No prosperity without justice: the UK’s relationship with Iran Contents


66.The UK has been most successful at securing its objectives vis-à-vis Iran when it has committed to a long-term strategy alongside international partners. However, the UK’s relationship with Iran is bigger than Iran’s nuclear violations, malign regional activity, or human rights abuses. It is also a relationship between cultures and peoples and the story of their shared interests. Consequently, the FCDO should be prepared to accept that the UK’s existing relationships with the E3 and US, while important, cannot offer the fullest structure for diplomacy. The FCDO needs a renewed focus on understanding the motivations behind the actions of the Iranian State, and a clear effort needs to be made to differentiate between the Iranian State and the Iranian people.

67.Over the course of millennia, Persians have made significant contributions regionally and internationally to science, culture, poetry, maths and philosophy. The UK’s difficult relationship with the Islamic Republic has overshadowed its much longer relationship with Persia and the common ground values Britons share with Iranians. While it remains the right of the Iranian people to determine how they are governed, it equally remains the responsibility of the UK to call the Iranian State out for its human rights abuses where it falls short of international expectations.

68.Engagement with Iran should not be an end goal in and of itself. Rather, engagement should seek to encourage Iran to play a positive, constructive and predictable role as a regional power, which uses international norms, respect for human rights and the rule of law as the basis for its actions. At its heart, a strategy must send a clear message: that Iran’s destabilising activities are unacceptable because they adversely impact the region and its peoples, but that when the time comes, the door is open to diplomacy.

Published: 16 December 2020 Site information    Accessibility statement