On 3 April 2016, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe (a British-Iranian dual citizen) was arrested at the Imam Khomeini Airport (Iran) as she and daughter were about to board a flight back to the UK after a family holiday. She was sentenced to five years imprisonment for allegedly plotting to topple the Iranian regime.
Apparently, the charges against Nazanin stem from her duties as a ‘Training Assistant’ when she worked for the BBC World Service Trust between February 2009 and October 2010. The Trust provided training courses to Iranian journalists, some of who were convicted for participating in the foreign training course in 2014. So, even though Nazanin had already left by then, she was arrested “over her involvement in post-election riots that engulfed Tehran and some other cities in 2009” (PressTV).
Her plight was further worsened by Boris Johnson (British Foreign Secretary) claiming her Iranian holiday (2016) involved “training journalists”- a gaffe he later had to rectify.
Between 1971 and 1976, the Shah Of Iran ordered 1,500 Chieftain battle tanks and 250 repair vehicles from Britain (when they were still allies). The bill added up to £650m, and the Shah paid it up front, rather than on delivery. Britain managed to deliver 185 tanks to Tehran before history got in the way. (Inews). Iran then became the enemy, they wanted £450m back…. Britain, ah…haven’t quite refused, but the money is stuck in a holding bank in the UK – and can’t be returned just yet because of sanctions. (For over 40 years….really??)
So, where are we now?
One of my old posts about Obama (Smooth Operator ) detailed how a cash-for-prisoner exchange went down: with a jetliner loaded with $400 million in cash arriving in Tehran’s Mehrabad Airport. Coincidentally, that same day (Jan. 17th 2016) saw the release of four American hostages held by the Iranians.
So, now there’s talk about seriously returning this money…but sanctions are in the way..and so on. Furthermore, both the Britain and Iran’s foreign office have stressed that the money and Nazanin’s case are separate. In my eyes, they’re inexorably linked. Let’s watch this space… Obama got his men out, 007 style. What will the UK do?