The UK Foreign Secretary William Hague announced today that the UK will soon reopen the doors to its embassy in Tehran.
In a written statement, Hague indicated that the embassy will open pending logistical and administrative finishing touches. Hague clarified that the embassy will offer only limited services, and that “for the time being, Iranians will still need to apply in Abu Dhabi or Istanbul for visas for travel to the U.K.”
The closure of the British Embassy in Tehran along with total diplomatic silence date back to the 2011 siege where demonstrators scaled the walls and burned buildings of the embassy’s compound in Golhak Garden, a row caused by British sanctions on Iran. This also prompted the UK to close the Iranian Embassy in London.
Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague (photo: Reuters)
While there are continuing political stalemates between the two countries, for example Iran refusing to condemn the 2011 attacks and their financial and ideological intervention in the Syrian civil war and support of Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hague said that the current “circumstances are right” for the reopening.
Over the past few months, Western countries have been seeking a rapprochement with Iran, a process that started with the election of President Hassan Rouhani, advanced by recent P5+1 peace talks, and further precipitated by the mounting ISIL threat in Iraq. The encroaching ISIL is likely the major impetus for the embassy opening its doors once again, as former senior diplomat Sir William Patey told British Radio 4 today that there is a “short-term congruence of interests” that enable the renewal of diplomatic ties.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (photo: Reuters)
Hague iterated that the UK would not partake in any military mission in Iraq against ISIL, but that Britain had deployed a team of counter-terrorism experts to assist the Iraqi national forces. He added that the US is “looking at all options” regarding actions into the horrendous ISIL lead campaign, as they too have short-term overlapping aims in the crisis.
Meanwhile, the US moved 275 armed forces personnel in and around Iraq to secure American holdings and personnel in the country. This move is the prelude to President Barack Obama’s forthcoming decision about how the US will proceed in the Sunni ISIL campaign that is advancing on Shiite-led government under Prime Minister Maliki.
US President Obama and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki in 2009 (photo: Reuters)
The Associated Press reported that Obama met with senior advisers Monday night to discuss the plan of action. While there has been no confirmation of direct military engagement in Iraq, that White House Spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said Obama “has asked his national security team to prepare a range of other options that could help support Iraqi security forces.” During Monday’s talks, US Foreign Secretary John Kerry also said that US air strikes ‘may well be’ an option.”
This after Obama withdrew troop from Iraq in December of 2011.