From being one of the more cautious members of the P5+1 signers of the Iran deal, Britain has suddenly sprung into action in rapidly warming up its ties with Iran, up to and including a visit of the Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond for the reopening of the British Embassy.
Hammond had warm words for the Islamic Republic, declaring himself “surprised to find it so normal” despite the difficulties between the two countries:
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said Monday he believed in Iranian’s genuine desire to “turn a page” with the West and develop better ties.
Hammon spoke at the end of a two-day visit to Tehran and a meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to mark the reopening of the two nations’ respective embassies after a break of several years.
While he stressed that the countries’ relations remained complex and difficult, he said Iran as a regional power was too important to ignore on Middle East issues.
“It’s hard to see what is the point of advocating dialog with someone who you know has a very different view of the world from you, unless you are anticipating some give and take,” he said, according to the UK’s Telegraph.
He added that the visit had changed his view of the Islamic republic.
“I suspect that I, like many people in Britain and the West, will have had an image of Iran as a desperately theocratic, deeply religious society motivated by ideology,” she said. “What I’ve seen is a perfectly normal, bustling, dynamic, entrepreneurial, thrusting, middle income developing world city, which has clearly enormous potential. You only need to look at it to see the enormous potential.”
Of the regime, he added: “I don’t get the impression of a population cowed by authority. It’s a much more bustling, dynamic place than I had expected — a much more diverse place than I had expected — and the message I’m getting from our interlocutors is that they do want to see the nuclear deal and the lifting of sanctions as an opportunity to turn a page. That doesn’t mean we can wipe out history — and in particular some very difficult history between Britain and Iran. But it does mean we can agree to draw a line and move on.”
How much of a line is Britain prepared to draw and under what circumstances? For example, Al-Monitor says that Hammonds words on Israel struck a nerve in Iran:
His comments that Iran has shown a more nuanced approach with Israel and “what we’re looking for is behavior from Iran, not only towards Israel but towards other players in the region” has caused a controversy inside the country.
A Fars News headline quoted Hammond as saying “Iran’s position with Israel has changed a little” and that “Iran is no longer a threat to Israel.” However, the text of the article did not include those explosive and incorrect translations.
When asked about Hammond’s comments at a news conference Aug. 25, Rouhani’s media adviser Mohammad Reza Sadegh said, “The position of the Islamic Republic of Iran regarding the Zionist regime has always been clear and will remain clear.”
Tasnim News Agency reported that Marzieh Afkham, spokeswoman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry, denied that during Hammond’s visit “there were negotiations about the Zionist regime or that Tehran has a different position regarding this regime.”
Iranian member of parliament Fatemeh Alia said on the parliament floor Aug. 25, “On our soil, UK’s foreign secretary spoke with BBC radio and said we will judge Iran’s approach with respect to Israel based on their actions and Iran is no longer a threat to Israel. Presumably, as those who justify [his comments], our foreign minister will once again say the comments are for domestic consumption.”
Alia also criticized Zarif by saying he “didn’t dare use the word the Zionist regime” in his news conference with Hammond. She added, “Unfortunately, some of our officials are faithful and are not traitors, [but] have committed crimes in pursuing normalization in relations with America and Britain.”
So will Britain agree for sanctions to be lifted by next spring despite Iran’s unbending harsh stance towards Israel?
International sanctions on Iran could start to be lifted as early as spring next year, Britain’s foreign secretary said on Monday, as Iran and the West rebuild ties and potentially open up billions of dollars of trade deals.
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond told Reuters he expected Iran and the United States could officially approve the deal by October. Combined with Iran meeting its commitments in the deal, that could see the start of trade restrictions being lifted.
It’s more than probable, given that lifting the sanctions means money, money, money for the greedy British and Europeans:
Eyeing deals between British firms and Iran, particularly in the oil and financial sectors, Hammond said preparatory work should be done ahead of lifting sanctions so investment can start to flow as soon as the measures are removed.
“There is very clear pitch here not to wait until then,” he said. “There are things that can’t be done. Investments can’t be made, items can’t be imported or exported or whatever. But the business negotiation can start to take place well ahead of that.”
