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Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:31 pm on 13th January 2020.

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Photo of Tobias Ellwood Tobias Ellwood Conservative, Bournemouth East 3:31 pm, 13th January 2020

I am grateful to you, Mr Speaker, for granting this urgent question. Tensions have clearly ratcheted up since the drone strike that killed General Soleimani and the Iranian reprisals. The Iranian President and the United States President have momentarily checked any further military aggression, but the wider issues relating to Iran’s destabilising foreign policy ambitions remain. It still wants to advance its sectarian regional influence by funding, training and arming paramilitaries and militias right across the middle east, it has already restarted its nuclear programme, and it shamelessly attempted to cover up the missile strike against flight 752. This weekend, as the Secretary of State has just confirmed, it breached the Vienna convention by arresting our own ambassador in Tehran. I believe that these irresponsible actions are out of sync with the views of the people of Iran, who have once again bravely taken to the streets to vent their fury against the regime, the failing economy and the regime’s international adventurism.

May I ask the Secretary of State to update the House on whether calls for full transparency in the crash investigation will be met? Will he also update us on the welfare and security of our ambassador, our diplomatic staff and their dependants in Tehran, and on how recent events will affect efforts to secure the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe?

I commend the Prime Minister’s efforts and those of the Foreign Secretary not to lose sight of the nuclear deal, but, as the former Foreign Minister responsible for the area, I should say that the last deal failed because no international investment could head Tehran’s way due to the legacy sanctions connected to missile procurement, which prevented any bank, particularly those with US ties, from aiding economic reform. So Iran gained little from the deal, and the release of frozen assets worth $150 billion plus new oil revenues were used not to support the ailing economy but to advance Iran’s proxy wars. For a fresh deal to succeed, any new talks must cover missile sanctions and conditional economic reform.

Finally, may I ask what talks the UK has had with the US and other allies to ensure that we remain united and engaged? I believe that there is a leading role for the UK to play in resetting our middle east strategy towards Iran, first, by being more assertive in tackling proxy interference and weapons proliferation and, secondly, by being more proactive in offering conditional but genuine economic rehabilitation for Iran.