There can be little doubt that if the UK had repaid the Iranian state the £400 million it owes them for the non-delivery of Chieftan tanks back in the 1970s Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe would now be a free woman. She faces more time in prison whilst here in the UK £30 to £40 million in legal fees are being racked up fending off the Iranians’ attempts to reclaim their money—which the UK government admits it owes, but feels obligated not to hand back. This story has the extra ingredient of the UK saying it is observing sanctions against Iran because of its alleged nuclear weapons program. There can be no excuse for either side to behave in the way that they are, and I find much to be offended by on either side of what has become a personal tragedy. Warm words of diplomacy from the Foreign Office clearly won’t be matched by substantive action. When there’s £400 million at stake (on which the UK government contests another £20 million or so interest) what price the life of one human being?
This situation rather exposes the double standards of the UK and the West generally towards political hostages. The US continues to run the Guantanamo detention centre where people are held indefinitely without charge or trial (and here we keep Assange locked up on tendentious political accusations). At least the Iranians have managed to cook up some absurd charges against Zaghari-Ratcliffe. Then of course the UK played its part when under a Labour government rendition flights were operated. Who has been prosecuted for that deliberate evasion of international law?
I don’t doubt that Iran holds hostile sentiments against the West (and rather more hostility to Sunni Moslems, of course) but one wonders if anyone ever stops to think about the potential consequences of stoking such hostility? Western interference in countries with regimes it doesn’t like has rarely (if ever) produced a positive result, from Latin America, to Africa, the Middle East, the Far East . . can anyone recall a positive result? I occasionally wonder whether Tony Blair once grasped this point when he met with Ghaddafi and Assad. If only they’d paid attention to Tony! Yes, such dialogues didn’t last. We know what happened.
None of our current hostilities will produce a positive result if history is anything to go by. Perhaps it’s something to do with our Judeo-Christian background, bearing a crusader’s witness to a God who is as vengeful and plain evil as could be imagined? Having said which, where would you find the largest Jewish population in the Middle East outside of Israel? Answer: Iran (according to Wikipedia).
Pay the Iranians what we owe and start talking! (Without the holier-than-thou post-colonial claptrap.)