British Prime Minister Liz Terrasse chose her cabinet on September 6, 2022, after she was elected leader of the Conservative Party to succeed Boris Johnson, after being commissioned by the late Queen Elizabeth II before her death on September 8, but the structure of the government was distinguished. and unique; It was dominated by the nature of its members being “trustworthy” of the presidency, in addition to the absence of white people for the first time from key positions in the executive authority; India-born Suella Braverman is the Home Secretary, Kwasi Quarting is the Treasury portfolio, and James Cleverly is the State Department’s successor to Terrass herself, a longtime ally and staunch supporter of Boris Johnson.
The decision to appoint Cleverly, who was the Minister of Education, reflects Terrace’s policy of relying on politicians who support it, especially those who supported its campaign against its rival, Rishi Sunak. Although observers and experts praised this step, Not only because Cleverly is one of the most skilled political figures in Britain, but also for his gradation in various political positions related to international relations and foreign policy. However, the turbulence and acceleration of events on the British, European and international arenas poses several challenges. Which led to raising many questions about the role of “Cleverly” in achieving Britain’s goals, as well as his vision of the various issues of interest to British foreign policy.
Cleverly was born on September 4, 1969, according to a report by the London-based Al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper, in Lewisham, London, to a British father, James Philip, and a mother from Sierra Leone, Evelyn Sona. Cleverly was educated at the private schools of Riverstone and Kulve, both in Lee Green, London, and then joined the army, but he did not have a full military career due to a leg injury in 1989. He later joined the Polytechnic in West London; Where he obtained a BA in Hospitality Management, he met Susanna Sparks, whom he married in 2000, and they had two children; They are Freddy and Robert. After graduating, Cleverly began a career in the print and digital publishing industry, managing websites to help small businesses grow.
Despite his injury at the end of the eighties, Cleverly resolved to join the British Land Reserve Army in 1991. He was initially assigned as a second lieutenant, then became a technical second lieutenant in January 1993, then was promoted to first lieutenant in October 1993, then to the rank of captain in May 1998, and from there to the rank of major in November 2003. Until 2005, he was the commander of the 266th Battery of the Royal Artillery, then was promoted to colonel on March 1, 2015.
Liz Truss is betting on James Cleverly’s contribution to the development of Britain’s regional and international relations. This is due to many personal characteristics and practical experiences that he possesses, the most prominent of which are the following:
1- Experience in local affairs: Cleverly is a veteran conservative politician; Previously, he was a member of the London Legislature for the Bexley and Bromley constituencies from 2008 to 2016. In 2012, Cleverley served as head of the London Fire Service, appointed by Boris Johnson, then Mayor of London.
But in 2015 he became a member of the British Parliament for the “Braintree” constituency in Essex, northeast of the capital, and then in 2018 he assumed the position of vice-chairman of the Conservative Party, and took the position of co-chair of the Conservative Party in 2019 alongside Ben Elliott, and then Minister of State for International Development in 2020 Prior to his appointment as Secretary of State, Cleverly took over the State Department for Education in July 2022.
2- Familiarity In Middle Eastern Affairs: Cleverly held the position of Minister of State for the Middle East and North Africa in February 2020, and continued in this position under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs until February 2022, then took the position of Minister for Europe and North America in February 2022, and during this period he held meetings in the Middle East, given the He has great persuasive skills. Cleverly is also distinguished by having very high and direct experience in dealing with Iran.
3- His Brexit Efforts: Cleverly adopted the slogan “Global Britain” after its exit from the European Union “Brexit”, committed to “restore” his country’s position on the international scene after it was freed from the restrictions of the European Union; So he called for the 2016 Brexit vote; Where he saw that despite the challenges, withdrawing from the European Union without an agreement is less harmful than retreating from the implementation of “Brexit.” He held the position of Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Ministry of Exit from the European Union from April to July in 2019, following the resignation of Chris Heaton Harris. Cleverley served as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union from 4 April 2019 to 24 July 2019 in the administration of Prime Minister Theresa May, and also served as Secretary of State for European Affairs in 2022.
There is no doubt that Cleverly takes office at a critical and eventful time; In addition to the war in Ukraine and increasingly strained relations with China, he will have to manage a standoff with the EU over the status of Northern Ireland after Brexit; Therefore, Cleverly relies on the experience he gained in the State Department during the past two years, as Minister of Middle Eastern Affairs, then for European and North American Affairs. While Cleverly has not yet announced his department’s priorities, it is expected that she will follow the foreign policies adopted by Liz Truss, when she served as Secretary of State in Johnson’s government; This is as follows:
1- Supporting the continuation of the British-Gulf rapprochement: Cleverly engaged in economic and investment talks with the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council in particular, during his tenure as Minister of State for the Middle East and North Africa in 2020; This is to discuss strengthening trade cooperation for the post-Brexit era.
Cleverly also led discussions to launch a joint review of trade and investment relations, which is one of the mechanisms that will allow finding ways to increase trade between the United Kingdom and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries. The business relationship is already very strong, and we are expanding this partnership into areas of interest in the Gulf, including green energy, education and healthcare, as well as traditional areas of economic cooperation.” Cleverly also noted that “the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a major economy in the global arena, and it is absolutely necessary that we maintain a strong and positive relationship with it.”
