A few years ago MPs started receiving emails calling on the British Government to get Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe released from Iran.

Not realising it was an organised campaign I replied personally to a few, suggesting that a public instruction from the British Government ordering the Iranians to release an Iranian citizen (she has dual nationality but the Iranians do not recognise it) would almost certainly have the opposite effect to the one intended.

The Iranian Government, or elements of it, have a deeply rooted suspicion of Britain and America. They believe that since the 19th century we have worked closely together plotting and scheming to undermine their governments. Unfortunately there is some truth in this.

The 1953 coup d’état, financed by the CIA, against the popular leader Mohammad Mossadeq who was replaced with the Shah, and the help given to Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war are merely the most recent tangible examples of Western interference in Iran. The Government of Iran is riven with divisions but the one thing that unites hardliners and reformers is a suspicion of the West and repugnance of any suggestion of a colonialist attitude towards the Iranian people.

All this is well known, so I pointed out to the first few people emailing me that we should be very careful indeed about making public demands on the Iranian government – public demands are certain to backfire and make matters worse.

The only diplomatic approach likely to result in success with Iran will involve patience, courtesy, and private requests for clemency. Yet the tone from campaigners suggested that some people still think that the British Empire is alive and well and that the Foreign Secretary only has to raise his voice for foreign governments to tremble and obey.

This is the kindest explanation for the decision to make Nazanin a cause célèbre, constantly raising her case in the Commons. It is this which led to the questioning of the Foreign Secretary by a Select Committee, and it was the campaigners who are now making much of his replies which they say have made matters worse.

In fact by giving enormous airtime to a slip in Select Committee evidence, which few would have watched, the campaigners have now once again made this a big issue in Iran. Those within the Iranian Government and justice system who might have been minded to show clemency will find it much harder to do so because of the very public row that has been whipped up in Britain. Furthermore, the calls to sack the Foreign Secretary if Nazanin spends further time in jail will delight hardliners in the regime who would like nothing more than to be responsible for bringing down a senior British politician. Each call for Boris to go is making it less likely that Nazanin will walk.

Perhaps the people involved in Nazanin’s campaign are ignorant of how things work in Iran. The alternative is that some are more interested in using Nazanin’s plight to attack Boris Johnson for political advantage than in getting her out of jail.

Those who truly care about the plight of Nazanin should stop speaking in public and let the Foreign Secretary quietly get on with his job.


  1. Many who have joined the bandwagon are more interested in stopping Brexit than helping to get the release of Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

  2. Boris is lazy and perpetually under prepared. He is arrogant enough to believe that his old Etonian charm and celebrated idiot savant routine will carry the day, and that hard work is for others not him. He misspoke probably because he hadn’t been bothered to read the brief properly. There really is no excuse.

    • Perhaps somebody should leak the brief.

      After all, “training journalists” is not the sort of thing which would just pop into his head.

      • Iran is a repressive misogynistic theocracy. Their treatment of this woman is despicable. Boris,however, remains a lazy arrogant incompetent, unfit for high office.

        • Boris may be all of the above – in your opinion.

          In my opinion whatever Boris may or not be, he has opportunity here to show his charm and charisma, talk to Tehran, autocratic nutters can be talked down from doing evil deeds through hushed dialogue and nuanced tactful jaw jaw and Bojo is infinitely capable of such if he turns his mind to it.

          and then to nota bene; by comparison to the bunch of t8t w-anchors who’ve, since cuddly ken gone before him in recent years, Boris is a tower of British redoubt.

        • And SHE is an Iranian Citizen. If you read FCO Website and the Passport Notes you cannot have British Consular Assistance for any matter that relates to a Country of which you are a citizen.

  3. Sadly, I have no doubt that those campaigning so vociferously now have no genuine interest in Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s welfare. Boris Johnson is one of the senior Brexit supporters in the Cabinet and that is why he is a target. After all, why else has the loathsome Anna Soubry seen fit to stick her oar in? This is what she says on annasoubry.org.uk:

    “On 17 February the Foreign Secretary discussed Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case with the Iranian Foreign Minister, and I am pleased that her family have confirmed she has legal representation. However, the fact that Iran does not recognise dual nationality makes progress difficult. Most recently, the new Minister for the Middle East raised Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case in a telephone call with the Iranian Foreign Minister on 21 June. The Prime Minister additionally has raised strong concerns with the Iranian President, most recently on 24 May.”

    Yet now she sees a chance to undermine a prominent Brexiteer, which is far more important to her than Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe-Ratcliffe’s liberty.

