Is the Crisis Group involved in "strengthening" JCPOA?

June 27, 2021 - 12:45

TEHRAN — After the Tehran Times wrote an article about the appointment of the new UK ambassador to Iran titled “The curious case of new UK ambassador to Iran,” the Crisis Group reacted to it.

Ali Vaez, Director of the Iran Project at the Crisis group, took a hasty position. The Tehran Times contacted him. 

It all began when Vaez posted a screenshot of the aforementioned report from the Tehran Times website on Twitter, tweeting, “A crack investigative unit reporting that @CrisisGroup may be conspiring with the Queen of England to undermine the JCPOA. Big if true,” with a smiley face. He also tweeted in Farsi, saying, “According to a report by @TehranTimes79, the Crisis Group is collaborating with the Queen of England to prevent the revival of the JCPOA. :))). JCPOA has become worthy!!!”

The author of the article contacted Vaez, asking for explanations instead of such remarks. The author said that he is more than happy to retract, if Vaez has any explanations. Vaez agreed to hold an interview with the Tehran Times in regard to the article. Vaez stated that the Tehran Times has written “conspiracy theories” about the Crisis Group with a possible collaboration with the Queen of England to undermine negotiations about the JCPOA. The Tehran Times political journalist enlightened Vaez that in no part of the article there is a mention of a possible collaboration between the Crisis Group and the Queen of England. This is purely Mr. Vaez’s interpretation. 

The Tehran Times emailed its questions to Vaez and he answered them.

Here is the question:

Question: Under Trump, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson explicitly called for the JCPOA to be replaced by a "Trump deal." Following Biden's inauguration, the German foreign minister, in an interview with Der Spiegel magazine, explicitly stated that the nuclear deal was not enough and should be expanded. France has taken a similar position. The Biden administration has also raised the issue of "prolonging and strengthening" the JCPOA. In the Vienna talks, the United States is seeking a commitment from Iran to continue negotiations after the revival of the JCPOA. Meanwhile, Britain has sent a new ambassador to Iran who is following you and other members of the Crisis Group on Twitter, the same think tank whose former head, Robert Malley, is now leading the U.S. negotiating team in Vienna. Do you think the change of the British ambassador to Iran has anything to do with the "stronger and longer" deal? What is the position of the Crisis Group think tank in this regard? Does it support the goal of the U.S. stated goal of strengthening the JCPOA?

Here is how Ali Vaez answered the question: 

Answer: “It's correct to assert that the U.S. under the Biden administration, as well as the three European powers involved in the JCPOA negotiations (the UK, France and Germany, or E3) have all publicly indicated that they want to restore the 2015 nuclear deal as an immediate priority, on the basis of mutual compliance, and then build on the agreement to discuss with Iran issues beyond the nuclear-specific file. What is unclear is why Iran doesn’t see an interest in engaging in such talks. Iran was not satisfied with sanctions relief under the JCPOA when it was fully implemented in 2016. It is now demanding compensation for the effects of maximum pressure, seeks access to US dollar, and needs guarantees that the US will not renege on the agreement again. These could all be discussed in a follow-on negotiation that Iran needs but rejects. Also, the experience of the past few years have clearly demonstrated that a narrow transactional deal will not survive in the broader context of enmity between Iran and the West. So refusing to discuss and resolve disagreements is nothing but a refusal to learn from the mistakes of the past while expecting different results. 

I have no insights to offer on whether the appointment of the new British ambassador has anything to do with the negotiations, or whether it is, as is norm in foreign ministries around the world, a matter of rotating diplomats as their postings come to an end. The UK Embassy in Tehran, or the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) would be best placed to address your query. The fact that he follows us on Twitter does not mean we have an institutional relationship or necessarily agree on all policy positions. As the world’s most prominent conflict prevention organization, many diplomats and experts follow Crisis Group’s work and analysis. Reading too much into social media connections could be misleading.

As for Crisis Group - as an organization, we have been following the nuclear issue for nearly two decades. In that time, we have endeavored to engage with all of the key stakeholders to the extent possible as part of our mandate to prevent violent and deadly conflict. That resulted in numerous papers, briefings, articles and interviews that are publicly available and trace the negotiations that led in 2015 to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA); since then we have issued annual reports assessing its implementation and continued to track the issue closely. 

It should be clear from this body of research and analysis that our position has been, and continues to be, that a fully-functioning agreement remains the best available framework for Iran and, the U.S. and P4+1 to address the nuclear issue. We have written, too, that areas of tension go beyond the question of non-proliferation. To that end, I would hope that, be it with respect to U.S.-Iran relations or regional dynamics, constructive engagement that delivers better-for-better understandings for all sides is the path of choice instead of animosity and tension that benefits none.”

Dodging question 

Vaez’s answers are published without any change. However, has dodged our question about the role of the Crisis Group in the negotiations, weighing in on the necessity to make a comprehensive pact that goes beyond transactional deals.

However, there are serious doubts over the connections between Simon Shercliff, the new UK ambassador to Iran, and the members of the Crisis Group, regardless of what Mr. Vaez may believe. 
 

SA/PA

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