Understanding the UK’s passive Iran policy

Anytime MPs ask this question, ministers have repeated the same words, and sadly Nazanin’s situation has deteriorated.

July 22, 2019 21:58
4 minute read.
Understanding the UK’s passive Iran policy

A gas flare on an oil production platform in the Soroush oil fields is seen alongside an Iranian flag in the Persian Gulf, Iran, July 25, 2005. (photo credit: RAHEB HOMAVANDI/REUTERS)

Taking British citizens hostage, terrorist activities in Glasgow and now seizing an oil tanker are all direct consequences of the policy of appeasement the British government has pursued toward Iran’s regime for the last decade. Tehran has taken similar hostile actions against other countries such as the US, its Arab neighbors and Israel.

But only Israel has understood how to respond appropriately as its air force targets bases of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in Syria, and seemingly, everywhere else if necessary. In this regard, Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi has said that his country is the only state in the world that kills the Iranian regime soldiers and the Iranians are limited in their response. The US has just learned that the maximum-pressure campaign works if it is synchronized with some practical steps such as targeting the IRGC’s provoking drones.

Today, the formation of a coalition of navies can possibly restrict Iran’s threats in the Persian Gulf. But as the UK sinks deeper in the Brexit hodgepodge, its European allies’ fruitless talks aim to save the already dead nuclear deal. Taking advantage of this opportunity, Iran’s regime has begun to stage a humiliating attack on the UK’s credibility. Since the IRGC jailed the British-Iranian citizen Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe in April 2016, does anyone ask what the UK government has done to compel Iran to release this innocent mother?

Anytime MPs ask this question, ministers have repeated the same words, and sadly Nazanin’s situation has deteriorated. Indeed, she was recently transferred to a mental health ward. Many cross-party remarks and debates at Westminster have resulted in no concrete, meaningful action. In a letter which I have seen, many MPs urged the two prime ministerial candidates, Boris Johanson and Jeremy Hunt, to put this issue as their “first duty.” MPs have also urged the next government to use “the robust protections at its disposal, including the options available under diplomatic protection.”

Iran’s regime continues its hostilities against the UK’s security and interests in order to create an intimidating atmosphere and carry out operations against political dissidents in the country. The Times Scotland reported in May that Iran’s Intelligence tried to assassinate Iranian dissidents in Glasgow. I was one of the targets. The Scottish police and MI5 are still progressing with inquiries.

This is not the first time. Last month, The Telegraph reported that Iranian-backed terrorist Hezbollah was caught stockpiling tons of explosive materials on the outskirts of London in a secret bomb factory. The IRGC has gone further. It not only threatens the international waterway but also seized a British oil tanker in a tit-for-tat response to the detention of an Iranian tanker in Gibraltar, which breached European Union sanctions on the Syrian regime. In response to the increasing threats from Iran, Britain is reportedly to send a nuclear submarine to the Gulf. In April, the IRGC was blamed for conducting a major cyberattack on the UK infrastructures and parliament.

ODDLY, OUTGOING PM Theresa May did not take any practical action except expressing concerns. Instead, along with her European counterparts, she created a mechanism for Iran’s regime to circumvent the US economic sanctions. Considering that 70% of Iran’s economy is in the IRGC’s hands, the UK is helping a paramilitary organization to earn – one that is responsible for jailing innocent British citizens – by seizing British oil tankers and carrying out cyberattacks against UK’s most critical infrastructure.

In contrast to this passive policy, many cross-party MPs at Westminster have consistently urged the UK government to form a firm policy against Iran’s malign behavior. At least two Early Day Motions have so far been signed by more than 100 MPs including members of Labour, Conservatives and the Scottish National Party, urging the government to designate the IRGC as a proscribed organization and to impose punitive measures against its officials and to work with allies to expel the IRGC from Syria, Iraq and the Middle East.

During the annual conference of the Iranian opposition, the National Council of Resistance of Iran in Albania, Londoner MP Matthew Offord, who led a British delegation at the conference, highlighted the IRGC’s malign activities and said: “We should follow the US example and proscribe the Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization. In light of the hostile actions by Iran currently, and the reality that the nuclear deal is dead, we must withdraw from it and support the US by levying sanctions.”

Meanwhile, the Iran regime’s ambassador to the UK has fathomed about what may happen in the near future and tweeted: “The UK government should contain those domestic political forces who want to escalate existing tension between Iran and the UK well beyond the issue of ships.”

For months, experts and the mainstream media have criticized President Trump for not having an Iran strategy. After the IRGC seized a British-flagged tanker, it turns out that the UK lacks both an Iran strategy and military capabilities to defend its interests. In fact, if the UK does not punish Iran’s regime, the IRGC will continue its attacks on oil tankers and other similar targets in order to disrupt the oil market and pressure Western economies, hoping that the proponents of the appeasement policy will persuade Trump to abandon his campaign of maximum pressure.

British officials, particularly the new prime minister, would do well to remember a famous quote by Sir Winston Churchill: “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.”

The writer is a former political prisoner from Iran. He is studying journalism at Clyde College in Glasgow in Scotland. He is a freelance journalist focusing on the Middle East affairs. He tweets at @HaBahrami and blogs at analyzecom.

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