Iran: Time for a re-think?

“A Dangerous Delusion: Why the West is wrong about Nuclear Iran”, by Peter Oborne & David Morrison.  Elliott & Thompson.  £8.99.

“A Dangerous Delusion: Why the West is wrong about Nuclear Iran”, by Peter Oborne & David Morrison. Elliott & Thompson. £8.99.

I have to confess that I haven’t spent a great deal of time studying the Iran question, or looking at the long and tortuous attempts at negotiation over their nuclear programme.  I just know what everybody else knows, from occasional newspaper articles, and speeches by well-informed politicians, like our Foreign Secretary William Hague.

So I know that Iran is governed by recalcitrant ayatollahs who are utterly irreconcilable with the West; who hate and reject our values; who are determined to wipe the State of Israel off the map; and who are hell-bent on acquiring nuclear weapons — to the extent that a military attack on Iranian nuclear facilities by the USA and/or Israel is, to say the least, a serious possibility.  Aren’t they building centrifuges? And enriching uranium?  And buying nuclear equipment and expertise on the global black market?

But a couple of days ago I received a very cordial note from columnist Peter Oborne, together with a new book “A Dangerous Delusion: why the West is Wrong about Nuclear Iran”, which he has co-authored with David Morrison.

Peter Oborne seems to be rather well-informed on Middle Eastern issues.  I was particularly struck by his recent Telegraph column on Syria. He said that Cameron and Hague appear to have a rather simplistic view of Syria: brave insurgents committed to freedom and democracy, pitched against an evil dictator.  There is little doubt that Assad is an evil dictator, but the insurgents are by no means the good guys.  Oborne argues that what we are seeing is not so much a national insurgency in Syria, more a wider-ranging civil and sectarian war between Shia and Sunni Muslims across the region.  Assad is supported by Iran and Hezbollah.  The insurgents are supported by Saudi Arabia, and Qatar — and Al Qaeda.

Bad as Assad may be, Al Qaeda are not a lot better, and it is preposterous that our British government should be supporting an insurgent coalition which is backed by — and increasingly influenced by — a major anti-Western terrorist group.  We in Britain should concern ourselves with dialogue, and external pressure, and perhaps humanitarian aid, but we should absolutely not be sending arms to either side (it only motivates Assad’s sponsors, including Russia, to raise the stakes on the other side).  And above all we must not commit British troops to the Syria conflict.

But that is a digression.  In his book, Oborne meticulously looks at published reports and statements from American security organisations, from the IAEA, even from Israel, and concludes that there is little evidence that Iran has had any nuclear weapons programme for the last ten years at least.  He looks at the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and points out that Iran has broadly observed its commitments, while the demands being made on Iran are explicitly contrary to the Treaty — and while other non-nuclear states are clearly in breach of the Treaty, yet are not criticised or sanctioned.

Oborne also documents various negotiating offers made to the West by Iran, which could have formed the basis of a deal, but were rejected, apparently because Iran was regarded as the bad guy and no evidence to the contrary was to be contemplated.

I’m not in a position to support or deny Oborne’s proposition — it would be good to hear him debate it against someone who takes the conventional view.  But I know this: if I were in William Hague’s seat, I should certainly ask my staff for an urgent review of our posture towards Iran, having read this book.

There is a broader point here, which relates to Oborne’s article about Syria.  If we could reach some kind of rapprochement with Iran, bringing them into the international orbit, we might well have taken a first step to defusing the sectarian war between Shia and Sunni in the Middle East, which in turn might bear upon the Syrian story.

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8 Responses to Iran: Time for a re-think?

  1. Me_Again says:

    Agree in general but this was poor choice of words I think “..Al Qaeda are not a lot better,”. But when you are comparing two turds it’s hard to say something to distinguish them.

    Absolutely support the ‘Stay out of it’ mood of your post. We have no right to interfere and ‘morals’ are as variable as a bumble bees flight path. Again I have for a long time said what right have the West [by that I mean the US led group of countries] to say that Iran cannot have either nuclear power or for that matter nuclear weapons, I don’t recall threats of nuclear aggression when Pakistan became a nuclear power and I think it entirely possible that Pakistan has more ‘nutjobs’ per square yard than Iran.

