Cutting UK Ties Is a Mistake

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Majid Tafreshi
Iran-UK Affairs Analyst

Background of present challenge in Iran-UK relations

During last year’s elections in UK, it seemed that the coalition government comprising elements of both Conservative and Liberal parties was willing to usher in a new phase of relations with Iran. In other words, there were positive indications that London was determined to mend fences with Tehran. In practice, however, and due to a variety of reasons, this did not happen and bilateral relations even got worse than what they were under the Labor Party. Both the new British foreign minister, William Hague, and his deputy for the Middle East, Alistair Burt are famous members of the Israeli lobby in the British parliament and this has proved a stumbling block on the way of improving Tehran – London ties. The connection between these two officials and the Israeli lobby is not incrimination because both of them are among the main members of a small eight-member parliamentary group that is committed to protection of Israel’s interests in UK and is known as Conservative Friends of Israel.

Therefore, due to the existing hostility between Iran and Israel, the challenge between Tehran and London has not decreased, but increased in dimensions and has been even aggravated. The British Foreign Office has based its relations with Iran on challenges and is vanguard of confrontation with Iran both among US allies, and in the European Union.

Browsing the homepage of the British Embassy in Iran’s website will reveal that there is nothing on the site to reflect the two countries’ diplomatic relations or ordinary issues which are usually of interest to foreign embassies. For example, you can find articles about trial of Baha’is, temporary closedown of the embassy, human rights situation in Iran, sanctions against human rights violators, and Ashton’s reaction to judicial verdicts in Iran. There is no promising point or one without prejudice against Iran or something which may be related to economic relations or the embassy’s services to Iranians on the website.

Therefore, it seems that UK’s belligerent policy toward Iran is an organized trend which is also influenced by Iran’s internal affairs. However, nobody can claim that if Iran’s position changed, London will also change its attitude toward Iran.

Some analysts maintain that London’s policy toward Iran has been the same ever since the Islamic Revolution triumphed. If so, the confrontation has been never as obvious as it is now. I believe that the ongoing British policy against Iran represents a change in the Britain’s foreign policy under the influence of the American neocons and the Israeli lobby in London.

Considering increasing limitations by the British embassy in Tehran for Iranians who apply for visa or London’s illegal measure to withhold fuel from the Iranian passenger planes, which was soon spread to other European countries, are signs which clearly prove that London’s and Washington’s claims about anti-Iranian sanctions being purposive by targeting only the government are not true. Refusing to supply jet fuel to Iranian passenger airlines is not a decision of the Security Council, nor has it been mentioned in EU’s sanctions package against the country.

They are reminiscent of London’s unlawful sanctions against Iran following the Islamic Revolution in 1979 most of which lacked justification on the basis of international law and exceeded what had been decided by the United Nations and international community. Documents proving London’s hostile measures against Iran have been released in recent months.

Video blogs uploaded by official Arabic and Persian spokesperson of the Foreign Office in recent months have clearly shown them as adopting positions against Iran and its political system. Regardless of the true purport of their claims, the prominent point is that a diplomat should take positions to reduce tension, not add to the existing challenges and tensions.

For example, in a video blog on an exhibition of Shahnameh at the University of Cambridge, he draw an analogy between the Iranian government and the legendary tyrant, Zahhak, while likening the opposition to Fereidoun (a legendary Iranian hero who defeated Zahhak). This clearly proves that London’s policy is far from being a simply critical policy or representing respectful diplomatic challenges. Of course, a similar trend has been in force on the opposite side too. It seems, however, that Britain which claimed to be exercising self-restraint toward Iran in past years charging Tehran with creating tension, has decided to change its course.

About three years ago, I was in a conference in London along with the former British ambassador to Tehran, Sir Richard Dalton. He frankly announced that his embassy had been threatened on a daily basis and had been even threatened with physical attack, but the embassy was never closed down.

So, it goes without saying that the recent closing down of the embassy in reaction to a threatening phone call has been aimed at intensifying challenges between the two countries.

Iran’s policy toward UK

This is only one flip side of the coin. I believe that conditions in Iran lead to escalation of tension.

I believe that Iran’s approach to UK has been wrong because Tehran can think of no other way but to cut diplomatic relations with London. Severing relations with UK has been an option before some Iranian politicians since the victory of the Islamic Revolution.

I also believe that this is an erroneous approach whose disadvantages have been proven since a long time ago. Many countries work against national interests of other countries in the world, but no country considers cutting relations as a silver bullet to solve problems. Perhaps severing relations with London is an understandable reaction on the part of Iran, but is by no means a strategic solution.

Those proposing severance of relations or prescribe violence in dealing with Britain are practically helping radical anti-Iranian groups in Britain without doing anything to realize Iran’s national interests in the long run. I believe that despite all serious problems and challenges between Iran and Britain, cutting relations would be a mistaken measure to hide the main problem. It would not be possible, nor practical to cut relations with all countries that conspire against our interests and would only be an indication that diplomatic functions have hit a deadlock.

Source: Iranian Diplomacy
Translated By: Iran Review