IRANIAN AUTHORITIES have arrested several Iranian nationals with UK ties, increasing tension between the two countries. Aras Amiri was detained in March when she was visiting her family for the Persian new year. The 32-year-old Iranian national is a British Council employee based in London and is the latest in a string of several arrests that include a professor from the Imperial College London, Abbas Edalat.

The iran leadership have continually been accused of increasing tensions between hardliners within the region but still garner support despite the protests that have taken place.

Increasing tensions

The relationship with western powers have been tense since Bill Clinton imposed harsh sanctions on them, but then in 2015 the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) was signed and that briefly improved relations. However, the west and allies within the Middle-East have been looking for an excuse to sack the region and remove the leadership, with Iran-Israel relations at an all-time low and the geopolitical positioning by Iran and Saudi Arabia against each other, the tensions look to be at boiling point.

One of the main problems is that the Iranian Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has constantly blamed officials and allowed factional infighting to have an impact on domestic and foreign policy.

He has often praised the hard-liners and attacked moderates and reformists leading to the public being generally disillusioned with the leadership and the president, Hassan Rouhani. This has directly lead to protests in February that led to the deaths of three police officers.

Government support?

However, despite the protests, which are by a minority of the population, the government still remain desirable by the public.

This is likely to be down to what has happened to their neighbours and allies, Yemen and Syria, both have seen western backed wars destroy the countries and scores of innocent civilians die in the process and staying loyal to their government is seen as the best option for them not suffering the same fate. But with Israel looking for any excuse to launch a substantial strike at Iran, the same fate is likely to be upon them and perhaps this is also why they back their government, to mount a strong defence?

The Israel problem for Iran is likely to hit boiling point soon, Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu was given free reign to wage any wars he wishes when MPs voted to give him the power. The changes mean that Netanyahu would only need approval from his Defence Minister, the far-right hard-liner Avigdor Lieberman, whereas before the PM would need approval from the entire cabinet.

Just a few days later, he attended a Holocaust commemoration event and urged for action against Syria and Iran, claiming that Iran ‘lied’ about not having nuclear weapons. This was an ironic piece of warmongering as it is Israel who have substantial nuclear arsenal and have constantly denied they exist despite it being the worst kept military secret in the world.

Anyway, this is where the UK arrests come into play, the Iranian leadership and the hard-line Revolutionary Guard are paranoid and this is increasing. Since 2015, there have been at least 30 arrests of Iranian-British dual nationalities and the latest is Mahan Abedin, a frequent contributor to the Middle East Eye, the Iran Wire got word of his arrest from an unnamed source in Tehran but wasn’t able to specify when or where Abedin was when he was arrested. Along with Aras Amiri and Abbas Edalat, it looks like the Iranian authorities are stepping up their search for potential espionage within the region.