Iran-UK tanker standoff: What is the next step for Britain? | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 23.07.2019
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Iran-UK tanker standoff: What is the next step for Britain?

After Iran seized a UK-flagged tanker in the Strait of Hormuz, the UK is looking for a diplomatic way forward. But if Tehran refuses to negotiate, London will have to consider taking a harder line.

DW: How is Iran's continued seizure of a British-flagged tanker affecting the bilateral relationship between Iran and the United Kingdom?

Shahran Tabari: I would say relations are very tense at the moment. The UK's foreign minister, Jeremy Hunt, has tried to solve the tanker problem through diplomacy. But this requires cooperation from both sides, and Iran doesn't seem willing to negotiate.

The next stage would be containment, and Britain has used a policy of containment with many countries, for example, against Libya. Containment would mean more sanctions and asset freezes. If this policy doesn't bring the other side to the negotiating table, military action would be a last resort.

Read more: Iran seizes British-flagged oil tanker in Gulf

If relations continue to sour, what would be the fate of the nuclear deal, of which the UK is a signatory and has always supported?

The EU is very keen to keep the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) alive. But the US has dropped out of the deal, and it is important to note that the US is capable of adopting measures to punish EU countries that violate sanctions on Iran.

Watch video 07:55

UK-Iran tensions over tanker seizure

At the same time, the UK needs to align further with the US in preparation for Brexit, after which London will become very much dependent on economic deals with Washington.

Read more: EU mechanism for trade with Iran 'now operational'

Some analysts believe that US President Donald Trump's administration is dragging the UK into war with Iran. What do you think about this remark?

As far as I know, there are conflicting policies in Washington on this matter. Some analysts say that the White House does not want a war with Iran, even if some officials at the Pentagon do.

For example, US National Security Advisor John Bolton has called for military action against Iran, and to some extent, so has US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. However, in my opinion, the UK will follow a policy of containment if diplomacy fails to resolve the current standoff with Iran.

I think that if President Trump gets re-elected to a second term, then there is a possibility that he will move towards military action against Iran. Whether the UK joins the US in a war with Iran all depends on the political situation involving Brexit in the coming year.

What are the options out of the current standoff?

I think for the Iranians, there must be a collective solution to the problem. Both elected leaders like the president and the parliament, along with non-elected powers like the Ayatollah and the Republican Guard Corps, need to come together on a solution.

Read more: JCPOA reeling, Iran's youth seek sustainable economic path

Shahran Tabari is an Iranian-British journalist, a member of the Labour Party, and an expert on the Iran-UK relationship.

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