Opinion piece and overview of the case of Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe one year on from her detention, and other Iranian dual nationals in arbitrary detention, and the possible underlying motives.
First published in Middle East Eye on 20 April 2017:
One year. One year can disappear in the blink of an eye, or can feel like a lifetime. Imagine how Richard Ratcliffe feels: he hasn’t seen his wife, Nazanin, and their daughter, Gabriella, for a whole year.
Detained as a political bargaining chip, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been held for the past 12 months in a Revolutionary Guard prison on trumped-up charges.
It’s been a year that he’s been seeking answers and help from the British government – all questions and efforts which have been left wanting amid the UK and Iran’s evolving ties….
Perhaps these political prisoners were held as collateral for the arms deal debt. After all, Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, an American dual national and former prisoner, was released along with three other US prisoners after the US government cleared a debt owed to Iran.
And Richard has pointed out that breakdowns in talks during key Iran-UK negotiations have coincided with the capture of UK citizen/dual nationals. Further, before negotiations started with Iran in 2011, the UK position, he said, was that “people were not allowed to be held for 200-plus days, and the government didn’t used to stay silent”.
But it seems that this is not the only area where debts are owed. Debts still existed, for instance, after sanctions took hold in 2010 and even after they were lifted in January 2016 as a result of the remaining US pre-nuclear sanctions, and joint UK-Iranian operations that had to cease.
For example, BP and the Iranian Oil Company (the National Iranian Oil Company’s UK subsidiary) had been jointly operating the Rhum gas field in the North Sea until 2010 when sanctions were imposed. Until recently, BP had been holding around $104.5m owed to the Iranian Oil Company. Debts, therefore, are part and parcel of sanctions.