The short term prognosis for diplomatic relations between the UK and Iran, and the wider security situation within the Strait of Hormuz, remains complex. With a new UK government recently installed, it is likely the new administration will be keen to put the issue ‘to bed’, or if not possible delay having to resolve the situation. However, with Brexit negotiations dominating the first 99 days of the Johnson administration, it is unlikely that Britain will have the adequate governmental and diplomatic time required to sufficiently lubricate the necessary levers of diplomacy which could ease tensions with Iran. Furthermore, as has already been noted the installing of Johnson as PM has the potential to deepen Iranian scepticism of British intent. It is not unlikely that Iran may perceive Britain as distracted in the short term, and without the naval means to fully secure its rhetoric on the international intent. This would realistically increase the likelihood that Iran will continue to implement what it sees as its strategic imperatives within what it perceives as its region of influence, especially within the Strait of Hormuz.
Iran has seen more positive developments in terms of its relations with European nations, and Iran is engaged with the EU regards both INSTEX and JCPOA. Europe has however continually raised the prospect of a British-led European naval mission being sent to the Gulf, and if this strategy materialises, it would likely destabilise any sense of diplomacy between the EU and Iran. Iran will also likely remain sceptical of the missions capacity, and will likely perceive it as in part an attempt on the behalf of the UK and EU to show they can work together despite the process of Brexit being underway. Iran has strongly opposed build-up of Naval forces and if deployed is highly likely to oppose them in some way. If deployed vessels from those countries will face an exponential increase in risk.
Finally, Iran continues to seek a competitive advantage with its regional opponent, Saudi Arabia. In light of the recent potential disruptions to shipping in the Strait of Hormuz, Saudi Arabia has increased its export capacity on its Red Sea coastline, and Aramco has facilitated an increase in export potential at the Yanbu South oil terminal. Whilst Saudi attempts to reroute supply seem eminently practical on the surface, they in fact play into Iran’s strategic advantage. Saudi vessels would have to transit the Bab-El-Mandeb Strait, a chokepoint as severe as the Strait of Hormuz. Furthermore, Iranian proxies the Houthis already operate within the strait, and have attacked Saudi vessels in the past. An increase of commercial shipping within the Bab-El-Mandeb would require the international community to spread their naval assets across two straits, not one, which would reduce the likelihood of Iranian activity being sufficiently policed.