‘Butcher of Tehran’ should work with the West, says Dominic Raab

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Dominic Raab photographed in his office in the Foreign Office - Geoff Pugh
Dominic Raab photographed in his office in the Foreign Office - Geoff Pugh

Britain will remain “calm and composed” in the face of Tehran’s “nefarious conduct”, Dominic Raab has said, as he urged Iran’s new hardline president to work with the West.

The Foreign Secretary reached out to Ebrahim Raisi, the cleric set to be inaugurated on Thursday, warning him to build confidence with international partners or else see Iran plunge further into “pariah status”.

In an interview with The Telegraph on Wednesday, Mr Raab vowed that the UK would be “calm and composed, but we’re absolutely resolute and robust in terms of dealing with the nefarious conduct that we've seen”.

Mr Raab's intervention comes days after Britain, the United States and Israel blamed Iran for a suspected drone attack on a tanker off the coast of Oman that killed two crew members, including a British national. The UK victim has been named as Adrian Underwood, a Fijian-born Army veteran and father of one, who had been working aboard as a security guard.

The Foreign Secretary’s comments suggest that Britain may stop short of a military response, as demanded by Israel, and after the head of the Army said Iran must be “deterred” from such behaviour.

It is understood that London will send a representative to the inauguration of Mr Raisi, who earned the nickname the “Butcher of Tehran” for ordering the execution of political prisoners while a judge. The British chargé d’affaires in Tehran is set to take on the task, as the incoming ambassador is yet to arrive in post.

Ebrahim Raisi - AFP
Ebrahim Raisi - AFP

The European Union also confirmed that it planned to send a representative, a move that has sparked tensions with Israel.

It comes as Washington has stressed its desire to pursue a diplomatic path forward with Iran over its contentious nuclear programme.

The Biden administration is working with Britain, France and Germany to try to revive the agreement with Iran in a new form after Donald Trump abandoned it.

On Wednesday, Mr Raab and Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, hosted a call about the tanker assault and the need for Iran to “stop its destablising behaviour”.

Afterwards Mr Raab said the UK and US were “united in our condemnation” of Tehran’s conduct, but said they would “continue to work together to protect international peace [and] security”.

The Foreign Secretary said: “Under this new president, there is an opportunity to take steps to build up some confidence and goodwill with the rest of the international community, or take steps further and further into pariah status.”

Mr Raab urged Mr Raisi to “take a better path” and “come back to full compliance” with the Obama-era nuclear deal, under which Iran would curb its nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions being eased.

It comes after General Sir Nick Carter, the head of the Armed Forces, said Iran had made a “big mistake” by attacking the vessel and risked a “disastrous” escalation of tensions in the Middle East. “Ultimately, we have got to restore deterrence,” he told the BBC.

Britain issued a formal attribution of blame against Iran at the weekend, combined with a vow to retaliate. The “concerted response” is expected to be enacted within weeks, although it may not be publicly acknowledged. Ministers are reportedly considering launching an offensive cyber attack.

Defending the Government’s decision to take time to consider its options before acting, Mr Raab said: “I don't think it's a smart move to be sounding off on Twitter or signalling what action we intend to take.”

The public can, however, “assume that there will need to be a holding to account for egregious behaviour like that”, he added.

Washington has stressed that it is for the UK to decide how best to proceed. Wendy Sherman, the US deputy secretary of state, said this week: “We are letting the British take the lead, both at the UN in terms of what the response would be, as well as any further response.”

Britain is set to raise the tanker attack at the UN Security Council on Friday.

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