Former US secretary of state attacks UK ‘blood money’ paid to free Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

Mike Pompeo also condemns ‘appeasement’ of Iran – claiming £393.8m will fund terrorism

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Thursday 17 March 2022 14:10
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Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe arrives home after six years detained in Iran

A former US secretary of state has attacked the “blood money” used to help secure the freedom of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, as the payment kicked off a trans-Atlantic row.

Mike Pompeo also accused the UK of “appeasement” of Iran – warning the £393.8m would be used to fund terrorism, not be ringfenced for “humanitarian purposes” as London is claiming.

The comments reflect anger over the fate of Morad Tahbaz, a US, British and Iranian citizen whom the US was also seeking to release, but who remains in Iran.

Boris Johnson’s spokesman was forced to deny the UK was “ratting” on an agreement not to leave Mr Tahbaz behind, when Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori were freed to fly out.

Mr Pompeo, who was Donald Trump’s secretary of state, posted his attack on Twitter, saying: “The UK priced taking & holding its citizens hostage at $530 million.

“We prevented paying blood money – not rewarding hostage-takers. That cash will terrorize Israel, UK & US. Sadly, Iran, w/Russia & China, is rolling the West.”

Mr Pompeo, a possible Republican candidate to run for president in 2024, added: “Appeasement feels good until it fails – it always does.”

Mr Johnson’s spokesman defended the £393.8m payment, for Chieftain tanks promised to Iran in the 1970s but not delivered, insisting the release of detainees was “not contingent” on it.

Asked if the UK had “ratting” on its ally, he replied: “No. We worked closely with US counterparts whenever possible.”

The clash came as Downing Street also faced questions about how it could be sure that the £393.8m will fund humanitarian spending, amid scepticism.

It is expected to be held by a bank as an independent third party, to be released for tightly-defined purposes only, but No 10 insisted no details could be given.

“It is difficult position because it is confidential, so I’m unable to go into exactly how that money’s been ringfenced for the purchase of humanitarian goods,” the spokesman said.

He added “there is rigorous oversight of this process”, but was unable to say who was responsible for that oversight – saying the confidentiality was “mutually agreed”.

On Mr Pompeo’s criticism, the spokesman said: “We’ve always acknowledged this was money that we owed.

“We have said we would settle the IMS debt [a private company International Military Services] in parallel. We have done that. It is not contingent on the release of any detainees.”

Mr Tahbaz was released from prison on furlough, but the Iranian government refused to let him leave the country.

James Cleverly, a Foreign Office minister, said: “He also has American nationality, which has in the eyes of the Iranians – not in ours – made his case more complicated. We will continue to work to secure his release.”

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