Os­borne’s Iran trade plan un­der fire

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY SANDY RASHTY

CHAN­CEL­LOR GE­ORGE Os­borne has come un­der strong crit­i­cism for his de­ci­sion to lead a busi­ness del­e­ga­tion to Iran next year.

Bri­tish and Is­raeli re­searchers say that Mr Os­borne is pri­ori­tis­ing trade over Ira­nian hu­man-rights abuses and the on­go­ing threat the coun­try poses to the Jewish state.

The UK was among six coun­tries that, in July, agreed to lift sanc­tions against Iran in ex­change for checks on its nu­clear pro­gramme.

At the time, Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu called the deal a “his­toric mis­take” and said that it “paves Iran’s path to the bomb”.

But, last week, Mr Os­borne said he would visit Iran if its lead­ers stood by the agree­ment.

“As­sum­ing that Iran hon­ours the nu­clear deal and it’s prop­erly ver­i­fied, I think there will be grow­ing po­ten­tial to do busi­ness with Iran,” he said.

“Next year, I would love to lead a proper, eco­nomic and trade del­e­ga­tion to Iran.”

The move is likely to be seen as a step to­wards build­ing re­la­tions be­tween the UK and Iran, which holds 9.3 per cent of the world’s oil re­serves and 18.2 per cent of the nat­u­ral gas re­serves.

Nu­clear sci­en­tist Ephraim As­cu­lai, a se­nior re­search fel­low at the Is­rael-based In­sti­tute for Na­tional Se­cu­rity Stud­ies, said that Western lead­ers were keen to cap­i­talise on Iran’s re­sources. He said the agree­ment “gave a chance for the sanc­tions a chance to be lifted, and for any­one in­ter­ested to go to Iran and rus­tle up busi­ness.

“The mo­ti­va­tion was very com­plex, but you can­not rule out com­merce was not one of the mo­ti­va­tions.”

His com­plaint was echoed by Tom Wil­son, a se­nior re­search fel­low at the Henry Jack­son So­ci­ety think-tank.

He said: “This planned visit by Mr Os­borne is woe­fully pre­ma­ture. There will be lit­tle in­cen­tive for Iran to abide by the agree­ment once trade ties have be­come well-es­tab­lished.

“While the Is­raelis will no doubt be alarmed by these kinds of moves, my sense is that it won’t greatly dam­age UK-Is­rael re­la­tions. The two coun­tries have too many other shared in­ter­ests.”

Arieh Miller, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Zion­ist Fed­er­a­tion, said: “I think a lot of peo­ple will feel very un­easy about the prospect of the UK un­ques­tion­ingly build­ing trade links with Iran.

“Many will won­der how the fi­nan­cial ben­e­fits will bol­ster a theo­cratic regime op­posed to hu­man rights and democ­racy at home, and the ex­is­tence of a Jewish state abroad.”

Moshe Kan­tor, pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Jewish Congress, said: “Sig­nif­i­cant trade mis­sions merely en­able Iran’s bel­li­cose and prob­lem­atic role in a re­gion al­ready reel­ing from mas­sive in­sta­bil­ity.”

A Trea­sury spokesman said a visit to Iran was not yet con­firmed.

Last month, Bri­tain re­opened its em­bassy in Tehran and For­eign Sec­re­tary Philip Ham­mond con­firmed that sanc­tions could be lifted next spring.

PHOTO: AP

Ge­orge Os­borne

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