It should never have taken so long for the UK government to bring home Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.
As I look at the timeline there are bizarre gaps.
In May 2019, the MOD reportedly rejected the Foreign Office request to pay the £400m for settlement of outstanding debts to Iran that dated back to the 1970’s.
In September that year Dominic Raab then Foreign Secretary explains in a letter to Alistair Burt that the Iranians remained subject to EU sanctions, and we cannot make payments - or provide 'goods in kind' - to sanctioned entities.
By August 2020, the Defence Minister Ben Wallace acknowledges that “With regard to IMS Ltd and the outstanding legal dispute the government acknowledges there is a debt to be paid and continues to explore every legal avenue for the lawful discharge of that debt.”
By May 2021 however the National Security Advisor Anthony Blinken describes repayment of the Iranian debt as “sovereign decision for the UK” - by this stage I believe Government has figured out a way to pay back the debt, and confirmed that the Americans won’t object.
But! It takes until September 2021 September when Liz Truss takes office as Foreign Secretary for the issue to be raised at Foreign Secretary level with the Iranian opposite number, and a team of negotiators to be dispatched to Tehran
Not until November does PM Johnson tell the Liaison Committee it is worth considering sending a ‘crate of cash’ to settle the dispute. It’s not until March the following year that Truss issues a statement stating on repayment of the debt.
So none of this is easy. But frankly it doesn’t look like ministers had their act together so there’s a lesson to learn here to ensure this kind of chaos is never repeated.
@patrickwintour on the Guardian has the background: https://www.theguardian.com/news/2023/mar/16/uk-urged-to-sanction-iranian-officials-on-anniversary-of-zaghari-ratcliffe-release