  4. About time someone said this. Boris can be obnoxious, but he’s also smart and we all misspeak on occasion. What this furor has done, I think, it make it literally impossible for anyone in Iran to consider releasing her. A gunboat, or the entire Royal Navy can’t fix this now. She’ll be very lucky if she survives the results of her ‘friends’ advocacy.

    Remember that first group of our hostages that got out back in 1979, nobody even knew they existed until the Canadians, patiently, tirelessly, and quietly, brought them home. That’s how it’s done. However evil Iran is (plenty!); it is a sovereign country. It’s law is applied how it says it is, we can (and should) ask, but it’s their country. If you want to contest that, the proper people to consult are Her Majesty’s Forces, not the Foreign Office. But the effort shall surely kill the patient.

  5. Doesn’t help that Thomson Reuters Foundation is part financed by American Jewish World Service. Surely, all TRF employees should have been warned about going to Iran?

    The Iranians are also expecting to be paid back for the armaments sold to them before Iran’s regime change – by USA ( their detained citizens returned after $ payment …’around the time’ they were returned ) and the UK.

    • According to Wiki ‘Zaghari-Ratcliffe used to work for the BBC Media Action international charitable project, (which sits in the BBC World Service Group) which is linked to a BBC training course offered to Iranian journalists, some of who were convicted for participating in the foreign training course in 2014. Nazanin worked for BBC Media Action between February 2009 and October 2010, “in a junior capacity as a Training Assistant” according the CEO of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, before moving to Thomson Reuters Foundation.’

      I have no idea if she has been involved with any anti-regime groups in the UK but if she has these groups do have spies in them and she would have been very unwise to visit Iran. Given her employment and past employment history I do feel she should not have visited Iran for her own safety. But it is also worth pointing out because she is Iranian she has no right to UK Consular assistance in Iran. She is after all Iranian.

    • FFS Her mother still lives in Iran and she was, as is perfectly natural, taking her daughter to visit the family. You would need a heart of stone not to let your mother see her granddaughter. There is no need to construct a grand conspiracy around a simple visit.

      • “You would need a heart of stone not to let your mother see her granddaughter”
        You’ve summed up the Iranian government perfectly there.

  6. It’s important to keep perspective here, most of the Iranian people do not want what they have to endure, the Theocrats run the country and where once the ancient Persia was one of the wonders of the civilized world. Whatever the Theocrats think of Britain, many Iranian youngsters crave British style and culture, historically we are associated, and have been for a long time.

    Britain, always had considerable contacts with the Iranians and it has to be said, if not always their best interests at heart ref: the CIA. Proper channels of diplomacy should always be kept open, Britain must begin to steer its own way in the world again, if we are ever going to attempt to make success of the marvellous opportunities Leaving the EU will open up to us, being acquainted though not necessarily friends with one of the major players in the middle east and a bridge to Asia – notwithstanding Persia’s vast mineral and fossil fuel resouce could provide endless possibilities: Britain needs very much to keep in with the Iranians.

    The Iranian lady in question, that needs to be dealt with away from the public glare and with acknowledgement to Iranian sensibilities and utmost, dextrous tact.

      • Sanctions were being lifted or were, until DJT has his input.

        Short of doing a survey on the streets of greater Persia, who can really tell – admittedly my opinion is only based on ‘noise’.

        • The reports all say the people are decidedly not the government. Whether that makes them pro-western is a different question, especially after Obama betrayed them a few years ago. Sanctions? Well do you really think the mullahs having nuclear weapons to play jihad with is worth Siemans making a bit of money? I don’t, not even for Boeing.

          • It’s about oil and only really oil.

            The French and Germans have been dealing with Iran for many years, irrespective of sanctions.

            Pragmatism is the key word, therein, the British and Americans should seek to be in communication with Tehran and irrespective of what the world thinks and I am talking here about strategic solutions insofar as the ME is concerned.

            The west and more particularly the US and UK are all at sea concerning Iran and the KSA ie, we talk with one lot – the KSA and trade openly with the ‘Kingdom’ who are bombing civilians in Yemen and somehow by some strange illogical design of halfwitted policy, deem that, Iran is beyond the pale.
            AND Yet, with the Iraqi Kurds, US and UK special forces fought nigh alongside the al Quds and Hezbollah brigades against Isis and where the gulf states were funding [our enemies] al Nusra and factions and nations [ref: our allies Erdogan and Turkey] who were clearly providing logistical support for the Raqqa ‘caliphate’ – importing via the northern Euphrates valley, aided the Raqqa regime by selling Syrian oil. And all because the west credulously inspired the Syrian Sunni to rise up against Bashar al Assad and evidently where al Assad was the least worst option and who actively protected the ancient Aramaic Christians – FFS what, what was their stupid idea; Obama, camoron and those french loons Sarkozy then hollande thinking? ‘Thinking’ – there wasn’t any.
            What a cluster****.

