November 24, 2013


Is Iran about to return to the fold? (Con Coughlin, 24 Nov 2013, The Telegraph)

You have to go back a very long way - arguably to the late 19th century - to find a time when relations between the major Western powers and Tehran might plausibly have been described as cordial. Certainly, so far as Britain is concerned, the high point in dealings between London and the ancient Persian city was reached in the 1870s when Baron Paul Julius von Reuter, the founder of the Reuters news agency, struck a business deal with the bankrupt Shah, Nasir ed-Din, which provided him with a virtual monopoly over all of Iran's economic and financial resources.

Lord Curzon, the British foreign secretary, later described the Reuter Concession, as it became known, as "the most complete and extraordinary surrender of the entire industrial resources of a Kingdom into foreign hands that has probably ever been dreamt, or much less accomplished, in history." While the deal delighted the royal court, which was able to replenish its empty coffers with British largesse, it did not go down so well with the people, who saw it as yet another example of their government's ineptitude and their country's constant humiliation at the hands of foreign powers.

Thus were sown the seeds of the residual mistrust that has plagued Iran's dealings with the world's main powers up to the present day. Until, that is, Iran's newly elected President Hassan Rouhani announced that a ground-breaking deal had been reached in Geneva in the early hours of yesterday morning on his country's controversial nuclear programme, the most recent issue to have stoked the fires of anti-Western resentment among the Iranian people.

William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, who flew to Geneva at the weekend when it became clear a deal was in the offing, said the agreement, in which Iran has agreed to scale down its nuclear enrichment activities in return for a limited easing of UN sanctions, was "good for the whole world". And while, given the long history of Iran's antagonistic attitude towards foreign meddling in its affairs, it would be somewhat premature to hail the agreement as the start of a full rapprochement between the West and the Islamic republic, there are nevertheless many good reasons why it is in everyone's interests to bring Iran in from the diplomatic cold.

Posted by at November 24, 2013 5:07 PM

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