Recently, Cleverly chaired the ministerial meeting between the Gulf troika and the United Kingdom on the sidelines of the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York; During the meeting, they reviewed the friendly relations between the GCC states and the United Kingdom, and ways to enhance them in all areas of cooperation. The meeting also touched on many regional and international issues of common interest, foremost of which is the promotion of security and stability in the region. In another context, Cleverly expressed his thanks and gratitude to Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi Crown Prince and Deputy Prime Minister, for his role in the return of five British citizens who were detained in eastern Ukraine, as part of a prisoner exchange between Russia and Ukraine.
2- Endorsing the Iran nuclear deal: While some experts believe Liz Truss may take a tougher stance on Iran than former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, its long history of pragmatism suggests that it may try to forge a common approach with the Biden administration, France and Germany. Cleverly, a staunch supporter of Truss, is expected to be willing to take such an approach.
Therefore, despite Cleverly’s assertion that the nuclear agreement will return if Iran’s behavior remains positive, he returned to say: “Unfortunately, we did not see progress in the negotiations as quickly as we had hoped… they stopped,” and added that “the matter is in the hands of the Iranians now; There is a very reasonable and practical offer on the table, and the Iranians should seize the opportunity to move in a better direction.” The administration of US President Joe Biden supports the return of the United States to the agreement; Iran will enjoy sanctions relief in return for strict limits on its nuclear program, but says it cannot guarantee what any future president will do.
On the other hand, Cleverly commented on the recent popular protests that swept Iran after the death of “Mahasa Amini,” who was arrested by the morality police, calling on the Iranian leadership to choose “another path,” and noting the people’s dissatisfaction with the direction the state is taking, saying: “They can Abandon their aspirations to acquire nuclear weapons, stop suppressing voices within their own countries, and stop their destabilizing activities.”
3- Cooperative relations with Arab countries: During his tenure as Minister of State for the Middle East and North Africa, Cleverly worked to strengthen his country’s relationship with the Middle East and North Africa, and during this period he made visits to several Arab countries. This was evident in Cleverly’s meeting with his Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Shoukry, in New York; The British minister looked forward to strengthening cooperation in the field of tourism and investments. They also exchanged visions and views on a number of regional and international files, especially the Ukrainian crisis and its repercussions on the global economy.
4- Supporting the continuation of British-American cooperation: Cleverly is keen to promote close cooperation between the United States and the United Kingdom on joint files. On the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, Cleverly met on September 20, 2022, his American counterpart, Anthony Blinken, in New York City; To affirm their unwavering, long-standing support for Ukraine, and to maintain the unity of partners to ensure the failure of Russian President Vladimir Putin in his illegal war.
Cleverly also reiterated the UK’s commitment to maintaining the international order based on the rules of peace and stability, especially across and beyond the Taiwan Strait, and the challenges posed by the People’s Republic of China in general, as announced by the Group of Seven last month. The two sides discussed the threat posed by Iran’s continued nuclear escalation to international peace and security, and both affirmed their commitment to the security of “our partners in the Middle East.”
5- Beware of the growing influence of China: Cleverly was known for his fear of China’s influence; He previously proposed a ban on 30 Confucian Institutes in Britain. Although Truss has not publicly expressed concerns, Cleverly argued, “Trust has been focusing on Beijing (for some time). We need to look at the influence of China; Not only on the world stage, but here in the UK.”
Cleverly also expressed concern about the current tensions in the Taiwan Strait; In his meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, he also clarified the importance of constructive engagement with China, as one of the five permanent members of the Security Council on major issues, in foreign and security challenges, climate change and global health.
6- Unconditional support for Ukraine: Days before Russia launched a war against Ukraine on February 24, Cleverly took over the position of Minister of State for Europe and North America, and he did not hesitate to contribute to his government’s efforts to mobilize support for Ukraine and impose the largest Western sanctions package on Russia.
Cleverly also devoted his first comment, after the election of Truss as leader of the Conservative Party, to talking about the Russian-Ukrainian war, and said, “We must, of course, stand firmly in our support for the President (Volodymyr Zelensky) and the people of Ukraine,” stressing: “I do not have There is no doubt that we will continue to be strong allies of Kiev as we were under Boris Johnson.” Cleverly also stressed the UK’s commitment to work with allies to hold Russia accountable and seek justice for the victims, and warned against Moscow’s manipulation of the results of special referendums so that the areas it controls in eastern and southern Ukraine become part of its territory.
Commenting on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent statement about his readiness to use all available means in the event of a threat to Russia’s safety, and accusing the West of using nuclear blackmail and weapons of mass destruction against Moscow; Cleverly said that “the West did not threaten Russia at all and did not try to infringe on its territorial integrity, but we will continue to support the Ukrainians.” However, Cleverly’s pro-Ukrainian role sparked widespread criticism. The asylum program faced several challenges when it was launched, and thousands of applications were delayed.
In sum, despite the ambitions of politicians towards positive changes that will be implemented by “Cleverly” that will have a significant impact on Britain’s relations with foreign countries, and increase its historical political weight, especially as it has great persuasive skills.. There is another trend that sees Terrace chosen “ Cleverly” to reserve its own decision-making; Which puts on him more challenges to prove his worth in this vital position.