Iran and the New Middle East

High-Level Expert Group Meeting

19 January 2016

Massey College, Toronto, Canada

Chaired by Jean Chrétien

“The continuing existence of nuclear weapons is an unacceptable and disproportionate threat to every living thing on the planet. The only enduring solution to this threat lies in the verifiable and irreversible elimination of these weapons.”

- InterAction Council, Final Communiqué, May 2011

The InterAction Council’s mandate is to foster international cooperation and action in three priority areas, one of which is peace and security. Over the course of its 30-year history, the Council’s work in this area has focused largely on nuclear non-proliferation. In its 2010 Hiroshima Declaration, the Council not only made a powerful plea for a nuclear-free world but also warned of emerging new dangers: “As long as anyone has nuclear weapons, others will seek them.”

In April 2015, the P5+1 nations (United States, United Kingdom, Russia, France and China, plus Germany), plus the European Union reached a nuclear deal framework with Iran. In July 2015, the same countries signed onto the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in Vienna. The agreement was formally adopted on October 15, 2015.

The agreement’s goal is to allow for the peaceful continuation of Iran’s nuclear energy program, while taking all necessary steps to prevent them from becoming a nuclear power. The agreement prevents Iran from building any new uranium enriching or heavy-water facilities, and enriching uranium above 3.67 per cent, for the next fifteen years. In addition, Iran will reduce its stockpile of low-enriched uranium by 98 per cent, eliminate its stockpile of medium-enriched uranium, and drastically reduce its stockpile of centrifuges, among other measures. The International Atomic Energy Association will be given regular access of all facilities to ensure compliance. In return, Iran will receive relief from nuclear-related sanctions.

With the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action having recently been adopted, a key aspect will be how it will be implemented and how the verification measures will apply. If there is success in implementing the agreement and preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power, this will give impetus to the second great non-proliferation problem– North Korea.

Are there lessons to be learned from successful Iran negotiations that can apply in East Asia? And with the nuclear non-proliferation achievement in Iran, will this set the stage for bringing Iran in from the cold and playing a more positive role across the many issues that are causing war and instability in the Middle East?

The nuclear non-proliferation agreement with Iran is crucial in itself but has potential positive implications for the broader role of Iran in the region. All these facets will be covered in the meeting. 

The experts will be asked to deliberate:

  • What are the obstacles to be overcome in implementing the agreement?
  • What lessons can apply to North Korea?
  • How can a successful implementation lead to a more positive Iranian role in the Middle East?
  • Is the long-term goal of a zero-nuclear world attainable?
  • RECOMMENDATIONS: Policy recommendations for the plenary


InterAction Council Members

  1. The Rt. Hon. Jean Chrétien (former Prime Minister), Canada


  1. Dr. Thomas S. Axworthy, Distinguished Senior Fellow, Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto

Special Guests

  1. Dr. Adele Buckley, Past Chair, Canadian Pugwash; Member, Pugwash Council
  2. Prof. Tony Burman, Distinguished Visiting Professor of Journalism, Ryerson University; Former Head CBC News and Al Jazeera English in Qatar (Canada)
  3. Prof. Kathleen Davis, Adjunct Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School; Doctoral Candidate, University of Toronto
  4. Dr. Walter Dorn, Professor of Defence Studies, Royal Military College of Canada; past Chair, Canadian Pugwash
  5. Dr. John English, Director, Bill Graham Centre for Contemporary International History, Trinity College/Munk School, University of Toronto
  6. Prof. Thomas Juneau, Assistant Professor, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Ottawa
  7. Mr. Patrick Martin, Senior Correspondent, specializing in the Middle East, The Globe and Mail
  8. The Hon. R. Roy McMurtry, former High Commissioner to the United Kingdom; former Chief Justice of Ontario; former Attorney General of Ontario
  9. Dr. John Polanyi, Faculty Member and Nobel Laureate, Department of Chemistry, University of Toronto; Founding Chairman, Canadian Pugwash Group
  10. Mr. Oleg V. Pozdnyakov, Senior Counsellor, Russian Embassy
  11. Prof. Ernie Regehr, Senior Fellow in Arctic Security, The Simons Foundation; Research Fellow, Centre for Peace Advancement, Conrad Grebel University College
  12. The Hon. Hugh Segal, Master of Massey College; Chair, NATO Association of Canada; Co-Chair, Democracy 10 negotiations in Europe, 2015, 2016 Committee
  13. Dr. Erika Simpson, Associate Professor of International Relations, Western University
  14. Dr. Janice Gross Stein, Belzberg Professor of Conflict Management, Department of Political Science; and Founding Director, Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto
  15. Prof. Mohamad Tavakoli-Targhi, Professor of History, Historical Studies & Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations
  16. Mr. Murray Thomson, Co-Founder, Project Ploughshares; Coordinator, Canadians for a Nuclear Weapons Convention
  17. The Very Rev. the Hon. Dr. Lois M. Wilson, Distinguished Minister-in-Residence, Emmanuel College, University of Toronto