UK mustn’t give in to Trump over Iran

The Scotsman - - Scottish Perspective -

This week’s US elec­tions sug­gested Donald Trump is un­likely to dis­ap­pear any time soon and the longer he stays, the more er­ratic he will be­come in at­tack­ing do­mes­tic lib­er­ties and pick­ing fights abroad.

The lat­ter con­sid­er­a­tion makes it crit­i­cal to de­velop a for­eign pol­icy that does not merely fol­low the Amer­i­can lead, as has been our cus­tom through many decades in the name of a Spe­cial Re­la­tion­ship which Trump has min­i­mal in­ter­est in.

Against that back­drop, I wel­come a clear state­ment from the For­eign and Com­mon­wealth Of­fice in re­sponse to Trump’s coun­ter­pro­duc­tive sanc­tions against Iran. The UK view, shared by EU part­ners, is en­tirely dif­fer­ent.

The FCO said un­equiv­o­cally: “The UK Govern­ment con­tin­ues to fully sup­port ex­pand­ing our trade re­la­tion­ship with Iran and en­cour­ages UK busi­nesses to take ad­van­tage of the com­mer­cial op­por­tu­ni­ties that arise.”

At a for­mal level, this is recog­ni­tion that Amer­i­can bul­ly­ing of for­eign com­pa­nies has ab­so­lutely no ba­sis in in­ter­na­tional law. So “carry on trad­ing” is no more than con­firm­ing that, legally, noth­ing has changed. But how will the UK – or French or Ger­man – Govern­ment give sub­stance to that fine sen­ti­ment? Will they un­der­write huge fines the Amer­i­cans im­pose for breach of their sanc­tions? They have never done so in re­la­tion to Cuba which has suf­fered the same il­le­gal per­se­cu­tion for half a cen­tury.

Sup­port for Amer­i­can for­eign pol­icy in the age of Trump leads in dan­ger­ous direc­tions, not least by keeping us be­holden to Saudi Ara­bia in the re­gional power strug­gle to which Iran is the counter-party.

Let’s hope the FCO state­ment truly rep­re­sents a will to di­verge from the ra­bid ide­o­logues who are now fill­ing the in­tel­lec­tual vac­uum in Trump’s State Depart­ment. The tests will soon come.

An Ira­nian woman walks past graf­fiti on the walls of the for­mer US em­bassy in Tehran

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