London appears to be quite busy on Iran, judging by recent media reports. Let’s put matters in order.
True to its positive, decade-long role in the Iranian nuclear crisis, Great Britain maintains a comprehensive policy vis-à-vis Tehran. Aware of the increasingly discussed possibility that sanctions alone might not fully stop Iran’s illicit nuclear activities, non-diplomatic options are reportedly also being taken into account.
On the sanctions front, London made a bold – and no doubt controversial – move by blocking Royal Dutch Shell’s efforts to bypass sanctions and pay off a past debt. In doing so, the British government prioritized continued pressure on Iran over Shell’s admitted desire to maintain “cordial relations” with that country.
Of course, the UK is not immune to the same inconsistencies that exist elsewhere. Politically, Foreign Secretary William Hague recently spoke against new sanctions at this time, albeit in doing so basically echoed comments by his American colleague Secretary of State John Kerry- perhaps reflecting a consensus among senior decision makers regarding current policy on the dual-track approach.
Matters appear to be more problematic when it comes to non-proliferation efforts. The British company Glencore was caught extensively trading with Iran, including in aluminum oxide for Tehran’s centrifuges. Furthermore, while the case seems weak, questions have also been raised concerning the possibility of Iranians studying proliferation- sensitive areas in the UK.
In the end – if Press TV’s hyper-ventilation is any indication – Tehran cannot bear its difficulties with Britain. Not only does it regularly go berserk over the BBC, whose Persian broadcasts are extremely popular in Iran, it is also targeting British think tanks.
But try as it may, Tehran can hardly get a break in the UK. Still.