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Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, Iranian-born wife of a UK citizen, was detained in Iran in 2016 and has recently been sentenced to five years, without confirmation of the charges against her. The fate of Nazanin Zaghari and her daughter, detained with her, has become a high-profile cause in the UK and is an example of the sort of problem that has dogged UK-Iranian relations.

Ties with the UK have improved since the election of Hassan Rouhani as President in 2013, the conclusion of the nuclear deal in 2015 and the appointment of Nicholas Hopton as Ambassador in September 2016 marking the return of full diplomatic relations.

Yet conservative forces in Iran remain very powerful, including in foreign policy, security strategy and defence. The arrest of Nazanin Zaghari and other UK citizens, possibly due to allegations that they were working for UK intelligence, and other political and human rights problems have undermined the improvement in relations with the UK and other Western countries.

Iran’s strategy in Syria appears to be moving away from the West’s, rather than towards it, as had been hoped by some proponents of the nuclear deal. Recently, for example, Iran granted Russia permission to use an airbase in western Iran to launch airstrikes against Syrian rebels.

Trade deals between the UK and Iran have also been few and far between, as terrorism-related and other sanctions remain in place and these, particularly those in force in the US, have had a chilling effect on proposed projects with European companies.

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