17 Jun 2014

At last, Washington's poodle asserts itself on Iran

To be British in Tehran is to be cast as a pseudo-American. Nowhere is Britain more graphically depicted as Washington’s poodle. And to a very large extent British interests in Iran have been very severely damaged by our failure to pursue a foreign policy with Iran that was completely independent of US influence.

Indeed, it has cost this country dear and done us no detectable benefit in Washington. We have lost billions in trade relations and much more.

The United Kingdom has enjoyed some 300 years of relations with what once was Persia. The US has had less than three decades of full diplomatic relations – conducted during the worst years of the Shah.

On his behalf, in 1953, we even conspired with Washington to overthrow Iran’s last democratically elected prime minister, Mohammad Mossadegh. He’d nationalised the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (later to become British Petroleum) because of gross under-payments for the oil they were extracting.

An Iranian flag flutters in front of the UN headquarters in Vienna

Sadly, the British did not learn from the event, and neither did the Americans, who set about trying to run Iran like a 51st US state. A blind eye was turned to the Shah’s abuse of human rights, and few spotted the resentment that would fuel one of history’s most dramatic revolutions.

When it came, the United States felt the full brunt of the heat of the Islamic revolution. Not long after, Washington’s entire embassy was seized together with 52 diplomats inside. Those of us who were there thought the seizure would last a few hours – indeed, students inside the building told me as much.

But the US would not negotiate, neither would they talk with the Algerians who offered to mediate. And so this unprecedented hostage crisis lasted 444 days, until Washington allowed the Algerians to get the diplomats out and fly them to Algiers and freedom.

The Iranians had hitherto stubbornly refused to release the hostages, parading them and, in the process, shaming and enraging the Americans. Years later, during the US invasion of Iraq, it was the Iranians who helped to develop the IEDs (improvised explosive devices) that killed hundreds of Americans and which were a big factor in the US departure from that country.

The United States has never returned to Iran. The British staggered on, constantly the butt of anti-American hatred. The poodle got regular beatings. At no point would the UK distance itself from the ostracisation, sanctions, and pressure, exerted from Washington.

Finally in 2011 we too abandoned Tehran as our own embassy was attacked by rioters protesting against US-led sanctions and much else. Those sanctions have been without global precedent. A draconian ban on all international financial transactions lay at their core.

Britain’s historic view of Persia, and subsequently Iran, has been far more complex, intricate, and informed, than ever America’s three brief decades were.

Finally, the deed is done and UK diplomats are going back to reopen the embassy. They do so knowing that for the first time, the United States actually understands the vital strategic role Iran plays in the region. Shia Iran is of value in resolving the crisis in majority Shia Iraq. Having savaged that country with a disastrous invasion in which Britain inevitably joined. The US is in desperate need of Iran’s help to sort the mess out.

But amid the rapprochement, the British would do well to make up their own independent minds as to how to behave, and how to relate with Tehran this time round.

Follow @jonsnowC4 on Twitter

Tweets by @jonsnowC4

10 reader comments

  1. Procivic says:

    In all fairness to the Americans, Britain exercised their arrogance towards Iran over a much longer period. Nevertheless, while America initially was seen as a benign power from afar, in no time it came to replace Britain as the baton of empire was handed over to an even more voracious power.

    1. robert sinclair says:

      This is the nearest article that comes to hand. I wish to express my thoughts , which are shared by many people who have educated themselves in austrian economics and world affairs. I’ll keep it brief:
      You don’t seem to realise that the worlds current monetary scheme is coming to an end as all paper debt based systems fail and always fail. To fine in villains, of all the world conflicts, all you have to do is follow the money trail to see who has the most to gain. The US prints dollars and puts the rest of the world into debt. Countries pay off their debt with hard assets such as oil for these real assets they get paid in paper with no real intrinsic value. It supports the dollar with the threat of war for those who don’t play along. All of the currencies are linked to the dollar ponsi scheme. As soon as the money supply contracts it will sink in a deflationary collapse. The US is trying very hard to avoid this. They are failing so they must try somthing else, to cover it up.

  2. Philip Edwards says:


    Don’t kid yourself.

    The gnomes in Whitehall and the dwarfs in Westminster will do exactly what the State Department and oil companies tell them to do. The last Brit PM to tell the Yanks to do one was Clem Atlee – Wilson managed to keep us out of Vietnam but he paid the price in due course.

    The current crop of neocon Brit pols wouldn’t know a pair of cojones if they came with an instruction booklet…….Blair’s cringeworthy address to the Congress anyone?

    If any Brit government actually managed to grow a pair we all know what would happen: there would be a run on sterling, capital would flee, and the Yank media would be full of neocon muck about “further proof of British decline”. It would just be a rerun of the propaganda garbage they peddled in the 1970s.

