The English Job by Jack Straw review – portrait of Iran’s fixation with Britain

Andrew Anthony 01/08/2019
The former foreign secretary examines why Iran, for all its domestic flaws, has just cause to fear foreign influence.

Almost four years ago, the former foreign secretary Jack Straw went on holiday with his wife and a couple of friends to Iran, where he experienced what he calls a “forced conscription into a thriller”. Visiting the cypress of Abarkuh, a tree estimated to be up to 5,000 years old, the foursome were confronted by a group of men dressed in religiously observant black. They were members of the Basij, the thuggish volunteer offshoot of the Revolutionary Guards, and they handed Straw a leaflet explaining why he was unwelcome in their country.
The document detailed Britain’s perfidious 19th- and 20th-century track record in Iran and claimed that the recently retired Straw was a subversive agent of the British state, using his visit to sow discord. Thereafter the Basij followed the party everywhere until the Iranian police intervened. Armed and undercover, they bundled Straw and his friends into a car, as if they were being kidnapped, and whisked them away into hiding.