'It’s more than coincidence that on the first day of US National Security Advisor John Bolton’s visit to London this week, Britain announced the dispatch of another warship to the Persian Gulf.
Since Boris Johnson became British prime minister nearly three weeks ago, President Donald Trump’s administration has been pushing London to take a harder foreign policy line, in particular towards Iran and China.
Ahead of Bolton’s visit to London, Washington was pointedly making it clear in media reports that a future US trade deal with Britain was dependent on Johnson’s government being more amenable to America’s policy of pressuring Iran and China.
It won’t stop there either. The implication is for an open-ended demand by Washington for British compliance on other foreign policy interests. That is, for Britain to be more compliant than it usually is.
Earlier this month, US leverage on Britain was succeeding. On August 4, London announced it was formally joining the US maritime mission Operation Sentinel, purportedly aimed at protecting commercial shipping in the Gulf, where tensions have been escalating with Iran over alleged sabotage incidents.
Before Johnson took over in 10 Downing Street on July 24, the government of predecessor Theresa May had declined the idea of joining a US-led maritime mission. Then-Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, whom Johnson later ousted, had instead pushed the plan for a European-led naval protection force in the Gulf, separate from US deployment.
Now the Johnson government is rowing in behind the US maritime force. London is evidently complying with Washington’s demands for a more aggressive policy towards Iran. Ominously, there are also reports of Israeli involvement in the US-led mission.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif this week slammed the US and its allies for creating a “tinderbox ready to blow up” by “pouring weapons” into the region. He said more warships in the already congested waters of the Persian Gulf will increase insecurity and risk of confrontation.'
Read more: Trump dangles trade deal for Britain’s tougher line on Iran & China