London’s Firm Decision to Expand Relations with Tehran

16 July 2014 | 15:11 Code : 1935876 Interview General category
An interview with Abdorreza Faraji Rad, an expert on international affairs
London’s Firm Decision to Expand Relations with Tehran

What was the reason behind the changing of the British Foreign Secretary? Was it in line with the reshuffling of the cabinet or due to the criticisms expressed by the House of Commons with regard to the policies pursued towards Iran?

What is expressed in the reports with regard to the developments in Britain’s cabinet is that the resignation of the Foreign Secretary is in line with the reshuffling of the cabinet. Since the speaker of the House of Commons is also assumed to be changed, Mr. Hague has expressed his interest in that job and being present in the parliament. Therefore, it cannot be said that the position of Mr. Hague in the Mr. Cameron’s cabinet has been reduced, but rather that his position in the Conservative Party has been promoted.

Will Britain’s foreign policy change with this development?

Britain has special policies with regard to different regions of the world and these policies are determined by the party and the prime minister. Thus, the foreign minister cannot make considerable changes in the foreign policy of Britain.

What will the impacts of this change be on Iran-Britain relations?

I do not assume that there will be changes in the trend of Britain’s conservative cabinet with regard to Iran. On one hand, it must be noted that the pressure groups, media, parties and parliament of Britain seek to expand relations with Iran. Recently, a report was published wherein there were criticisms against the government as to why a better solution was not found when relations were cut with Iran? Prior to the reduction of relations between Iran and Britain, about 3000 university students went to Britain every year but after that incident this number fell to 1000. This is while Britain’s interests lie in the attraction of more foreign students. That is why they criticized the British cabinet and said that Iran’s President must be trusted. These signs indicate that Britain intends to manage its relations with Iran and that is why, in his meeting with Mr. Zarif, Mr. Hague expressed his interest in promoting the relations to the level of ambassador. Now, it does not matter whether Mr. Hague is the Foreign Minister or another person; Britain’s general policy is based on the expansion of relations with Iran, particularly now that significant developments are taking place in the Middle East – in Iraq, Syria, Kurdistan and also Iran’s nuclear issue – and Britain pursues its own interests so that it will not be left behind after the resolution of the nuclear negotiations. Britain seeks to establish better relations with Iran at a higher level so that it will be able to play a major role in the regional policies.

Philip Hammond, the Defense Secretary, has replaced William Hague in Britain’s Foreign Office. What impacts would the presence of a military man at the head of the Foreign Ministry have on Britain’s military and security policies?

I believe that military men comprehend the Middle East’s issues better, particularly since Britain has a military presence in the region, from Afghanistan to Iraq. They know the region and are aware of Iran’s power as well. That is why they are sometimes better able to coordinate themselves with regional events than the politicians. I believe that when the relations between Iran and Britain were cut off, if a military man had been at the head of the Foreign Office, he would have better comprehended that Britain must have relations with Iran as a regional power because they have better knowledge of the issues of this region. Naturally, since the politicians establish relation with politicians, they are usually influenced by the pressures and may make mistakes.

It is obvious that France and Germany are not as involved in Iran’s nuclear issue as London and Washington, although the French Foreign Minister acted more harshly than others in the first rounds of negotiations in Geneva. Meanwhile Britain’s parliament has expressed criticisms with regard to the policies of the Foreign Office with regard to the nuclear issue and the relations which Britain could have with Iran. Will this change impact Britain’s role in Iran’s nuclear dossier?

I believe that the change of the Foreign Secretary will not reduce the speed of the establishment of relations. The reason is that regional developments oblige Britain to have more understandable relations with Iran. I do not intend to say that Mr. Hague’s resignation was based on the relations with Iran, but it can be said that considering the developments in the region and the nuclear issue, which will one day be resolved, Britain has reached the conclusion that it must repair its relations with Iran as soon as possible. I had said before that the visit made by Mr. Jack Straw to Iran was not a personal visit. He had played a major role in Iran’s previous nuclear negotiations. He represented Britain on his visit to Iran in order to analyze the issues and prepare a report. It was based on these reports and regional conditions that Britain reached the conclusion that it must rapidly normalize its relations with Iran, because otherwise Britain’s position in the region would be weakened. Iran is a pole in the region and is present in Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq. On one hand, Britain is also present in these countries and that is why it needs to lobby and have dialogue with Iran and that would be in the interests of both countries. If Britain does not establish dialogue with Iran, the relations of its rivals with Iran would become closer. This is while the US has cut its relations with Iran since 35 years ago but right now there are more talks between the foreign ministers of Iran and the US compared to the British Foreign Secretary. Britain sees this and knows that it has been left behind and that is why it intends to repair its relations.

Britain’s representatives are aware of the extent of the US’ interest in resolving the crisis and reaching a “defined interaction with Iran” and are afraid of being left behind in this interaction. Is the changing of the Foreign Secretary aimed at remaining in the competition with the US with regard to the relations with Iran?

When we use the term ‘competition’ between the US and Britain, this competition is not similar to the competition between the US and Russia, China or even Germany, because Britain strategically has particularly close relations with the US. On one hand, Britain has a historical base in the Persian Gulf. But at one juncture, Britain was weakened and gave its position in the east of the Suez Canal to the US. This was, of course, done based on an agreement reached with the US. Although Britain has never intended to lose its footprint in the Persian Gulf, during recent months, Britain’s role has been reduced and that was due to the change in the US strategy. Before, the US strategy in the region was to attack countries with the excuse of fighting against terrorism and Britain gave more forces to the war apparatus of the US. But when the US strategy changed to popular diplomacy instead of military confrontation and this was officially announced, we saw that Obama did not accept to lead the attack against Syria and Libya. This policy even made the US allies in the region upset. From this stage, Britain’s diplomatic power reduced due to its military absence and the US played a role in this regard. Even Iran’s nuclear issue and the US talks with the countries of the region in this regard marginalized Britain. With regard to Syria, the bargaining is mainly done by the US. Besides, Britain’s cutting off of relations with Iran increased its weakness. The collection of these elements damaged Britain’s interests in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf region. Now, Britain has understood the issues and opened its eyes. Therefore, it intends to enter into dialogue and play a role, particularly now that Iran’s role in Syria is highlighted and military forces are being withdrawn from Afghanistan and that Iraq is faced with significant developments. Right now Europe supports the separation of Iraq’s Kurdistan province. Britain has held secret talks in this regard with Barzani. Britain seeks to negotiate and play a role in these issues and wants to know what the US does. On the other hand, the US pursues its own interests which sometimes contradict with those of Britain. That is why Britain needs to establish dialogue with Iran and I believe that the relations between Iran and Britain will soon lead to the opening of the embassies and the dispatch of ambassadors.

tags: britain iran hague