NATO Allies urged to develop inclusive approach to Iran

12 October 2019

London, 12 October 2019 – Despite differences in tactics, the United States and its European allies have shared objectives in containing Iran’s nuclear and regional destabilisation and should develop an inclusive approach to dealing with Tehran, the NATO Parliamentary Assembly heard on Saturday.

Michael Singh, Managing Director and Senior Fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told lawmakers attending the NATO PA’s Annual Session that coherent and unified objects would serve the United States and its Allies well: “We want to limit Iran’s nuclear capability […] We also want to limit and counter Iran’s development and proliferation of missiles … and perhaps contain and counter Iran’s destabilising and opportunistic regional activities.”

Singh contended that a combination of “maximum pressure” on Iran through sanctions pursued by Washington and the dialogue preferred by European Allies was needed to produce a successful Iran policy. 

Iran and tensions in the Persian Gulf were debated on the second day of the four-day Assembly session held this year in London. 

Sanam Vakil, Senior Research Fellow at Chatham House, warned that Iran had shifted to a more confrontational approach in recent months, with the aim of fracturing Western unity. 

“Iran has a goal of dividing America’s allies, splitting up the impact of maximum pressure,” she told the Assembly’s Political Committee. “From the Iranian perspective … a shift to a confrontational approach was necessary to elevate the pressing issue of Iran and to put pressure, not just on Europe in order to respond and address this crisis, but also to put pressure on President Trump’s partners in the region.”

Vakil also called for a more unified approach to push for talks with Tehran which could lead to a revised deal to limit Iran’s nuclear ambitions. “What is very much needed is multinational negotiations with the Islamic Republic,” she said.

Singh added that a more active regional policy by the United States and other Western players is essential to fill power vacuums into which Iran has been able to insert itself to extend its destabilising influence, for example in Syria, Yemen, and Iraq.

“We can’t view this Iran issue in isolation […] Iran is acting opportunistically, is acting often in vacuums that we, the United States, we the West, as well our regional partners have left open,” he told the NATO PA’s Defence and Security Committee.

“A more coherent, a more robust, a far more active and engaged Middle East policy from the United States as well as from NATO and our Allies and partners here is absolutely crucial, if we are going to deny Iran those opportunities,” Singh added. “Without that step, in particular, there really is no succeeding in this issue.”

Vakil warned that high levels of regional tension would continue and increase without stepped-up international engagement.

“This is going to remain at high levels of insecurity, high levels of competition among both sides of the Gulf. This is where NATO and Europe, in particular, can take the lead in trying to shepherd a regional security framework,” she said. “Managing regional tensions is not just about managing Iran, but also managing intra-Arab Gulf tensions as well.”

Photos of this session are public and can be found on the NATO PA Flickr account.

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