When talks ended inconclusively on Saturday, British Foreign Secretary William Hague adopted a positive spin, promising that the outline of an agreement was “on the table and it can be done” and that talks were being conducted in a “very different atmosphere” than that of years past.
Hague didn’t stop there. Guaranteeing Iran “limited, proportionate sanctions relief” if it struck a deal, he added that members of the P5+1 were “clearly united” and “all saying the same thing to Iran” – despite indications that that wasn’t the case.
But then, a few days later, Hague reverted back to the tougher – and more familiar – British position on Iran by stating that Iran would face tougher sanctions if a deal were not reached. He also played down reports that Paris had blocked an agreement.
Frankly, we’re confused. For years the UK – including Hague himself – has been consistent in its support for pressuring Tehran as long as it refuses to comply with UN Security Council and IAEA resolutions. Certainly London understands the weight of yet another reminder from IAEA chief Yukiya Amano, that there has been “no radical change” in Iran’s nuclear progress since Hassan Rouhani became president.
So what’s going on?
Britain has bilateral problems with Iran, for sure, as it works to repair the damage caused following the mob attack against its embassy in Tehran (non-resident charges d’affaires were named to both capitals this week). But it doesn’t make sense that London would sacrifice its nuclear demands just for the sake of consular affairs. A mystery – worth some genuine, media digging.