New British Prime Minister Faced with Two Major Challenges: Brexit and Iran

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The two most pressing issues on newly appointed UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plate right now are
Brexit and Iran. Will the UK leave the EU on October 31st regardless of whether they have a new deal, as
he has stated previously? Will he choose diplomacy with Iran over increased sanctions and a military


On July 23rd it was announced that Boris Johnson was the winner of the Conservative Party leadership.
Theresa May stepped down having failed to take Britain out of the European Union.

On July 24th Boris Johnson was formally appointed as the new Prime Minister of the UK, by Queen
Elizabeth II in Buckingham Palace. Shortly after his Johnson began appointing his Senior Ministers:
Finance Minister: Sajid Javid, Interior Minister Priti Patel, Foreign Minister Dominic Raab, Brexit Minister
Stephen Barclay, and Defense Minister Ben Wallace.

In his first speech as PM on July 24th Boris Johnson has addressed the first issue, he said “We are going
to fulfill the repeated promises of parliament to the people and come out of the EU on October 31, no
ifs or buts.”

Johnson continued on to say “We will do a new deal, a better deal that will maximize the opportunities
of Brexit while allowing us to develop a new and exciting partnership with the rest of Europe based on
free trade and mutual support. I have every confidence that in 99 days’ time we will have cracked it. But
you know what —-we aren’t going to wait 99 days because the British people have had enough of
waiting. The time has come to act, to take decisions, to give strong leadership and to change this
country for the better,” he said.


Theresa May was more aligned with the views of Brussels, Berlin, and Paris when it came to the JCPOA
or Iran Deal. Whereas some experts are saying that Johnson might shift and realign himself and the UK,
with the United States and follow in their steps by imposing increased sanctions. So far it isn’t clear what
path he will take but if his recent statements are any indication it would appear that he prefers
diplomacy over military confrontation.

On July 15th, while speaking at a leadership debate Johnson made statements that would indicate that
the UK would not support US-led military strikes against Iran. Johnson also said that he didn’t see going
to war with Iran as a sensible option. He went on to say that “Diplomacy must be the best way forward”.
Jeremy Hunt UK Foreign secretary said he was on the same page as Johnson on the issue of Iran and
warned of the risk of accidental war.

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On July 22nd, 2019, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif spoke about the United Kingdom doing
the bidding of the Trump Administration, while at a press conference in the Nicaraguan capital of

Zarif stated “The excuses that the United Kingdom and Gibraltar authorities provided for the
confiscation of the ship that was carrying Iranian oil, it was not an Iranian ship, but it was a ship carrying
Iranian oil, was clearly unfounded, the EU does not apply its rules to third parties, as a matter of
principle and the United Kingdom on its way out of the EU is becoming holier than the pope, in doing
things that the EU itself would not do and it has said publicly it would not do.”

Zarif went on to say, “It was clear from the very beginning that the United Kingdom was doing the
bidding for the Trump administration, this is not the first time the united kingdom started doing bidding
for the United States administration, as soon as president Trump got elected and before he entered into
office, the United Kingdom prevented implementation of agreements that we had reached with the
previous government of the United states on behalf of President trump and the Iranian people have not
forgotten that.”

In a tweet that Zarif made on July 23rd he congratulated Johnson on his PM victory while making it clear
that although Iran does not want confrontation, they will protect their coastline. The tweet said “The
May governments seizure of Iranian oil at behest of the US is piracy, pure and simple. I congratulate my
former counterpart, Boris Johnson on becoming UK Prime Minister. Iran does not seek confrontation.
But we have 1,500 miles of Persian Gulf coastline. These are our waters and we will protect them.”

On July 28th, five world powers will be meeting in Vienna to discuss increased tensions in the Persian
Gulf and how they can try to save the JCPOA. The nations attending are France, Britain, Germany, Russia
and Iran. Last year U.S. President Trump unilaterally withdrew from the deal and implemented
increased sanctions on Iran.

Harsh sanctions have not only crippled the private and public sectors in Iran but have directly impacted
the most vulnerable members of Iranian society. Iran has referred to these sanctions as “economic
terrorism”. China has also used the same terminology when referring to the sanctions imposed by the
United States against Iran. Three of the six members of the Iran Nuclear Deal have proposed a system to
provide economic relief to Iran through a complicated barter system but recent activity in the Strait of
Hormuz has had an impact on that.

It will be very interesting to see what path Johnson takes after this meeting. Iran has made it clear that it
does not seek confrontation but will protect its coastline.

Sarah Abed is an independent journalist and political commentator.

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