‘Malign activities’ mean Britain must not ‘blindly’ follow Biden over Iran, says Robert Jenrick

·3-min read
Robert Jenrick, former Communities Secretary - Barcroft Media/Getty Images
Robert Jenrick, former Communities Secretary - Barcroft Media/Getty Images

Britain should “exercise great caution” before “blindly” following Joe Biden into a new deal with Iran, a former cabinet minister will warn this week.

In a Commons debate on Monday, Robert Jenrick, who was Communities Secretary until last month, is expected to say that Iran's “malign activities” are “a threat to us all”, as he urges caution over the push to bring the country back to the negotiating table.

Mr Jenrick believes that the UK should be doing more to help expand the Abraham Accords, the 2020 agreements that normalised ties between Israel, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain. Expanding the agreements to Saudi Arabia would be a “game changer” for the region, he said.

“The Abraham Accords can be an immense catalyst for lasting positive change in the region,” he said. “It’s critical the UK plays a full role in deepening these ties and widening the circle of countries involved. It was disappointing that we had not been closely associated with initial moves, given the strength of our relationships in Israel and the Gulf, but we can correct that now.”

Under the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), signed by Barack Obama and David Cameron's administrations, Iran agreed to curb its nuclear programme in return for the lifting of sanctions by countries such as the US and the UK.

‘Iran has been using this time to advance its nuclear programme’

Since Mr Biden's election last year, the US, Britain, France and Germany have been involved in talks with Iran to revive the pact. Last month, Liz Truss, the new Foreign Secretary, urged Iran to return to the negotiations, which have stalled.

But Mr Jenrick said: “Our friends and allies in the region share a common concern at the security threat posed by Iran, whose continued malign activities are a threat to us all. We should listen to them and take great care to assess any proposals that might emerge from the Biden administration's discussions with Iran on a replacement to the JCPOA. The previous agreement was a weak and ineffective deal. The UK should not rush into blind support for any successor arrangement.”

Mr Jenrick's warning comes after Antony Blinken, the US Secretary of State, warned that Iran was “getting close” to a point at which simply returning to the 2015 deal would be insufficient “because Iran has been using this time to advance its nuclear programme in a variety of ways.”

A Commons debate led by Mr Jenrick tomorrow will mark the first anniversary of the Abraham accords, which were championed by Donald Trump.

He said: “The normalisation of relations between Arab and Muslim countries and Israel, and the blossoming of contacts between people, whether holiday-making, doing business or in education and innovation, sends a very powerful message to communities here in the UK as well. It will have a positive impact on relations between communities and faiths, some of which were shown to be far weaker than we would wish during the Gaza conflict earlier in the year.”