Britain Settles Historic Debt to Iran After Two Britons Released

$535 million debt settled after decades

When we talk about Britain’s “historic debt” to Iran, it could be referring to a handful of different grievances, from the 1953 coup on. The literal debt, however, is $535 million that Iran paid to Britain to order several tanks in the leadup to the Islamic Revolution.

What happened from there is a tale as old as time. Britain decided that they didn’t want the new Iran to have the tanks they’d already bought and paid for, but also decided that they really liked the money. So they kept the payment and didn’t give Iran any tanks.

Lawsuits and court orders and sanctions did nothing, but Wednesday Britain confirmed the debt has been paid, and Iran released dual-nationals who had been held over the issue.

This deal comes on the sidelines of the Iran nuclear deal negotiations, which are getting close to finalizing.  Decades of grievances between Iran and other nations could be resolved in the same way, with a new appetite for diplomacy.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.