Over 10 Conservative MPs expressed strong concerns about the P5+1 and Iran’s announcement of the agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme this week, following a statement in the House of Commons by Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond.
In his statement, Foreign Secretary Hammond welcomed the deal, stating: “After more than a decade of tough negotiations we have reached an historic agreement that will impose strict limits and inspections on Iran’s nuclear programme”.
Among MPs to contribute to the discussion following the statement included Former Defence Secretary, Rt. Hon. Dr Liam Fox MP, CFI’s Parliamentary Chairman, Rt. Hon. Sir Eric Pickles MP, Oliver Dowden MP, Bob Blackman MP, Matthew Offord MP, and Nadhim Zahawi MP.
Some of the main concerns raised included: the negative consequence of sanctions relief in boosting Iranian expansionism in the Middle East; the strength of verification mechanisms in place; access given to IAEA inspectors to nuclear facilities in order for verification to be carried out; Iran’s history of clandestine nuclear activity; and the possibility of a nuclear arms race in the region.
Former Defence Secretary, Rt. Hon. Dr Liam Fox MP asserted that “if we are to have confidence in verification [of Iran’s nuclear programme] it must be unfettered and unrestricted”.
Regarding provisions for access to nuclear and military sites by IAEA inspectors, he asked the Foreign Secretary whether he could “guarantee to the House that under this agreement Iran can be forced to grant access to any site that is designated, and how quickly would Iran be forced to do so?”
Dr Fox highlighted further concerns related to the $150 billion dollars of sanctions relief that Iran would receive, stating: “He is right that there are wider potential positive implications for this agreement, but there are also wider potential negative implications. If Iran has sanctions lifted and money pours back into that country, what assurances and guarantees have been sought that it will not simply be used to fund proxies, such as Hamas and Hezbollah, and provide greater instability to the region?”
David Jones MP raised similar concerns regarding Iranian expansionism and “current meddling beyond its borders”, asking the Foreign Secretary: “Given the large amount of resources that will be released to Iran as a consequence of the agreement, will my right hon. Friend tell us what assurances he and his fellow negotiators have received from the Iranians that those resources will not be directed towards further funding for the IRGC’s export of the Iranian revolution?”
CFI Parliamentary Chairman, Rt. Hon. Sir Eric Pickles MP, questioned Foreign Secretary Hammond on the nuclear deal’s plan for a “road map” of verification, asking: “He talked about drawing a line, but we do not have a line yet; we have, in the words of the agreement, a “road map” through which we will arrive at a line. Given Iran’s record of clandestine sites and obfuscation, will he say how we will arrive at that line so as to know exactly what the position is in order that, when verification takes place, we know it is against a position that actually exists?”
The Foreign Secretary stated in response that “the IAEA, which has responsibility for this, has agreed with Iran a road map and set of activities that need to be carried out so that it can publish its final report. We do not know how long that will take—probably six months or so—but there is conditionality here: until that report is published, the sanctions will not be lifted”.
Newly-elected MP for Hertsmere, Oliver Dowden, asked the Foreign Secretary: “Many of my constituents still have concerns about whether this deal will be strictly enforced, in particular in respect of the inspectors’ ease of access to facilities and whether those facilities can easily be switched back. What further reassurances can the Foreign Secretary give the House?”
Mr Hammond: As I said in answer to an earlier question, I am confident that the access regimes are robust and the monitoring regimes—with CCTV cameras, telemetry control and seals on pieces of equipment and so on—will be effective, and the IAEA is assuring me it is confident it can do the job asked of it. All this is of course supplemented by the satellite surveillance capability, which will allow us to see anything that is happening in buildings or on sites targeted for access if there is any delay in achieving that access. I think we can be reasonably confident that overall this regime will work.
MP for Hendon, Dr Matthew Offord asked the Foreign Secretary: “Given the clandestine history of the Iranian nuclear programme, particularly in regard to the Fordow and Natanz facilities, one of which is constructed under a mountain, what reassurance can the Secretary of State give my constituents that Iran will not clandestinely continue to seek a bomb?”
Dr Julian Lewis MP also questioned the Foreign Secretary about whether the Iranian regime could be trusted to abide by the agreement at a time when the stakes are so high: “Like most of the contributors so far, I welcome this development, but will the Foreign Secretary bear it in mind that the world also breathed a sigh of relief in 1972 on the signing of the biological weapons convention, only to discover, after a defection in 1989, that Russia had been cheating on a massive and industrial scale?
Dr Lewis underlined: “We must always hope for the best in such negotiations, but I hope he will bear it in mind that we must also be prepared for the worst”.
MP for Harrow East, Bob Blackman, asserted: “There are suspicions that Iran may have acquired nuclear weapons already. One of the concerns will be about establishing, under the wording of the agreement, that it will not seek to proliferate nuclear weapons”.
He asked the Foreign Secretary: “What measures has my right hon. Friend taken in this agreement to ensure that existing military establishments are identified and inspected so that the west can be assured that Iran is not in a position to launch nuclear weapons?”
Newly elected MP for Berwick-upon-Tweed, Anne-Marie Trevelyan said: “My late father wrote extensively in the 1960s on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, and the key point was that it was prestigious to have nuclear weapons. Does my right hon. Friend believe that the Iranians are genuine when they say they are not seeking to develop a nuclear weapon?”
Click here to read the full statement.