Iraq crisis: Isis advances are helping to thaw relations between the West and Iran

Nuclear talks resume in Vienna, the US explores common interest, and Britain is to reopen embassy in Tehran

Deputy Political Editor

The British embassy in Iran is to reopen as part of moves to rebuild links with Tehran in response to the war raging in neighbouring Iraq.

William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, said the “circumstances are right” to re-establish the diplomatic mission in the Iranian capital. It was closed in November 2011 after protesters stormed the building and ransacked offices.

Britain and other western nations have been attempting to improve relations with the Tehran government in recent months.

There is a now a significant shared common interest between the countries as Sunni extremists under the Isis banner advance across northern Iraq, putting the survival of Iraq’s Shia-dominated government in jeopardy. More than 90 per cent of Iranians follow the Shia branch of Islam.

In a statement this morning, Mr Hague said: “Our two primary concerns when considering whether to reopen our embassy in Tehran have been assurance that our staff would be safe and secure, and confidence they would be able to carry out their functions without hindrance.

Read more:
Iraq crisis latest: US urgently deploys hundreds of armed troops to Baghdad
Iraq crisis: Umar al-Shishani - the face at the forefront of the new terror wears a chilling smile
Iraq crisis analysis: Our leaders have no appetite for further conflict
Iraq crisis: The footage that shows Isis militants taunting and killing Shia soldiers
Iraq crisis: In Baghdad, the fear index is the price of a bullet and it has tripled  

“There has never been any doubt in my mind that we should have an embassy in Tehran if the circumstances allowed.

“Iran is an important country in a volatile region and maintaining embassies around the world, even under difficult conditions, is a central pillar of the UK's global diplomatic approach.”

He did not give a precise date for the embassy to reopen, saying there would be a “small initial presence” as soon as “practical arrangements have been made”.

The initiative comes after Mr Hague held talks at the weekend with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif.

In a statement to the Commons yesterday, Mr Hague said Britain shared “important common interests with Iran”, including stability in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He made clear Britain would not join military action against Isis fighters, but said the United States was “looking at all options”. He announced that Britain had dispatched a team of counter-terrorism experts to help the Iraqi forces.

Meanwhile, Washington confirmed that senior diplomats have held informal contacts with Iranian counterparts on the fringes of long-arranged nuclear talks in Vienna to explore common interests in trying to stave off the rebel onslaught. But US officials did not envisage any concrete co-ordination of military action by US and Iranian forces.

President Barack Obama has edged closer to a limited intervention in Iraq after convening his full national security team late on Monday. He also notified Congress that he was sending 275 military personnel to Iraq to protect US assets including its Baghdad embassy. The US has said it will not help repel the advancing rebels until Iraq’s Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, reaches out to Kurd and Sunni elements and begins moving towards a more inclusive government.

Today came news that Mr Malaki had fired four of his top security officers a week after the fall of the north-western city of Mosul. Officers, including Lt-Gen Mehdi Sabah Gharawi, the top commander for Nineveh province, were dismissed because they “failed to fulfill their professional and military duties”, according to state television.

However, planning for possible action was clearly in high gear. “He has asked his national security team to prepare a range of other options that could help support Iraqi security forces,” Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council, said after the meeting.

Of the contingent ordered to Iraq to protect the embassy and other US properties, about 170 had already arrived.  Meanwhile, an additional 100 personnel were on standby in the region, possibly in Kuwait, should a full evacuation of US diplomatic staff become necessary.

While there will be no deployment of ground troops to Iraq, there were reports that President Obama was considering sending a 100-strong group of special forces with the limited mission of assisting and training Iraqi commanders as they try to repel the rebel advances. 

The Associated Press cited three sources indicating that the special forces could be sent in but specifically would not be available for actual combat.

Mr Hague’s announcement came before David Cameron said that British citizens and other European nationals fighting alongside Islamist insurgents in Iraq and Syria posed the biggest current threat to Britain’s national security.

“No one should be in any doubt that what we see in Syria and now in Iraq in terms of Isis is the most serious threat to Britain’s security that there is today,” Mr Cameron told a joint news conference with the Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. “The number of foreign fighters in that area, the number of foreign fighters including those from the UK who could try to return to the UK, is a real threat to our country,” he said.

Iran re-embarked on talks on its nuclear programme with the United States, Russia, China, the UK, France and Germany in Vienna.

A spokesman for Catherine  Ashton, the European Commission foreign affairs representative, who is hosting the meeting, said talks focused on elements of text that could be part of the final agreement.

“We are certainly very realistic,” he told reporters. “And we hope the Iranian side is as well … I think things are moving forward.”

News
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal
peopleThreats follows actress' speech on feminism and equality at the UN
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Life and Style
tech
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
tv
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Sport
John Terry, Frank Lampard
footballChelsea captain sends signed shirt to fan whose mum had died
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
tv
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Technical Project Manager - Software and Infrastructure - Government Experience

£400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Central Lon...

Head of Business Studies

Negotiable: Randstad Education Reading: Head of Business Studies needed for a ...

Teaching Assistant in secondary school Manchester

£11280 - £14400 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Teaching a...

Primary teaching roles in Ipswich

£21552 - £31588 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education re...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits