year has seen European allies contort themselves in attempting to keep the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – i.e. the Iran nuclear deal – alive. Perhaps the penny will finally drop this weekend that not only is that not possible, but that it should no longer be attempted.
The JCPOA was fundamentally flawed from the start. The composition of the negotiating team completely excluded those on Iran’s doorstep, with policy set by governments thousands of miles away, in an approach reminiscent of a bygone colonial era. The funding of violent proxies, in the form of Hezbollah, Hamas and the Houthis was entirely overlooked in a way it never would have been had the Gulf states or Israel been at the table. In fact, the deal freed up extra funds which have flowed to these groups in ever greater volumes.
And what has the result been? A greater propensity for Houthi rocket launches at civilian targets in Saudi Arabia, the deployment of thousands of Hezbollah foot soldiers in Syria, and the constant bombardment of Southern Israel by Iranian funded Hamas rockets. Upon the JCPOA’s agreement, Barack Obama said he was “confident” that the deal would “meet the national security needs of the United States and our allies.'' By this measure alone it has demonstrably failed.
The current situation in the Gulf has seen Tehran actively escalate tensions. The seizing of the UK flagged Stena Impero by the Revolutionary Guard last month is part of a wider effort to blackmail European nations into keeping JCPOA funds flowing, as US sanctions continue to bite. If the Europeans think last weekend’s release of the Gibraltar tanker is going to placate Iran and bring an end to their ramping up of tensions then they’re severely misguided.
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