Steps to enable a Middle East regional security process

Reviving the JCPOA, de-escalating conflicts and building trust
Research paper Updated 23 April 2021 Published 14 April 2021 ISBN: 978 1 78413 450 1
A man stands on a Tehran street reading a Farsi-language newspaper showing a picture of Joe Biden

This paper draws on a set of interviews conducted, on condition of confidentiality, with 210 subject-matter experts and current and former policymakers from 15 Middle East and key external countries.

A regional security framework is urgently needed to lower tensions, resolve conflicts and reduce regional competition across the Middle East. Based on their analysis of interviewees’ responses and recommendations, the authors argue that regional stability can and must be built, but the point at which a regional security process can be mapped out can only be arrived at through discussion, de-escalation and conflict resolution involving all regional actors, enabled by critical external partners.

Now is the time to act. A foundational step lies in the US administration’s re-engagement with the JCPOA and Iran’s return to compliance. But recommitting to the JCPOA cannot be an end in itself. A ‘JCPOA plus’ process must lengthen and strengthen the deal. Regional challenges relating to Iran’s interference beyond its borders can best be managed through multilateral negotiating tracks. Alongside lie crisis-resolution tracks – focusing on the wars in Yemen and Syria, building greater solidarity among the GCC countries, and the Israel–Palestine conflict – and the creation of meaningful confidence-building measures.