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Amongst British diplomats there’s a rather poignant joke that ‘Iran is the only country in the world which still regards the United Kingdom as a super power’. But for many Iranians, it’s not a joke at all. Scratch the surface, and Iranians of all political persuasions will remind you that it was Britain, with the US, who removed the democratically-elected Prime Minister of Iran, Mohammad Mosaddegh. The coup against Mosaddegh may have been in 1953, but for Iranians that feels like yesterday.

Rather as we in the United Kingdom continue to define ourselves by what happened nearly eighty years ago at the start of the Second World War, modern Iranians define themselves by their bloody experience of the Iran–Iraq war of 1980–88, where the country had stood alone against Iraq. The conflict was an act of unprovoked aggression by Saddam Hussein, leader of Iraq. The rest of the world – France, the Soviet Union, later the US and the UK – all piled in to support Iraq, with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States bankrolling Saddam. It was this experience that has helped define Iran’s view of the world, and its attitudes to both its local rivals for power and those further afield.

This book seeks to illuminate Britain’s difficult relationship with Iran, and in doing so provide anyone with an interest in Iran, with a better understanding of this extraordinary country. 


For decades, British Foreign Secretaries have wrestled with the great challenges of dealing successfully with Iranian leaders. Jack Straw has gone beyond that to develop the rich understanding of the country’s culture, psychology and history revealed in this book. It will be required reading for anyone who wants to understand how to improve relations with Iran in the coming years, and is an accurate record of the attempts many of us have made to do so.

William Hague

Jack Straw had an extraordinary experience when on holiday in Iran. He was handed a document effectively blaming him for more than a century and half of malign British interference in Iran’s politics. His book examines the main charges, with a mixture of history, wry comment and personal recollections from his five years as UK Foreign Secretary. The book is essential reading for anyone prepared to question the neo-conservative guff that dominates newspaper comment pages, derived as it is from those in the US, Saudi Arabia, the Emirates and Israel who wish Iran ill. The book is insightful and crisply written and I cannot recommend it too highly.

Michael Burleigh, Engelberg Professor (LSE IDEAS)

A book that is both highly readable and refreshingly personal. Jack Straw’s analysis of what shaped Iran’s tangled relations with Britain is lucid; his deep affection for the country shines through; and his first-hand account of the highs and lows of his adventures in Iran, both while British Foreign Secretary and afterwards, makes for a gripping yarn.

Bridget Kendall, BBC diplomatic correspondent 1998–2016

For Jack Straw, Iran started as a matter of public policy and grew into a private passion. In this fascinating book, he combines an exploration of the tortuous history of British–Iranian relations with the insights of the statesman to paint a compelling portrait of a country whose internal contradictions have an importance far beyond its borders.

Lord Ricketts, former head of the Diplomatic Service and National Security Adviser

Jack Straw was in the frontline of negotiations with Iran. This vivid account links his early diplomatic successes on the nuclear file with the harsh reality of the Iranian system. Iran remains a strategic flashpoint, as the Americans replace diplomacy with sanctions. Jack’s book is essential reading for those with a thirst for deeper understanding of the Middle East’s most complex and fascinating nation.

Sir John Sawers, chief of the Secret Intelligence Service 2009–2014

It’s rare for a Foreign Secretary to become so engrossed in the challenges of dealing with a single country that he decides to write a history of Britain’s involvement with it. But that is what Jack Straw has done. Cleverly linking his own experiences with the bigger picture, he gives us a splendid, engrossing account of the remarkable relationship that developed over the centuries between Iran and the UK, and ends with some wise advice for both sides on how to move on from the present, seemingly interminable, exchange of recriminations.

Sir Peter Westmacott, former UK Ambassador to the US, France and Turkey
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  • Hardback, 336 pages
  • ISBN: 9781785903991
  • 11 July 2019
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  • £20.00

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  • ISBN: 9781785904899
  • 11 July 2019
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