    As I understand things, joining the nuclear club is actually a ticket to responsible behaviour and not a ‘pop a nuke’ party, no matter how rabid the zealots are. The evidence of that is that there hasn’t been a nuclear detonation against a target since the Americans did their bit for dust in the ionosphere.
    In addition, any nuclear material made/fabricated in Iran will have the unmistakable isotope pattern associated with that country, which means that should they have a desire to spread their nuclear material where we would not want it, then it is traceable to them and the consequence of that would, by all current declarations, precipitate a nuclear response from a variety of sources.

    Most preferable of all would be Iran building Thorium reactors which of course have no ability to create fissile material.

  2. catalanbrian says:

    Good grief Roger! You have today written a blog with which I agree totally. My politics are far from those of UKIP but it does seem that it is possible to have a coherent discussion. Your final paragraph sums the problem up perfectly. Isolating Iran from the rest of the world has done nothing but harm to the west’s problems in the Middle East but sadly, history stands in the way of rapproachment so a lot of hard work needs to be done. The Briitsh interference in Iran over oil culminating in the British and American instigated coup in 1953 to install the Shah severely soured any potential long term relationship, as has been evidenced by the massive breakdown in relationship between Iran and the west following the overthrow of the Shah in the 1979 revolution. It is, however, rather interesting that by now the Iranian hatred of the west has been amended to a vitriolic hated of the USA. I can recall with some amusement the post hostage crisis grafitti “Death to America” written in blood red paint on the lobby wall of the Lalia (previously Intercontinental, I think) hotel in Teheran together with the crossing out in biro of any reference to America in the breakfast menu – “American Breakfast” became just “Breakfast” and was without bacon as that had also been crossed out . I, as a Brit, was always made welcome during my visits to Iran and even now there is a goodwill towards us as a nation. My son went there on holiday about 5 years ago and was made very welcome – and, no he was not there for terrorist training but visiting a friend from university who is Iranian!

    On the Syria front I think that any assistance given to the opposition, whether military or otherwise, would be a major error. Mr Assad’s regime is not exactly the pink, fluffy and compliant government that we would prefer to deal with, but at least it is a government that we could deal with, and he might become a bit fluffier if we were stopped treating him the way we do. Isolating him and giving support, as we have, to the ragtag of squabbling factions that we loosely call “the opposition” is in my view a major tactical error on our part and that of our American friends (or should I say Masters?).

  3. I would go so far as to doubt that Assad is an evil dictator. His father, who wiped out the town of Hama, with no demurral by our media was evil. The son, however, inherited his power and had previously been working as a doctor in London (& married a British girl). We are used to thinking that any country which does not follow the forms of democracy must be evil but throughout history this has not been the rule. Some societies simply do not have the “demos” of a people sharing common values able to work a democracy. Syria, with the inter-ethnic and inter tribal horrors currently going on lookis to be such a society.

    The best that history offers such societies is that they get a good, fairminded and competent dictator – Augustus Caesar, Charles II, Lorenzo di Medici – and I do not think there is any prospect that the “rebels” will produce anything more capable of peacefully evolving into a free society than Assad’s regime.

