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Iran has long been a significant player in the Middle East and the multiple conflicts in the region have enabled the regime to exert its considerable influence over its neighbours’ affairs. Iran supports Hezbollah in Lebanon and militias in Iraq and has sent forces to support Assad in Syria. Iran is also accused of supporting the Houthis in Yemen and of interfering in the domestic affairs of Gulf States.

The Foreign Secretary has warned of Iran’s “malign influence” across the region. Prime Minister Theresa May told the Gulf leaders she was “clear-eyed about the threat that Iran poses to the Gulf and the wider Middle East.” The UK and members of the Gulf Cooperation Council agreed at a summit in December 2016 to work together to “counter Iran’s destabilising activities in the region.”

In 2015 Iran accepted limits on its nuclear programme in return for a lifting of many financial and economic sanctions. President Trump described it as “the worst deal ever negotiated” during his election campaign. Israel’s Prime Minister has called for new sanctions to be applied which the UK has so far resisted supporting. Downing Street described the nuclear deal as “vital.” While some sanctions have been lifted an arms embargo remains in place.

In January Iran conducted a ballistic missile test, prompting the new Trump administration to impose sanctions. The UK Government said the test did not violate the nuclear deal but was inconsistent with UN Security Council Resolution 2231 (which calls on Iran not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches).

The UK embassy in Iran reopened in 2015 and since the lifting of sanctions, the Department for International Trade is helping UK companies enter the Iranian market. Foreign Office Minister Tobias Ellwood visited Iran on 18 January 2017.

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