Iran tells new PM it does not want confrontation

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif sent a message to Boris Johnson saying Iran does not want a confrontation with the UK.

Speaking to reporters in Nicaragua yesterday, Zarif said: “It is very important for Boris Johnson as he enters 10 Downing Street to understand that Iran does not seek confrontation, that Iran wants normal relations based on mutual respect.”

He said the UK seizure of the Grace 1 super-tanker near Gibraltar was “the bidding for the Trump administration” and “a violation of international law”. He also described the allegations that the Grace 1 was carrying oil to Syria as “unfounded” and accused the British of acting “holier than the pope” in applying rules the “EU itself would not do”.

Following Iran’s seizure of a UK-flagged oil tanker last Friday, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told the House of Commons on Monday that the UK will establish a new maritime security force to protect ships from Iranian piracy in the Gulf and Straits of Hormuz.

Boris Johnson will enter Downing Street today and immediately seek to manage the tanker crisis with Iran. A BICOM paper published yesterday examining Boris Johnson’s Middle East policy said: “Johnson has emphasised the UK believes the JCPOA is the best vehicle to deal with Iran’s dangerous regional policies.”

In early July, following the US maximum pressure campaign and Iranian aggressive actions in the Gulf, Johnson described the JCPOA as “looking increasingly frail” and calling for “ways of constraining Iran’s disruptive behaviour in the region”. But he emphasised: “I continue to believe that engaging with Iran and persuading Iran not to go forward with a nuclear weapons programme is the right way forward for our country and for the region.”

Johnson recently told the Jewish News that he was prepared to restart sanctions on Iran and as Prime Minister would do everything in his power to “constrain Iran’s disruptive behaviour in the region”. But he has also prioritised diplomacy. Speaking at the Conservative Leadership debate earlier this month, Johnson said Western allies should focus on diplomatic solutions to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon. “I’m going to be very candid with you all tonight: If you say that going to war with Iran now represents a sensible option for us in the West, I just don’t believe it is,” he said.