            Whose backing who and whose side are we [US and UK] really on?

            Imho, there’s very little to choose between the twain – KSA and gulf satraps and the Shia Theocrats running Tehran, therefore would it not be politic to play one off against the other. that’s modern pragmatism of Weltpolitik.

  7. Oh! How disappointing. It’s not that David Davis MP but David Davies MP. (I only just noticed the extra vowel.) I though David Davis wouldn’t have written anything quite so crass and puerile and I was right! Although defending Boris Johnson reminds me of a scientist I used to work with sticking up for smallpox on the verge of its extinction outside of laboratories, which I considered potty, and I like smallpox as an organism much better than Boris Johnson as a man,

    • I be.ieve this woman knew exactly what she was doing. There has been a rumour she was working for the BBC. What I do know is my son and daughter in law booked a three week holiday to Iran from their home in China. When my son produced his British passport he was told he would not be welcome in Iran unless he accepted a guide to accompany them on their holiday. They were not worried about his Chinese wife. They explained they did not trust the British or Americans. So if this woman was genuinely a British citizen on holiday she would have had to accept a guide.

      My suspicion is she was probably doing propoganda for the BBC and now they are using her plight to derail the Foreign Secretary. I wouldn’t put anything past the BbC

      • Perhaps she is one of those 6′ blue lizards trying to rule the galaxy?

        I have deep reservations about all those trying to boost their political careers by posturing at the expense of Mrs. Ratcliffe, but I see no justification for considering her to be the villain.

        • The justification is that she should have had more common sense.
          Just because it is reasonable to visit your family in a civilised country like Britain does not mean it is considered reasonable in a sh*thole like Iran. Particularly when you have worked for Western news agencies in your past.

        • I do not think she is the ‘villain’. I suspect she is an academic whose ideology is getting the better of her…..

          On Breitbart they actually found a small piece from a number of years ago when she was detained for teaching but the UK managed to get her extradited. It is why I think she is being used as the useful idiot.

      • She has dual citizenship, although the Iranians don’t recognise that state. I can only assume she entred Iran using her Iranian Passport. But she and her husband must know and understand that as a dual national she is not entitled to UK Consular assistance because in Iran she is an Iranian Subject.

        • If Iran do not recognise dual citizenship, I suspect she entered Iran under some sort of work permit. We have friends who work in Iran on different contracts. He has to provide paperwork to say he is working for a known company for so many months. When he works on the project campus they have all the trappings of Europe but no alcohol. When they leave that campus they are accompanied by bodyguards provided by the Company who employs them. Something truly stinks about this story. Anyone who has had dealings with Iran knows the situation. Our friends warned our son that he would have to be careful and watch his step, they actually advised him not to go.

          Whilst there his guide advised him not to have any conversation with women, but my sons’wife could. She talked quite a lot to women in groups in the market meeting houses. They all kept asking her about the West and the UK in particular. They wanted to know how she met my son and was she free to work and see her family. It was very enlightening and these women were intelligent, thoughtful and inquisitive. They all hated wearing the burka…..

          • I would think she entred Iran on her Iranian Passport, and I agree with you that there is a smell to all this. I have no idea if she has been active in anti regime activities here in the UK, but if she has been then I think she was very unwise to visit Iran – it is well known that the opposition groups have plenty of spies in their midsts. I also think that given her employment history – detailed above – she was equally unwise to visit Iran.

  8. Do we think that the Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif Khonsari should casually phone up here and just demand that a British citizen be released from prison and just because he says so? I thought not.
    So why is Boris Johnson expected to do likewise and be successful?
    This is my Iranian friend’s view: It seems, she was in front of the embassy during the disputed election in 2009, then posting stuff on Facebook and social media and working for Reuters.
    A campaigner and a journalist, then – and with a bit of anti-government form.

  9. The left don’t care if Nazanin gets a longer sentence.

    They just want to chip away at Boris.

    Boris has gone down in my estimation by not calling them out.

    No more stupid apologies…………..,!

  10. “Perhaps the people involved in Nazanin’s campaign are ignorant of how things work in the real world”
    Fixed this bit for you

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