Andrew Murrison

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== You are Dr. Andrew Murrison, Britain’s Minister of State for the Middle East and a conservative member of parliament. ==

Notable Quotes

“We do not recognize the Occupied Palestinian Territories as part of Israel and therefore they are not covered by the EU-Israel Association Agreement which currently governs our trade with Israel, nor the UK-Israel Trade and Partnership Agreement, which will govern our trade after the UK leaves the EU.”

“I back a two-state solution (based) on the 1967 borders, and hope that this will be achieved soon so that the international community can recognize Palestine and Israel”

“I reiterated the UK’s determination to maintain the (Iran) nuclear deal which is in our shared security interests. I was clear that Iran must continue to meet its commitments under the deal in full.”

Personal and Political Background

You were born in 1961 in Harwich, on Britain’s North Sea coast. A graduate of the Britannia Royal Naval College, you graduated from University of Bristol Medical School in 1984, and served as a navy medical officer until 2000 with the rank of Surgeon-Commander. The following year you ran for parliament on the Conservative Party ticket and were elected, and you have represented your new home district of West Wilshire in western Britain ever since, though you took temporary leave of your office to serve in Iraq in 2003. In 2017, you were elected chair of the parliament’s Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, and in May 2019, you were appointed Minister of State for the Middle East at the Foreign Office, replacing Alistair Burt.

Middle Eastern Policy

With regard to the Israel-Palestine conflict, you will advocate for the Prime Minister’s policy that there should be a secure State of Israel alongside a Palestinian State, mutually recognized, coexisting in peace. Both the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister will need your support and your network of connections as they try to work with a British Parliament that has sought both to put more pressure on Israel to stop the building of settlements in the West Bank, and to be more public about advocating for a Palestinian state.

Regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, it must be said that your government has stood first and foremost with the Israelis, and part of your job is reassuring Conservative Party supporters of your government’s unwavering support for Israel, while making sure that the government is not seen as having its head in the sand in light of the growing public dismay over Israel’s perceived intransigence regarding settlement expansion in the West Bank.

Soon after you took office, tensions with Iran exploded onto the front page. In early July 2019, British forces seized an Iranian oil tanker near Gibraltar (a British controlled territory directly south of Spain), claiming that the Iranian ship was violating European Union sanctions by delivering oil to Syria. Soon afterwards, Iran seized a tanker flying the British flag, the Stena Impero, which was traveling in the Straits of Hormuz en route to Saudi Arabia, accusing the ship of dumping crude oil residue and other legal violations.

These incidents reflected and worsened an already difficult situation, as Iran and the international signatories to the Iranian nuclear deal tried to salvage a meaningful deal in the wake of the American withdrawal from the deal in 2018. Negotiators from the European Union, Russia, China and Iran met in Vienna in late July 2019 to try to untangle the diplomatic mess, amid rumors of Iran seeking a return swap of the ships, while your nation held fast to the idea that it had to decide in the courts about what to do with the Iranian ship. By late August 2019, British and Iranian diplomats had negotiated the release of the Iranian ship, despite the protests of the Americans, but the task of keeping the US and your European allies happy, while keeping communication channels open with the Iranians, will only get increasingly complicated.

Your nation is in a very difficult spot, as you very much want to see the deal survive, having made one of your first major state visits to Iran, in the interest of keeping the deal alive. You also want to maintain your strong strategic relationship with the United States, which is increasing its presence in the Persian Gulf area as it imposes harsher economic sanctions on Iran in an attempt to force Iran to renegotiate the nuclear deal. In the meantime, Iran is treating your seizure of their ship as a breach of the deal, and says that it is free to restart activity at the Arak nuclear facility, which it had fully shut down. This is a diplomatic option that the Iranians will continue to hold as leverage.

Role-Playing Notes

You have a long tenure of service with the Conservative Party, and it is surely the case that Prime Minister Johnson will be happy to have an experienced hand taking on this key position. You must be mindful, however, of a concern with which other British foreign policy leaders have had to contend, which is the sense that Britain follows in the footsteps of the United States with regard to the Middle East. This was dramatized in the initial weeks of your tenure, with the delicate diplomacy involved with protecting Britain’s strong relationship with the United States while not allowing the Americans to bring the region to a boil by putting additional pressure on Iran at a time when Britain is trying to navigate a difficult diplomatic situation with the Iranians. Your skills as a diplomat will be severely tested.

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