Wednesday briefing: Iran arrests more Britons | World news – The Guardian

Wednesday briefing: Iran arrests more Britons | World news – The Guardian

Wednesday briefing: Iran arrests more Britons

Soldiers of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard.
Photograph: Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images

Plus, Trump shows John Bolton the door … May’s Brexit deal not looking so bad now? … and why food allergies need to be taken seriously

Main image:
Soldiers of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard.
Photograph: Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images

Top story: Female academic reportedly given 10 years’ jail

Hello, Warren Murray with the big and breaking news of the morning.

Iran has detained two British-Australian women and one other Australian citizen. One of the women, a British-Australian academic, was arrested several months ago, sources confirmed to the Guardian. The Times reported she had been sentenced to 10 years in prison and put in solitary confinement. The other woman, a blogger, was reportedly told by Iranian authorities she was being held to facilitate a prisoner swap with Australia, whose consular officials are leading negotiations with Tehran over the detentions. She and her male Australian partner were said to have been detained after camping in a military area in Tehran province.

The arrests come amid tensions between Australia, Britain, the United States and Iran. The Australian government has committed to joining a US-led mission in the Strait of Hormuz. The two women have reportedly been detained in Tehran’s Evin jail, where 41-year-old British-Iranian national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been locked up on spying charges since 2016. The whereabouts of the man are not known. Typically, foreign nationals are brought before secretive trials in Iran and sentenced to long prison terms based on vague “national security” or “espionage” charges, according to human rights defenders.

Midweek catch-up

> International students are to be offered a two-year work visa after graduating from a British university, overturning a key plank of Theresa May’s immigration policies.

> With the party conferences approaching, Labour is set to debate radical manifesto proposals including a four-day week, abolishing private schools and a zero-carbon target by 2030.

> The Israeli election campaign rumbles on with Benjamin Netanyahu declaring he would annex large swathes of the occupied Palestinian territories if re-elected – a decision that would smash the idea of Palestinian statehood.

> A fresh crisis looms for the Kevin McCloud, the Grand Designs presenter, after a failed attempt to restructure property bond investments in his troubled housing empire. An investor who put in several thousand pounds said: “The whole thing is a shambles.”

> The UK has accused Iran of selling oil to Syria from the tanker that was seized off Gibraltar by British marines. It was released on condition the sale not go ahead but proceeded to Syria where British officials say the oil was offloaded to smaller boats.

> Russia thought a Kremlin insider had been murdered when he had actually fled Moscow with his family because he was a CIA spy. It has been reported that Oleg Smolenkov was pulled out because the CIA feared Donald Trump was putting him in danger.

War hawk down – Donald Trump has fired his national security adviser, John Bolton, in a surprise development that sparked a degree of barely concealed glee elsewhere in the administration. He is third national security adviser fired by the president in as many years. Trump wrote of Bolton: “I disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions, as did others in the administration, and therefore I asked John for his resignation, which was given to me this morning.” Bolton claimed he offered to resign first. Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, said: “There were definitely places that Ambassador Bolton and I had different views about how we should proceed.”

Asked if he had been taken unawares by the development, Pompeo said: “I’m never surprised.” The departure of the hawkish Bolton raises the possibility that Trump might soften his foreign policy in the run-up to next year’s elections, in particular with respect to Iran. Julian Borger writes: “For the president, that involves shaking hands with adversaries and announcing diplomatic breakthroughs with the likes of Tehran and the Taliban. Almost no one expected him to be able to make that hairpin pivot with someone as bellicose and determined as Bolton at his side.”

Watson: be the party of remain – The Labour deputy leader, Tom Watson, is to call today for his party to “unambiguously and unequivocally back remain” and push for a referendum before a general election. An election alone “might well fail to solve this Brexit chaos”, Watson is due to say. MPs looking to stop no deal are exploring ways to bring back a version of Theresa May’s Brexit deal plus a vote on a second referendum in the last two weeks of October after parliament returns. Ken Clarke, one of those fired from the Tories by Boris Johnson last week, has said he would be willing to be an “honorific figurehead” for an alternative government seeking such a compromise. The EU has said a Northern Ireland-only backstop – previously rejected by Theresa May as a threat to the UK’s integrity – might be back on the table to salvage a deal. Downing Street has denied considering it, after the suggestion rattled the Democratic Unionists.

