Britain’s foreign minister has said sending armed police to Iran International London offices was “a message to people …that they will be protected in the UK.”

In an interview published Tuesday in the Saudi-owned Asharq al-Awsat newspaper, James Cleverly described the sending of armed response units over the weekend as “action to protect people in the UK from what we are perceiving to be threats from Iran because it is incredibly important that people feel able to speak openly and honestly about what is going on in Iran.”

Speaking during an interview Sunday on the sidelines of the Manama conference of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, Cleverly said the move showed the British government took “the importance of free, honest and open journalism incredibly seriously.” The Islamic republic has accused foreign-based Persian media outlets, including Iran International and the BBC Persian of fomenting violence and its Judiciary has called for designating them as “terrorist entities.”

‘In Iran’s hands’
Quizzed over the current state of paused talks over reviving Iran’s 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers, the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), Cleverly said it was “in Iran’s hands” to engage successfully.

“The ball is very much in Iran’s court and has been for a while now,” Cleverly said. “The message I may send to the Iranian leadership is that it is in their hands to take action which would engage better with this process. We put a deal forward, it is a very good deal and the Iranians should engage with that.”

The United Kingdom – alongside France, Germany and the United States – has argued that a series of proposals drawn up by European Union officials earlier this year offer the basis for agreement on how to revive the JCPOA, which the US abandoned in 2018 while imposing draconian sanctions. Tehran has argued it needs ‘guarantees’ to cushion it against any future US withdrawal from the agreement.

Cleverly appeared to concede that the challenge of reaching agreement on JCPOA renewal had been complicated by protests in Iran since mid-September – in which 410 protestors and 54 members of the security forces have died according to one recent toll – and by Tehran’s supply of military drones to Russia.

He defended the UK’s approach of responding to Iran by levying more sanctions, including against the ‘morality police’ and on “companies and individuals responsible for those drone exports to Russia.”

Targeting individuals and entities

Cleverly argued that such sanctions could be effective in changing Iranian behavior: “We want the Iranian leadership to listen to the Iranian people and we will make sure that when members of the Iranian leadership do things which are unacceptable, we target those individuals and those entities very timely with our sanctions to deter them.”

The foreign minister also expressed British resolve over Iran “attempting to destabilize” neighboring states. “For example, British warships have intercepted the missile systems or engines for missile systems coming from Iran and will continue to take action both to prevent that destabilizing activity in the region and also very specifically target with sanctions those individuals who are responsible for that behavior.”

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