Foreign secretary Boris Johnson has been warned by a senior Tory MP that Britain is failing to deal with Iran, despite the country taking British hostages, developing missiles, and destabilising the Middle East.
Tom Tugendhat, the chair of the foreign affairs committee, delivered his stark message in the House of Commons, a week after Johnson was forced to apologise for his handling of the case of a British-Iranian mother jailed in Iran.
Tugendhat, a former army officer who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, said: "Would you agree with me that the situation in Yemen points to the fact that we have a failed Iran policy?
"We have a capital in Tehran that is taking British hostages, developing missiles, threatening its neighbours, destabilising the region – and our policy is what? We have none."
Johnson, sitting on the front bench, shook his head at the question. Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt stood up to answer, insisting: "There is a significant policy in relation towards Iran, which a number of different debates and conversations in this House have detailed.
"Work is going on to explore what opportunities there are for Iran to play a more constructive part in the region – but in relation to human rights sanctions, in relation to criticism about their activities with terrorist groups in the area and their ability to destabilise the region, the UK is very clear on its position about that."
Burt said the "policy of constructive engagement" with Iran was "very clear".
There has been much disquiet among Conservative backbenchers over the way Johnson has dealt with the case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who was arrested during a visit to Iran in April 2016, accused of trying to topple the Iranian regime.
Since then she has been locked up in the notorious Evin prison, separated from her husband and their young daughter Gabriella.
Johnson has apologised for mistakenly telling Tugendhat's committee that Zaghari-Ratcliffe was training journalists at the time – a move that has been seized on by the Iranian authorities and could lead to her jail sentence being doubled.
Johnson is due to visit Iran within weeks to push for her release.
Emily Ashton is a senior political correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Emily Ashton at email@example.com.
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