US National Security Adviser John Bolton travelled to London to encourage the UK to take tougher measures against both Iran and China telecommunications firm Huawai.
Bolton’s visit, which started on August 11th, aims to strengthen US-UK mutual relations especially after Britain leaves the European Union (EU), which many diplomats believe is the biggest geopolitical shift for the UK since World War II.
During Bolton’s two-day discussions, which began on August 12th in London, he discussed with British officials means of aligning Britain’s policy with that of the US regarding Iran. The US has recently been pressuring Iran with tighter sanctions since the former withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal in 2015. Pressure has been put on Britain to take a harsher stance against Iran since it captured a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz.
So far, Britain has adopted the same policy as the EU in abiding by the nuclear accord known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). However, Iran’s seizure of its tanker forced London to reconsider its stance regarding Iran.
British marines in their turn seized an Iranian vessel, which is suspected of smuggling oil to Syria, off the coast of Gibraltar on July 4th. This month, Britain participated with the United States in a maritime security mission in the Gulf to protect merchant vessels.
Reuters reported that a US official said that Bolton’s mission in London would be easier if Britain declared it is not committed to the JCPOA, however this is not expected to happen soon.
Since May Iran has had difficulties due to the US ban imposed on its exports and imports, especially after the sanction waivers ended on that date. As a result of these sanctions almost 95% of Iran's crude oil has been taken off the global market. Iran's exports of crude oil in June fell from two million barrels per day for the same period last year to less than 300,000 b/d this year.
Bolton is also urging Britain to be tougher on the Chinese telecommunications firm Huawei. The US is concerned about the company’s next-generation 5G technology, which it believes could be a serious threat to US national security.
Bolton hopes to find a better response from the current British government as former British Prime Minister Theresa May had decided in principle to allow Huawei limited access to non-core parts of the 5G network. Bolton intends to argue that Huawei is an arm of the Chinese government and that its hardware could be used to monitor communications that go through its system.
Some weeks ago the US sanctioned a Chinese company for purchasing crude oil from Iran as this was considered a violation of US sanctions. China used to buy Iranian crude oil estimated at 690,000 b/d. According to Reuters, the US announced on June 28th that it would sanction any country buying crude oil from Iran.
The US decision to increase pressure on Iran came as result of Iran's attack on a US drone last month. Brian Hook, US Special Representative for Iran, told media, "We will sanction any illegal purchase of Iranian crude oil," adding that the US will study reports of Iranian crude going to China.
Iran’s Radio Farda reported that on July 22nd the US Secretary of State Mike pointed out that Chinese company Zhuhai Zhenrong had deliberately violated US sanctions imposed on Iran. Later, China negotiated with the US to lift the imposed sanctions on the Chinese company Sinopec as the oil imported from Iran was a payment owed by Iran.