Iran, Britain, And The Scandal Of The Tank Deal

In the late 1970s, the British Government sold a number of tanks to Iran, at the cost of £400,000,000. The former Shah of Iran paid in advance, and awaited delivery of the tanks. But then he was overthrown by the ayatollahs, and Britain decided not to send the tanks after all. To rub salt in the wound, they sold the tanks to Iraq instead, getting paid twice for the same weapons.

The question of Britain returning the money to Iran has often been raised, but consistently ignored by every British government since 1979.

In 2016, a woman named Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested in Iran, and accused of spying for the Bitish government. She was there visiting her parents, taking along her baby daughter for them to see for the first time. Despite her being a writer, married to a British man, and holding dual nationality, the Iranian court convicted her, and sentenced her to five years in prison. Since then, a vigorous campaign has been going on to try to get her released.

In March this year, her sentence finished. She was then re-arrested on charges of ‘Spreading propaganda’. Today, she was sentenced to a further year in prison.

This is all a game of course. Nazanin was arrested as little more that a ‘hostage’, in the hope of securing payment of that old £400 million debt. The British government could have easily secured her release in 2016, by acknowledging the debt to Iran, and arranging to pay it. But they chose not to. Last month, they coud have stopped her being arrested again, simply by paying the outstanding debt from 1979. They chose not to.

Government ministers think it is acceptable for this young woman to spend six years in prison in a foreign country, and for her baby daughter to grow up without seeing her mother, just to save them the embarrassment of admitting the debt, and actually paying it.

Shame on them.



  1. Cousin Ian

    Whatever Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe (NZR) has or hasn’t done, she (and other Brit-Iranian dual nationals) aren’t being held in Iran because of the ‘tank debt’! To quote from ‘The Guardian’ newspaper on September 4th 2020;

    “Neither Iran nor the UK government formally acknowledge that the release of UK dual nationals in Iranian jails is linked to the non-payment of the debt, although the issue has been raised by Iranian judges and is privately seen as the chief roadblock.”

    They are being held, IMHO, because the Iranian government can’t possibly release them in case they tell their stories of captivity to the ‘evil anti-Iranian western media’! Even if they threaten her parents, who live in Tehran, they cannot be absolutely sure that she will won’t ‘spill the beans’ about her ordeal upon release! She will never be released and further ‘trumped up’ charges will no doubt follow after her latest finding of ‘guilt’!

    It’s the same reason ‘Emperors’ Putin and Xi Jinping have made themselves leaders for life. They know that if they are replaced in a democratic vote, their successors will find where ‘all the bodies are buried’ and they will find themselves disgraced, guilty of treason against their country, with billions in their bank accounts and behind bars for the rest of their lives, if not actually dead (like the Ceausescus in Romania)! Mao and every Chinese leader since, Lenin, Stalin and every Soviet leader until Gorbachev, Hitler, Mussolini, Saddam Hussein, the Kim dynasty in North Korea and all other totalitarian leaders have always clung on to power for exactly this reason. As long as they can pay people for their support and their silence they will continue to do so. That’s why the Cheka, NKVD, KGB, Gestapo, Stasi etc etc existed. The deposed Shah of Iran was, probably, exactly the same!

    Poor NZR and her family!

    Regards to all in the DPRB.

    Liked by 1 person

    • beetleypete

      Cheers, Ian. You and your brother have a very different outlook on this issue to me. Perhaps that’s why I want to take over the country, or at the very least become the leader of the DPRB! 🙂
      Take care, and love to all, Pete. x


      • Cousin Ian

        Cheers Pete. Having visited and had lunch in the DPRB, at least I got to leave! Though you rule the place with an iron fist, I had a great time there, with perfect weather and great company. I can recommend it to everyone, providing their papers are in order!

        Liked by 1 person

    • beetleypete

      Successive governments have refused to address the money issue, Marina. They have said that a country that is antagonsitic toward Britain is not going to get the tanks, or a refund. Whatever the situation in Iran, a trade deal should have been homoured.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. wilfredbooks

    Whether Mrs. Zaghari-Ratcliffe was kidnapped as a quid pro quo for the debt is a moot point, but surely better at the time to refund the money, rather than supply the disgusting weapons to a potentially hostile country, as a point of honour? Oh no, sorry, I forgot: honour doesn’t seem to figure in government dealings since, well, I’m really not sure…… As much as I dislike money, it doesn’t actually kill people, whereas weapons do, so we could have walked away from this abhorrent deal with some integrity [and the ‘National Debt’ is a scurrilous fiction, anyway], but we chose not to, leading, very likely, to the current situation. Yet another black mark against Boris Johnson: his bumbling incompetence [or perhaps witting participation in some darker agenda] ensured that the British prisoner wasn’t released, as she should have been. Shame on him. Cheers, Jon.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. 2581john

    Pete, a couple of points:
    It seems to me perfectly reasonable for the British Government to keep the weapons and the cash if the customer/ally becomes permanently unable to accept delivery. Especially through violent insurrection. The idea that weapons or cash should be returned to a new regime hostile to the U.K. Govt interests in the region is ludicrous. Perhaps they are merely holding the money in safekeeping until the Shah’s heirs are returned to power?
    That this ‘debt’ dates back to 1979 it is safe to assume that Tory, Labour, and the Tory/Liberal coalition, governments all agreed with the same course of action. A rare example of cross party agreement?
    Reselling that stock would be an obvious business decision.
    That the Iranian Govt chose to kidnap someone to force a return of payment from a contract they hadn’t been party to, seems the only unreasonable move in this affair.
    Trading one person for the money would very likely trigger a wave of kidnappings that would greatly increase the risk to other western citizens in the region however legitimate this particulardebt is considered.
    Incidentally if I was a member of an intelligence agency wishing to start a grass roots movement to destabilise an unfavoured regime, who better to use than a ‘clean skin’ with genuine reasons to be in the country who also had an understanding of project management and links to global media. Whether this was the case, who can tell?
    I wonder why the West should always assume that foreign intelligences services are wrong?
    In these days of equality, the fact that the person is female or a mother is irrelevant, as a male unlawfully detained, imprisoned or kidnapped would also be likely to have family affected by their detention.

    For what it’s worth.

    Liked by 1 person

    • beetleypete

      Thanks for your thoughts, Keith. I still think witholding the tanks was double-dealing on behalf of the government at the time, and not paying back the money later seemed to be some kind of ‘revenge’ for the siege of the Iranian Embassy in Kensington. Yes, every government since has refused to pay back the money, but has also been happy to deal with other countries not exactly ‘friendly’ to the west.
      I doubt Ratcliffe is a spy, but she is certainly no fan of the regime in Iran. Her arrest coincided with yet another refusal to consider paying the debt in 2016, so seemed to me to be more than a coincidence. In this instance, I don’t think paying what is regarded by many to be a valid debt would actually spark a round of kidnappings for ransom, but I can’t be certain of course. Who can?
      Hope all’s well with you and the family. Pete. x


  4. fragglerocking

    Absolute treachery by our government, I agree they should have paid back the money. However, I don’t think taking a hostage like Nazanin is the best way of gettiing the money back, it would only work if they took one of our royals.

    Liked by 2 people

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