    Can you see Cameron, Milliband or Clegg or any of the other Parliament of Scoundrels hangers-on having the guts to set an example for the rest of the planet?……..No, me neither.

    Of course it also rebounds on non-compliant Yanks too. Nixon got shut of the disgusting CIA murderer Richard Helms when he made him ambassador to Iran; well, we know too what happened to Nixon then. Check out too the number of “liberal” Yank pols who suddenly found their private lives splashed all over the media or were subjected to mainstream media attacks of one kind or another. Any Yank who has the courage to raise his head above the parapet is immediately castigated or marginalised in the same manner as the Third Reich – and that is not an exaggeration.

    The very root of all this lies in the ownership and control of the USA garrison state. You might recall John Kennedy said he didn’t want “A Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war”; now the New York Times and leading Yank establishment figures talk openly of operating just that way. Well, five months after he said that, John Kennedy went to Dallas…….

    The presidency is little more than an office for an itinerant clerk hamstrung by a cowardly gang of careerist senators and congressmen bought and paid for by the banks and other commercial/industrial interests. You need only consult the records of financial contributions from neocon sources.

    Gore Vidal told you in his last interview with you that, “We lacked moral validity from the start.” But you didn’t listen – probably too busy composing your latest waffle about a non-existent “American Dream” or giggling that Vidal had “lost it”. Actually, dying or not, as his nation’s biographer he was bang on the money. The USA has been a corrupt mercantilist elitist state from the very beginning. Funny, but we NEVER hear about Yank and European Oligarchs, only Russians.

    The American Empire is no different from any other empire that has ever existed and mass murdered and thieved on its way to power, and it will just as surely decline and decay in the same way as all the others – the British Empire included.

    I feel nothing but shame when I think of the so-called “Special Relationship”. It is nothing but a contrick which fools only gullible apologists and suits cynical opportunists like, for instance, the disgusting Tony Blair. There are plenty of others.

  3. Sprung says:

    The writer attempts to distort historical facts. He attributes the 1953 coup against Iran to US. In fact it was British greed to own Iranian oil & its persistent cajoling of America that brought about the 1953 disastrous military coup against the elected and revered prime minister of Iran. Iran doesn’t need another spy den in its capital. Britain has been a menacing leech to Iran & has nothing to add to us.

  4. Y.S. says:

    Blair wants to intervene in Iraq. How much is a ticket for us to send him there. He can stay there as long as he likes.

  5. Meg Howarth says:

    I, for one, am delighted the British Embassy in Tehran is to re-open. Thanks, Jon, for the reminder of Britain’s role in overthrowing Iran’s democratically elected prime minister Mossadegh.

    Worth catching Hugh Sykes on tonight’s BBCR4 PM programme – a seamless run-on from the blog above.

  6. H says:

    Jon, I agree with you that the historic Anglo Persian relations was indeed distorted by America’s failure to understand Iran and I also agree that Successive British governments lacked clear strategy different from that of US and Israel towards Iran. Equally they’re many deluded Iranians some of them commented above who still think that British embassy in Tehran is behind the Islamic revolution, the war with Iraq and support for the ayatollahs. I hope the two sides understand that we should all move on ad accept that there are strong voices of modernity in Iran and Britain also has moved on from its past! Many thanks for this piece. HAMID

  7. Matt says:

    They had no idea on who were liquidating their scientists so they used protesters to raid the embassy to see if a substation was operating. Had nothing to do with UK foreign policy. We do you favors, not exactly a poddle other we would do nothing. Like stopping the IRA and ETA from taking millions and millions of dollars to carry out terror attacks in the UK and France to stop the attack on Libya. You had more ties with the Libyans than the US. And that clown prince was starting to annoy us with these request to send boats to Gaza, making us negotiate with him. As he tried to build up his Jihad cred to take over from his old man and brothers. And we turned down full ties and oil to not influence the US to not attack. And let we tell you there were plenty including the Def Sec that did not want to and wanted to delay so Benghazi revolution would be crushed. It was touch and go but then in his panic Qaddafi called for another intifada, that was it.

  8. nehad ismail says:

    The ISIS episode in Iraq has worked to Iran’s advantage. It has broken Iran’s isolation and would enable Iran to meddle into Iraqi affairs. For the last three years Ian has rejected any external intervention in Syria to protect its ally Al Assad, but it is welcoming American involvement to help Nouri al Maliki its puppet in Iraq. Interestingly ISIS in Iraq is fighting the regime, whereas in Syria it is working with regime and fighting other rebels. Only the Free Syrian Army is battling ISIS in Syria.

  9. JOHN KENNY says:

    The enemy since the 70ties was Iraq and shites the allies Saudi and the sunnies.. America as a lot of investment tied up in Saudi best not upset them. We will all probably have to sort it out later, doing nothing means they will be less to sort out.

Comments are closed.