Daily Telegraph: Former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, in his misguided commentary last week,on the latest instalment of negotiations with Iran, claims he has “never been complacent about a nuclear armed Iran”. Don’t listen to Jack Straw: we must keep the military option firmly on the table when it comes to Iran
The Daily Telegraph
By James Morris
Former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, in his misguided commentary last week,on the latest instalment of negotiations with Iran, claims he has “never been complacent about a nuclear armed Iran”. Not only did Mr Straw fail to arrest Iranian progress towards such a dangerous outcome during his tenure, as shown by yet another round of Groundhog Day talks, but his whole argument suggests just such a dangerous complacency; a complacency which has afflicted the British foreign policy establishment for too long.
The ill-timed implication of Mr Straw’s piece is that, somehow, Britain is to blame for the obstructiveness of the Iranian regime and their diplomatic posturing. This sort of self-flagellating nonsense has led to other historical mistakes which have ended up as grave threats to Britain’s security, such as the policy of appeasement of the 1930s, which failed to recognise the growing threat of Nazi Germany. The comparison is in no way hyperbole. An Islamic regime armed with nuclear weapons in Tehran would be a calamity for the security and interests of the United Kingdom. The Government understands this and, together with our international allies, William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, is leading the search for a diplomatic way to avoid this outcome.
While diplomacy has to be the preferred path, the other argument advanced by Mr Straw and a dwindling number of apologists for Iran is that we should not consider a military option with regards to the Iranian nuclear programme and that, even if they do obtain a nuclear weapon, we should attempt a policy of containment. This is dangerous nonsense, as emphasised by virtually every responsible world leader – including our own Prime Minister and US President Obama.
Containment of a nuclear-armed Iran implies a de facto US nuclear guarantee protecting other countries in the Middle East from attack. To be credible, such a guarantee would require the huge deployment of US – and potentially our own – nuclear firepower to create a deterrent umbrella in the Middle East which would need to be sustained at great cost over a long period of time.
Indeed, a policy of containment would create a dangerous nuclear standoff in the region that has seen the highest number of wars since World War II. Which US or UK citizen would like to see us in a stand-off with Tehran the next time they decide that some tiny Island in the Gulf is rightfully theirs? It is as preposterous as it is gravely dangerous to present it as a responsible policy.
Mr Straw’s glib accusations against Israel’s prime minister reveal that he underestimates the threat to that country. Benjamin Netanyahu is rightly afraid of an existential threat to his nation. The belittlement, in certain sections of our commentariat, of Iran’s threats against Israel is matched only by the faux outrage over Mr Netanyahu’s understandable efforts to stand up against them.
With Iranian proxies in Gaza and Lebanon already fighting a campaign of terror against Israel, it is important that the international community recognises Israel’s legitimate concerns. For our own sake – and not just because innocent Israeli civilians are now being blown up while on holiday in EU territory – we also need to continue, as this government has done, to pressure our European allies to ban Hizbollah, a powerful terrorist ally of Tehran.
It is probably true that Israel acting alone would only be able to set back Iran’s nuclear programme. But capability aside, the geopolitical implications of Israel acting alone are dangerous. A wave of US strikes, however, would almost certainly achieve the objective of halting the programme.
Above all, it would be irresponsible to signal that we will rule out such an option. One can virtually plot Tehran’s game of dissimulation during the negotiations process over the last 10 years on a graph. They only come to the table when they know we are serious. The most odious lie told by Tehran – and swallowed by people like Mr Straw – is that the West chose to forgo a grand bargain offered by a gentle, kind Islamic regime interested only in stability in 2003. In reality, of course, here was a regime worried about its very survival because of the overwhelming display of force it had just witnessed next door in Iraq.
People do not have to be foreign-policy experts to understand that a credible military option focuses minds, and – unlike the dangerous option of containment – decreases the likelihood of military action being necessary. Sometimes a dose of common sense helps even in international affairs.
It goes without saying that a negotiated settlement would be preferable, but it is still unclear what the end-game is, and whether or not the Iranians are interested in one. As such, it is vital that we continue to pressure the Iranian regime through tough and sustained sanctions – and leave the possibility of a military option firmly on the table. The Iranian regime must be under no illusions about our determination and resolve in preventing them from achieving their objective of developing a nuclear weapons capability.
Those of us who understand the grave danger a nuclear Iran would pose – and there are many – should not hesitate to make these sentiments absolutely explicit. History will – eventually – be kind once again to Iran’s long-suffering, oppressed people. It will not be so kind to those who should be so foolish to offer their oppressors comfort. But above all it will never forgive those that allowed this most vicious of regimes to arm itself with nuclear weapons.
James Morris is the Conservative Member of Parliament for Halesowen and Rowley Regis.