The Times: Britain blames Iran for the eruption of fighting in Lebanon and wants to use crisis talks to build an alliance for its long-term containment. The Times
By Bronwen Maddox, Foreign Editor
BRITAIN blames Iran for the eruption of fighting in Lebanon and wants to use crisis talks to build an alliance for its long-term containment.
A new United Nations Security Council resolution on Irans nuclear programme, expected next week, will be the cornerstone of this strategy, according to senior British officials.
The plan, which echoes the containment of the Soviet Union during the Cold War, will aim to tap growing Arab alarm at Irans regional ambitions and its ability to stir up their own restive populations.
The move reflects British frustration with the USs failure to devise a plan for dealing with Tehran, once the Iraqi conflict stripped it of the appetite for military action.
It is no coincidence that last weeks raid by Hezbollah, the Lebanese guerrilla group, which triggered the conflict, immediately followed Irans declaration that it would not curb its nuclear work, officials believe.
During nuclear talks this year, Iran has threatened to escalate the level of activity in the region in response to UN pressure, an official said. In recent weeks, the violence in Iraq attributed to Shia militias has also soared. Iran has maintained its arming of Shia militias, and may have stepped it up, an official said. Hezbollah, a Shia militant group with close ties to Iran, has received huge help from Iran in building a massive arsenal, analysts say, and is thought unlikely to move against Irans interests.
Britain plans to use a flurry of talks next week to pursue the new strategy. Condoleezza Rice, the Secretary of State, will arrive in the region on Sunday and may return the following weekend. In between, there may be regional meetings, as well as the Security Council.
The councils resolution is expected to make mandatory Irans suspension of uranium enrichment, and to set a deadline, probably the end of August, with which it must comply. The council will also say that sanctions on Irans military industry could follow.
Britain will push allies to consider a wider containment plan. That could start with soft measures, such as the start of a Farsi television service, and curbs on travel, and include moves to encourage the flow of capital out of Iran. Tougher steps would focus on its arming of militant groups.
However, some analysts argue that governments should not overstate Irans role in Lebanon.