UK to Avoid Confrontation with Iran under Johnson: Expert

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson / Photo by AP

An expert of international politics has predicted a road fraught with difficulties for the incoming UK prime minister in the quest for Brexit, saying Boris Johnson seems hardly likely to look for confrontation with Iran.

In an interview with Khabar Online, Ali Bigdeli has shed light on the elements of UK Prime Minister Johnson’s policies on Iran, and the challenges that the new British leader will have to face in the coming months.

He believes the new UK Prime Minister will not be looking for a conflict with Iran, but London’s withdrawal from the European Union and its possible pullout from the Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), may “increase the probability of formation of the international coalition that Trump dreams about.”

What follows is the full text of the interview:

Q:  All former UK leaders, except Tony Blair, have been afraid of overt or unquestioning support for Washington despite an implicit collaboration with the US policies. But Boris Johnson is said to have no compunction about following the US and will not be concerned about it. What is your evaluation? Will the new UK prime minister take part in the US campaign of maximum pressure on Iran?

A: Considering his far-right leanings and the similarity of his and Trump’s policies, the new UK prime minister has somehow informed Iran of his approach. Johnson did not take any stance on Iran or even on the oil tankers crisis in his first speech after assuming the office. He had two objectives in this regard; One reason was that he didn’t want to give credibility to the issue of the captured oil tankers, because he sought to show himself indifferent to this crisis. The second reason that made him avoid talking about this crisis was that Boris Johnson didn’t want his policies to be overshadowed by the crisis at the beginning of his tenure.

Q: You mean Britain is looking for direct confrontation with Iran in the short term?

A: No. One should wait to know about details of the UK’s decision and see what policies it will adopt. The UK economy’s current situation is chaotic, and it seems hardly likely that the UK would be after confrontation with Iran. But on other subjects such as the Brexit, I believe that the new UK prime minister will be following the policies of the current US administration and Trump, and will take steps to fulfill the old dream of Trump who favours lack of integrity of the European Union. Johnson has also pledged that he will pull the UK out of the European Union within a hundred days, with or without a deal, as this action will affect the European unity. However, we should remember that Brexit without a deal will be a very tough and risky job, and an unreasonable expectation in some way. Johnson would not be able to win adequate political support even within the Conservative Party to carry out the plan for a no-deal Brexit, but the point is that such development is meant to fulfill the interests of the current US administration, since Trump would not like a powerful centre in the West, like the EU, to stand against his demands. Trump has always tried to make the EU meet failure, particularly at the present time that the EU wants to stand against the unbridled US sanctions.

Q: How would the rise of far-right parties in Europe affect the future developments given the current circumstance?

A: This issue has concerned the European countries, particularly France and Germany. French President Emmanuel Macron is deeply worried about the rise of radical right parties, because it may result in a victory for Marine Le Pen in the future. In the ceremony marking the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, attended by Trump, Macron said supporting the far-right parties will once again turn Europe into a hell. On the other hand, we see that Trump has recently criticized France for its new policy of tax on big American technology companies and has slammed Macron’s measure as foolishness. These cases would aggravate the differences and cause the US to support radical parties in Europe in retaliation.

Q: How could Johnson maintain a balance between the European partners and the US when it comes to Brexit?

A: Theresa May who was initially an advocate of Brexit was expecting that Britain’s $30-billion market in the European Union and the UK labour forces working at the European countries would be maintained after the British exit from the union, and hoping to direct those capacities towards the US. But Trump did not reach out to Theresa May during their last two meetings, because May lacked the elements of a Conservative and ultimately ran into trouble at the UK Parliament. Therefore, Boris Johnson’s outspoken stance on Brexit and the issue of UK withdrawal from the EU may have been taken in coordination with Trump, which will be a very dangerous plan, and I believe that Johnson is unlikely to meet success in this approach.

Q: Supposing that Johnson could pull the UK out of the European Union, how would it affect the relations between Iran and Europe?

A: Iran will lose one of the JCPOA parties anyway, and as a result, France and Germany will be left alone, as the US pressures on these two countries could prove more effective and increase the probability of formation of the international coalition that Trump dreams about.

Q: What will happen to the UK-proposed naval coalition? Will the UK strengthen its naval presence in the Persian Gulf?

A: I think it was a posturing by Jeremy Hunt which got nowhere. Although Denmark and France welcomed the idea at first, the European states realized its consequences later. Even Germany announced that it would agree on the plan once it is ratified by the European Union.

Q: At a time of heightened tensions in the Persian Gulf, we see the Arab countries have remained silent and avoid taking any specific stance. What is their purpose?

A: You may remember that a United Arab Emirates’ official had announced that the US is like a lion in dealing with the Arab countries, but behaves like a rabbit in the face of Iran, which was a very harsh criticism. The Persian Gulf Arab states are beginning to regret relying upon the US, and the recent developments as well as Iran’s measures have made them retreat and refuse to take stances. This fact applies to Israel as well, as they (Arab states) try to refrain from sharp comments. In conclusion, I can say that the Arab countries’ expectations of the US have ended in failure, forcing them to stay silent and keep an eye on the future. Reliance on Israel and huge arms purchases have also brought them nothing.

Q: Is it possible that the recent developments would affect the Europeans’ decision to create the financial mechanism, known as INSTEX?

A: What should be taken into account is that the Europeans are unable to meet Iran’s demands because of the US, and we should not expect them to take any step towards the sale of Iranian oil or the removal of banking obstacles either. The JCPOA Joint Commission meeting will be also overshadowed by the situation in Britain, while the G7 summit will be held in Paris. We should wait and see what happens in the future.

Q: How do you think will the future shape the relations between Iran and the US and Europe? And what developments will the region witness?

A: Considering the current situation, a war or skirmish will be unlikely, but the tensions are not expected to ease either. The situation is such that Iran and the US have remained on the zero point. Moreover, Washington has no plans for attacking Iran, because they don’t want to repeat their past mistakes. All these factors make it more difficult to make a forecast on what will happen in the already vague future. Also, Iran is neither demanding negotiations, nor does it look for a war. The lack of a definite strategy also complicates the situation further. Maybe one of the beacons of hope helping Iran will be the defeat of Trump in the presidential election, which is extremely unlikely. All in all, it is possible for Iran to continue with the current situation.

   
   

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