What Boris Johnson’s appointment as Prime Minister might mean for the UK’s priorities in the region
- Brexit and domestic political brinksmanship has detracted attention from the UK's possible foreign policy strategy
- Despite a complicated relationship with Europe in the near term, Johnson is unlikely to move closer to the US position on Iran as a sop for scoring a better trade deal
Tahseen Consulting's Chief Operating Officer Wes Schwalje sat down with Arabian Business to discuss the possible consequences of the UK's dramatic election for British foreign policy in the Middle East. You can find the full article here.
What do you think Boris Johnson’s appointment as Prime Minister might mean for the UK’s Middle East strategy?
With Brexit looming in the background and domestic political brinksmanship detracting attention from foreign policy, there has been very little discussion on what Boris Johnson’s appointment as Prime Minister might mean for the UK’s priorities in the Middle East.
The most immediate diplomatic test Johnson will face is determining how to respond to Iran’s seizure of a British-flagged tanker and attempts to impede ships in the Strait of Hormuz.
Despite tough talk, negotiations, potentially involving some backchannel diplomacy by key regional allies Saudi Arabia and the UAE, will likely deescalate the standoff. After resolving the Iran standoff, Johnson’s next priority will to fast-ongoing trade and investment discussions with the Gulf Cooperation Council countries and in high potential frontier markets like Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Morocco, and Turkey. Finally the security situation in the wider region, increasingly complicated the influence of proxy interests, will likely lead to renewed efforts to firm up relationships with key regional allies.
Could Boris side with US on Iran? So that he gets a better US trade deal?
Despite Brexit and a complicated relationship with Europe in the near term, Johnson is unlikely to move closer to the US position on Iran as a sop for scoring a better trade deal. The European-led maritime protection mission is being pursued as a stopgap to support safe passage in the Hormuz with likely inclusion of the US at a later stage.
What about Palestine? Will Boris support Kushner?
So far the response to the so-called “deal of the century” has been non-committal.
While economic development is often a precursor to political change, discussions will need to progress beyond investment pledges before countries can defensibly back the Peace to Prosperity Plan. Several countries in the region have been vocal about what it will take for the Plan to move forward. It seems unlikely Johnson would back the plan at this point in time without more political substance being revealed and the commitment of Saudi Arabia and the UAE to the proposal.