The new constraints on, and monitoring of, Iran’s nuclear programme could be held as the gold standard for a strengthened non-proliferation regime.

The new American administration arrives at a time of serious threats to the nuclear non-proliferation regime, particularly in East Asia and in the Middle East. The nuclear deal struck with Iran by the previous administration and its partners provides a way forward. The established pattern of constraints on, and monitoring of, Iran’s nuclear programme could be held as the gold standard for the rest of the international community, becoming the basis for a promising new venture. This option is readily available to the United States and the partners with which it negotiated the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA): China, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom (known, with the US, as the P5+1), and the European Union.

For too long, attempts to move ahead in successive five-yearly reviews of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva have led nowhere, becoming preoccupied with relative minutiae. It is time now to get the non-proliferation show on the road again.

Two years ago, the agreement between the P5+1 and Iran averted a crisis which could have brought the whole non-proliferation regime into jeopardy and the Middle East region into conflict. The international community should draw on that agreement and turn its standards into general, global ones, applying them to all countries seeking to enrich uranium or attempting to use plutonium for any purpose.

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David Hannay is a member of the International Relations Committee of the House of Lords, and a former UK ambassador to the European Union and the United Nations.

Thomas R. Pickering is a former US under secretary of state for political affairs, and former ambassador to Russia, India, the UN and Israel.

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Survival: Global Politics and Strategy

April–May 2017

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