  4. Daniel says:

    You have written a very interesting blog today.
    I think we made mistakes invading Iran and Libya which actually helped to stregthen islamic fundamentalism in the Mideast. In Syria we cannot support the rebels because they are Al Qaeda terrorists who are even worse than Assad.
    But Iran is another matter. There we have a terrorist, anti-democratic and islamic regime which is threatening the West, Israel and its neighbours. By attacking Iraq we even helped the Ayatollah regime to gain control over Eastern Iraq. Now we have to put maximum pressure on Iran to give up its Nuclear Programme. I have read some posts of you and I always saw that you had the right stance because you supported the Iranian opposition and you were opposed to Iran`s Nuclear Programme. The book by Peter Oborne is only one view, there are many books and reports which show that Iran is building Nuclear Weapons. Gerard Batten, your fellow UKIP MEP, has always spoken out against the Iranian Nuclear Programme and against the terrorist regime in Teheran. The UKIP Manifesto “Out of EU, into the world” (2010( clearley states that we cannot allow Iran to get Nuclear Weapons. It says:
    “UKIP condemns Iran’s attempts to secure nuclear weapons, and refuses to believe
    the Iranian regime’s claims that it simply wants nuclear energy for civilian purposes.
    UKIP feels it is foolhardy to take the leaders of a totalitarian state at their word. The fact
    Iran is seeking nuclear materials is especially worrying at the same time it is developing
    medium- and long-range Shahab class missiles, capable of hitting British troops in
    Afghanistan and Cyprus. UKIP believes a nuclear Iran would simply be unacceptable,
    and would support efforts to eliminate its nuclear weapons capability if necessary,
    preferably through peaceful methods, but if no other means are feasible by targeted
    military means. However, UKIP would not support commitment of UK ground troops to
    such operations but would be prepared to lend strategic military support.”

    This should be our position towards Iran and I hope you haven`t changed your position that you support the Iranian opposition and oppose the Iranian Nuclear progamme. Of course we have to negotiate with Iran as long as possible, but like Gerard Batten says we have to carry a stick and put pressure on the Regime.

  5. Mike Stallard says:

    What do these countries have in common? Israel, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Palestine, Iran, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan?
    They are all red lights to anyone who knows anything about history.
    Several are in the Bible as military no go areas. Several are in the History of the Abbasid Caliphate as problem areas. Iraq is the place where Shi’as lost their Caliph – Hasan – in a massacre. The Middle East has always been a place of savage war.
    I have stood by and watched the Christians in the West invade every single one, except for Israel. Particularly aggravating was “Dr” John Reed in Afghanistan. Particularly humiliating were the Dutch in Yugoslavia and our own troops in Basra. Paddy Ashdown notwithstanding.
    I have stood by and watched as people from the Abbasid Caliphate have taken over the area where I was brought up, mosques and all.
    I am not allowed to talk about it though.

    • Akram Al obedi says:

      @Mike:It s positive that you know so much about the Caliph’s history, which means you re among those who seek the truth rather than just say Muslims kill each other..Let my humble self give the truth shortly:Mohammd brought Islam message of peice when Arabs were tribes, robbing, killing and enslaving each other..they faughts him so he tried to spread Islam away from them but they chased his groups..Islam only allows one to fight in self defence..so only when Mohamad became strong enough to fight them, they stopped agression and joined him..but they renounced their Islam the night Mohammad died and went bck to their tribal habits..they even massacred most of his family as you mentioned..Since then Islam was split into Sunnis who modified Islam to suit their tribal harsh habits, and a minority of Shia who held on to the actual peaceful Islamic teachings…thats why you don,t see Shia suicide bomber or beheading people because it is not in their beleif..Shia think that dialoge can solve any problem and only fight in self defence…sadly the west is baised towards economy interests, and oil states are ruled by Sunni(wahabi) tribes who are now financing Al Kaida all over the world including Syria…

    • Me_Again says:

      Was it the Christians invading Mike? Or was it misguided muppet politicians from secular democracies?

  6. Akram Al obedi says:

    It is great to read this article and feel there are some people who still have a good sense, especially after Cameron entered the same blood thirsty mood as Blair did. As for the Sunni-Shia conflict in the middle east, it sounds to me that US is happy with it because Israel can see its classic enemies killing each other. If not, US can easily stop the blood shed by ordering its Oil allies to stop financing al Qaida and targeting Shia by Sunni militia. Lets face it Qatar and Saudi Arabia monarchs would never mess in the region like that without approval from their badyguard the US. On the ethical phase, Shia do not do suicide bombing, do not abuse women rights, do not approve beheadings…So why is US proxy supporting the Wahabi human fleash easters? This is question decent British citizens should ask Cameron and Obama? Why want to replace Assad secular regime, who wants to accept election, with an Taliban clone that will spread abuse and destruction? Why was Bahrain majority public protests crushed by Saudi troops was ignored by UK and US…this double standard makes things worse.

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