Hammond has previously estimated that $150 billion of Iranian assets frozen outside the country would be released by the nuclear deal. That has prompted a flurry of European visits, including from German and French ministers.
A delegation of senior business leaders flew with Hammond from Britain to Iran, including representatives from Royal Dutch Shell, energy and mining services company Amec Foster Wheeler and Scottish industrial engineering firm Weir Group.
Hammond mentions the diplomatic difficulties with Iran over its role in Syria:
Underscoring the tentative nature of the rapprochement, Hammond said Britain still had fundamental differences with Iran over the long-running conflict in Syria, where Iran gives support to Syrian President Bashar Assad.
“The thing we disagree on is the role of one single person, Bashar Assad, in this process,” he said.
“The Iranians take the view that, for better or for worse, without Assad there cannot be a political process — he is the glue that holds much of Syria together.
“We take a different view: That a man with so much blood on his hands cannot be part of the future of this country.”
However, Hammond stressed that any form of dialogue between the West and Iran over Syria should be taken as a positive.
However he appears willing to put all that “nastiness” behind him as he displays Britain’s pathetically eager and craven crawl to Iran:
Britain has been cast for decades by opponents inside Iran as a perfidious “Old Fox” or “Little Satan” who does the bidding of “Big Satan,” the United States.
“I sense we are seen now more as part of Europe — a European country with whom Iran will be engaging alongside France, Germany, Italy and others — and less of the imperial Britain of the past with its legacy of involvement in Iran and the region,” Hammond said.
It is interesting to keep in mind the far less forgiving attitude that the very same Philip Hammond took towards Israel during his recent visit, as he slammed Israel for its objections to the Iran deal: To remind you, these are the outrageously patronising and slanderous words that he uttered about Israel – besides getting our capital city wrong:
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond told parliament Tuesday that Israel would not have been satisfied with any agreement world powers reached with Iran, and announced he was heading to Israel to personally explain the nuclear deal to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“The question you have to ask yourself is what kind of a deal would have been welcomed in Tel Aviv. The answer of course is that Israel doesn’t want any deal with Iran,” Hammond told lawmakers ahead of his visit.
“Israel wants a permanent state of standoff, and I don’t believe that’s in the interests of the region. I don’t believe it’s in our interest,” Hammond said.
Well, he was correct about one thing only. It is definitely not in Britain’s interest for Israel to object to the deal. After all, that is the only thing standing between Britain and lots of luvverly Iranian money, all waiting to slide into those greasy British paws.
This all ties in with my previous post in which I quoted from Debka report on Israel’s purchase of Kurdish oil, which mentioned how Britain made a strategic decision to emulate its European counterparts in their rush towards benefiting economically from the new acceptance of Iran into the community of nations. The Debka report notes (emphases are mine):
Even before sanctions were lifted and Tehran had demonstrated its compliance with the nuclear deal signed with the world powers in Vienna on July 14, European ministers were knocking on the door in a quest for financial relations. The Islamic Republic was deemed rehabilitated by the nuclear accord; and the UK saw no reason to lag behind the others. And so Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond was personally in attendance at the ceremonial reopening Sunday of the Tehran embassy.
The FT’s report’s timing fitting in perfectly with the British government’s plans to quickly develop profitable ties with the Islamic Republic in the following arenas:
1. The oil industries in Iran and Iraq. London seeks as large a slice as possible of the $150 billion worth of oil and gas contracts on offer by Tehran.
2. The Islamic Republic was also meant to infer from the FT report that British intelligence resources and its powerful media were available as tools for beating Israel out on the world’s energy markets.
3. Britain’s foreign policy is grounded in accentuating its common interests with Washington. The Obama administration may pose as a champion of Masoud Barzani, President of the autonomous Kurdish Republic of northern Iraq. His peshmerga army has after all distinguished itself in its dogged fight against the Islamic State. But in practice, things are different: the US administration, to meet the wishes of Tehran and Baghdad, consistently withholds from the Kurds the heavy weapons they need to rout ISIS.
So Britain got a twofer – selling out both Israel and the Kurds. Now that is good economics!