Superbugs on the march – Bacteria are increasingly developing ways of resisting antibiotics, threatening a future in which patients could become untreatable, doctors have warned. Over the past five years Public Health England has identified 32 “pan-drug resistant bacteria” that could not be killed by any antibiotic; while in the last decade UK scientists have identified 19 new ways that bacteria resist the drugs. On Wednesday they announced a new strain of group A streptococcus suspected of causing a big rise in children getting scarlet fever and throat infections. It can also cause sepsis or toxic shock. NHS England says it is reducing use of antibiotics to keep them as effective as possible, with patients offered other treatments. The annual death toll resulting from antibiotic resistance stands at 2,200.

Set to stun – DNA research has revealed two entirely new species of electric eel in the Amazon basin, including one capable of delivering a record-breaking jolt of 860 volts, much more than existing record of 650 volts. The new kind is called Electrophorus voltai and scientists say it is “the strongest bioelectricity generator known”. Electric eels – actually fish – generate electricity from three specialised electric organs that can emit charges of varying strengths.

Today in Focus podcast: Could Johnson’s election strategy work?

Anushka Asthana hears from the Guardian’s John Harris on how the chaos in Westminster looks to people in towns around the UK. And: Gaby Hinsliff on accusations of cronyism in Theresa May’s honours list.

Today in Focus

‘People versus parliament’


Lunchtime read: When cooks can kill

In an Amsterdam restaurant, Ben Feltwell wanted to make sure there was no egg in the pastry he had ordered. The waiter went off and checked with the kitchen. “He spoke with the chef and came back and said it was OK.” Feltwell bit into the pastry – and immediately had an allergic reaction. The chef insisted: “Well, we make the pastry with egg, but then we fry it and bake it, so there’s no egg left!” Feltwell spent the next four hours vomiting in his hotel room.

Composite: Guardian Design/Getty

It’s not just chefs Feltwell needs to watch out for. Once, on a camping holiday, a companion slipped an egg into his curry. “He was trying to make the point that my egg allergy wasn’t real … It ruined the holiday.” Others have similar tales: mushroom powder hidden in mashed potatoes, beef unthinkingly cooked in beer and served to a gluten-intolerant person. As Sirin Kale writes, well-publicised fatalities like that of 15-year-old Natasha Ednan-Laperouse – who died from eating a baguette not labelled as containing sesame – seem not to have deterred chefs, friends and even relations from trying to mislead or trick food allergy sufferers into eating dangerously.


Jadon Sancho scored his first two goals for England in a wild 5-3 win over Kosovo on a night when they were 1-0 down in the first minute and Harry Kane missed a penalty. Joe Root is under “no pressure” as England cricket captain, according to outgoing coach Trevor Bayliss. Jimmy Anderson believes he can become the world’s No 1 Test bowler once more and, to make this goal a reality, now plans to study how other elite athletes prolong their careers.

Alun Wyn Jones leads Wales on to the plane bound for Tokyo on Wednesday for his fourth Rugby World Cup, hoping the tournament will not be scarred by a flurry of red cards for dangerous tackles. And anti-discrimination groups have urged the French Football Federation president, Noël Le Graët, to resign after he said matches should no longer be stopped when there is homophobic chanting.


The government must take urgent action to protect Britain’s high streets, retailers and unions say, as a new study reveals that shop closures are occurring at their fastest rate for a decade. The analysis says an average of 16 shops, pubs and restaurants are shutting every day and only nine are taking their place. Asian investors have maintained the optimistic mood in financial markets as hopes of a US-China trade agreement rise. The FTSE100 is set to pick up the vibe with a rise of 0.4% at the opening. The pound is up to $1.236 and €1.118.

The papers

The Guardian reports this morning: “Retailers urge ministers to step in as high street store closures soar” and the Express has: “Scandal of care homes evicting elderly”.

Guardian front page, Wednesday 11 September 2019

Guardian front page, Wednesday 11 September 2019. Photograph: Guardian

The Times runs with “British nationals seized by Iran”, the i has: “PM rips up restrictions on foreign students” and the FT says: “Trump fires Bolton after tensions on Iran and North Korea boil over”. The Telegraph asks: “Could Johnson have the answer to solve the Brexit deadlock?” complete with a picture of Boris Johnson raising his hand while sitting in a classroom surrounded by children.

The Mail reports on what it calls: “Corbyn plot to drag UK back to the 70s” over his plans to boost union power. The Mirror has the story of an Emmerdale star allegedly threatened to kill a rival from Hollyoaks: “I will knife you”, whereas the Sun has the headline: “Fired man sam” as fire chiefs have “banned” Fireman Sam “for being too male” and putting off women from joining the brigade.

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