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Foreign Secretary condemns Iran for selling tanker’s oil to Syria

What happened: Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has criticised Iran for breaking its word not to sell the Adrian Darya 1’s oil to Syria.

  • Britain says Iran repeatedly gave assurances that the ship would not deliver oil to any EU-sanctioned entity in Syria or elsewhere before it was released last month. The ship was seized by Gibraltar authorities and Royal Marine Commandos on 4 July after intelligence suggested it was bound for Syria.
  • The Foreign Secretary said: “Iran has shown complete disregard for its own assurances over Adrian Darya 1. This sale of oil to Assad’s brutal regime is part of a pattern of behaviour by the Government of Iran designed to disrupt regional security. This includes illegally supplying weapons to Houthi insurgents in Yemen, support for Hezbollah terrorists and most recently its attempts to hijack commercial ships passing through the Gulf.”
  • US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin yesterday announced new sanctions on 15 people associated with al-Qaeda, ISIS, Hamas and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Among those sanctioned is Muhammad Izad, a leader with the IRGC based in Lebanon.
  • US President Donald Trump sacked his national security advisor John Bolton yesterday after reports emerged that the two had a series of disagreements over Iran, including whether or not the President should meet with Iranian President Hasan Rouhani at the UN General Assembly in New York later this month.
  • The Times reports this morning that two British-Australian women have been detained in Iran. One of the women was reportedly arrested with her boyfriend 10 weeks ago on unknown charges while the other woman was jailed for 10 years. Both are believed to be in Tehran’s Evin prison, where Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is serving a sentence for espionage.

The Context: France has been trying to broker a Trump – Rouhani meeting in order to save the JCPOA nuclear deal.

  • France has also proposed a multi-billion credit line for Iran in exchange for Iran returning to full compliance with the JCPOA and an end to the obstruction of shipping in the Gulf. The credit line is wholly dependent on the Trump administration agreeing to issue waivers to sanctions on Iranian oil sales – which so far it has said it will not do.
  • The US Treasury Secretary said yesterday that President Trump is willing to meet the Iranian President while maintaining the “maximum pressure” campaign on Tehran.
  • Hesameddin Ashena, an aide to President Rouhani, tweeted that Bolton’s removal was “a clear sign of the defeat of America’s maximum pressure strategy”.
  • Whilst the removal of Bolton suggests a potential opening for talks between the US and Iran, Pompeo is unlikely to back down on his 12 demands for a new nuclear treaty with Iran, which include the withdrawal of all Iranian forces from Syria, ending support for Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad and an end to ballistic missile testing.

Looking forward: President Trump’s abrupt dismissal of Bolton will likely have implications for US foreign policy on Iran.

  • Trump would clearly like to meet President Rouhani, but that may only happen if the US scales back its “maximum pressure” campaign.
  • Iran is still holding the UK-flagged, Swedish-owned tanker Stena Impero and 16 crew members, and it might try and offer a quid pro quo of releasing the tanker in exchange for the Adrian Darya 1 offloading all its oil cargo to Syria without action from the UK or other countries, though such a deal would be deeply unpalatable for the UK.