Friday, March 18, 2022

Melanie Phillips: The ominous subtext of Nazanin's release

Is it a sign that the US really is about to turn the west itself into Iran’s hostage?

The British-Iranian woman Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has been incarcerated in Iran for nearly six years on trumped-up charges of sedition, is back in the UK.

On a personal level, this is truly wonderful news. Her arrest and detention were unspeakable, with the Iranian regime playing cat-and-mouse with her during the years of negotiations for her release.

The psychological pressure upon her from this ordeal has been intense. Her distress at being separated for long periods from her now seven-year old daughter and from her husband Richard, who has been campaigning in Britain tirelessly for her release, has been unthinkable — as was the cruelty with which she was treated by the Iranian regime, which released her from jail into house arrest only to re-imprison her, and subjected her to further charges even after her sentence had been completed.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, was arrested in April 2016 and convicted of plotting to overthrow the clerical establishment. Her family and employer have repeatedly said the charges against her were baseless.

Also being freed with her is a British-Iranian man, Anoosheh Ashoori, who was accused of spying and has been in prison for almost five years.

So their release is a cause of immense relief.


Iranian sources always linked the release of Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, along with other dual nationals whom the regime had effectively taken hostage, to an unpaid British debt of £400 million owed to Iran for the non-delivery of Chieftain tanks in the 1970s.

The British government maintained it couldn’t pay this money without falling foul of international sanctions against Iran. Reports emerged yesterday that the government has now agreed to pay this debt — although it insists there is no link between that payment and the release of the prisoners.

But if it has now agreed to pay it, this means that the US is no longer objecting that such a payment would contravene the sanctions against Iran. And that suggests that — just as has been feared — the US is now lifting those sanctions in the unconscionable deal that it has struck with Tehran.

The announcement of that deal, which was expected more than a week ago, was reportedly delayed by Vladimir Putin’s demand that the US should lift its sanctions against Russia over Ukraine to allow Moscow to begin trading with Tehran. Since the Iran deal was being brokered by Russia, this threw a spanner into the works.

The release of the British hostages suggests that the Biden administration has found a way to circumvent that blockage — and finally do this deal with the devil that it has been absolutely determined to achieve.

As I have written here and here, under its terms that have been leaked America will reportedly enable the most dangerous terrorist regime in the world to receive tens of billions of dollars with which to ramp up its regional power grab, redouble its terrorist activities against Israelis, Americans and others who are in its fanatical sights, and legitimately produce a nuclear arsenal at the end of a mere two and a half years.

Much as Britain will be rightfully rejoicing that these effective hostages are finally home, their release is an ominous sign that a very great harm is now about to be done by the United States — from which as a result the west itself may in effect be taken hostage by Iran.

Melanie Phillips is a British journalist, broadcaster and author - you can follow her work on her website HERE

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