MPs demand tough new sanctions on Iran regime as measures to expire within months

Restrictions against Tehran will expire in October unless the government moves quickly to renew them


The government is facing mounting pressure to unveil tough new replacements for the Obama-era sanctions on Iran, many of which are due to expire in October.

UN curbs on the regime’s ballistic missile programme will be lifted, along with separate UK and EU measures targeting the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Iran’s defence ministry, its weapons manufacturers and the universities working on its nuclear weapons programme.

Without urgent new UK and EU sanctions, Iran experts say, the regime will able to supply sophisticated missiles to other hostile states and terror groups and procure high-tech components to build and test new models.

Iran may also be flooded with billions of dollars of unfrozen funds, potentially bankrolling its worldwide network of proxy militias that target Israel and Jews.

The end of the current sanctions regime will be triggered by so-called “sunset clauses” built into the original 2015 deal aimed at restricting Iran’s nuclear programme, which was endorsed by UN Security Council resolution 2231.

Under its terms, both UN sanctions on Iran’s ballistic missiles and UK and EU measures targeting a long list of individuals, government bodies and weapons firms must end on October 18.

UN sanctions on the Iranian conventional weapons industry expired in 2020, since when Iran has sold suicide drones to Russia for use in Ukraine.

British diplomats are involved in negotiations with allies in the US and Europe on renewing the non-UN sanctions, the JC understands.

However, none of the undisclosed proposals have been signed off by Downing Street, and MPs have been left in the dark.

Steve McCabe MP, the chair of Labour Friends of Israel, wrote to Foreign Secretary James
Cleverly on Wednesday, the JC can reveal, warning that the lapse of sanctions would “underwrite the Iranian missile programme at the very moment Tehran is expanding its usage against Ukraine”.

He added that it would “reward the Iranian government while it is engaged in a heightened and systematic campaign of repression and violence against the people of Iran”.

The letter pointed out that the regime has already conducted banned tests and supplied missiles to states including North Korea and terrorist groups in the Middle East. It demanded to know what steps the government is taking with its allies to “forge a joint position concerning the October sanctions expiration deadline”.

A Foreign Office spokesperson declined to comment. One former minister said that, on Iran, “right now, there is no plan”.

As the clock ticks down, alarm is spreading among Iran experts and senior politicians in Britain, the US and Israel about the consequences of the end of sanctions.

Israeli Minister of Intelligence Gila Gamliel, who oversees Mossad, said that allowing the sanctions to expire without an adequate replacement would “threaten global security and the Iranian people themselves”.

She added that if the world fails to reimpose tough sanctions, it will “trigger waves of global terror and a Middle East nuclear arms race”.

Other senior politicians also warned of the potentially disastrous consequences of allowing the sanctions regime against Iran to weaken.

The Conservative former cabinet minister David Davis MP said: “The current sanctions regime is imperfect, but allowing it to lapse would be a disaster. Iran’s nuclear and missile programs are at a particularly dangerous point, and it is essential that all the democratic states take a grip of this quickly- starting with the UK.”

Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith MP added: “I have long been convinced the Iran deal doesn’t work, and even now the IRGC isn’t fully sanctioned by Britain.

“But lifting sanctions is a great way to make Iran a stronger and even more threatening nation. The government must not allow this to happen.”

Lord Polak, the Tory peer who has led efforts to persuade the government to proscribe the IRGC as a terrorist organisation, said: “Essential security measures that were rightfully implemented are now unravelling. With the expiration of UN Security Council Resolution 2231 and the lifting of sanctions, Iran poses an increasingly significant threat.

“I find it deeply troubling that we in the UK appear to be knowingly stumbling into what could be the most dangerous threat to global security.”

Norman Roule, a CIA veteran who was previously in charge of US security policy on Iran — and helped President Barack Obama negotiate the nuclear deal — said: “We don’t see any major diplomatic initiative to maintain missile restrictions, and it is fair that policymakers be pressed as to why this isn’t happening”.

He added: “No rational western policymaker would believe that the end of UN restrictions on Iran’s missile programs won’t mean a serious threat to global security.

"The consequences would be a direct threat to the security of Europe and the United States, and even more so when one considers Iran’s nuclear programme. It would create a missile threat that would extend from Saudi Arabia to Israel and threaten shipping in a major international trade artery.”

Negotiations on reheating the 2015 nuclear deal are ongoing, with the US now talking directly to Iran, rather than through Britain and the European powers. The likelihood of a deal remains low, with diplomats now hoping for a series of de-escalation understandings.

The “sunset clauses” deadlines to lift the sanctions are set down in the small print of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the deal endorsed by the UN Security Council.

It was undermined when then-US president Donald Trump withdrew the US in 2018. Iran has since forged ahead with its uranium enrichment programme.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has said the regime now has enough material to build five nuclear devices. Neither Britain nor the EU have withdrawn from the original deal and continue to honour the pledges they made under it.

The list of targets for EU and UK sanctions that are set to expire includes the elite Quds Force — responsible for training, equipping and directing Hezbollah and Hamas — the IRGC, missile command, air force, defence ministry and arms firms.

Also on the list are the SharIf University of Technology and the Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran, which are involved in developing nuclear weapons.

As the JC revealed earlier this month, they have collaborated with academics based in Britain on research with potential military applications.

Behnam Ben Taleblu, an Iran expert at Washington’s Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, said that to allow the expiry of the sanctions was “extremely dangerous”.

It would take “about eight minutes for a ballistic missile launched from western Iran to hit Tel Aviv”, he added.

He warned that Iranian missiles could be modified to bring Europe into range.

The existing UN deal includes a “snapback” procedure to renew sanctions. But the US was thwarted in an attempt to deploy the measure in 2020 after Iran broke its promises on uranium enrichment.

Any new UN sanctions would likely be vetoed by China and Russia, allies of the Iranian regime, though they would not be able to veto sanctions put in place by Britain and European countries.

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