Iran- A Threat Assessment 27 March 2012
By the editor
Last night a packed House of Commons’ committee room listened to a hugely popular and interesting discussion on Iran and its quest for the bomb.
The Bow Group, a Conservative think tank had invited a distinguished panel of speakers to debate the implications of a nuclear armed Iran.
Included were Tory MP Rory Stewart, a former regional governor of Iraq, and Sir Richard Dalton FCO veteran and British Ambassador in Iran from 2002 to 2006.
Throughout it was clear that both the panel and audience were overwhelmingly against any sort of military strike against Iran.
Sir Richard, whose sister in law Sara Keays’ affairs with cabinet minister Cecil Parkinson made the headlines in 1983, said that since 1992 it has been endlessly predicted that Iran was about to develop a nuclear bomb citing the year 2000 as the date previously expected for Armageddon.
He believed the Iranians was still one to three years away from having the technology in place and in any event wasn’t rushing to develop a bomb although the status of being nuclear armed would enhance their regional swagger.
It was further pointed out that Iran is a rational state whose principle enemy was Saddam’s Iraq. Iran lost an estimated 500,000 in the war against them. That’s half of what Britain lost in WW1. It is natural that Iran would do everything possible to weaken its former enemy and build defensive alliances with Hezbollah and Syria. It is clear that Iran’s aim is to preserve their regime, not endanger it.
As Sir Richard put it; “You can’t do God’s work if you are dead.”
Rory Stewart, MP for Penrith and the Border, viewed Iran as a mysterious country and believed the intelligence track record for the last 40 years was appalling because the West’s agencies had failed to predict events from the Iranian Revolution in 1976 to the recent storming of the British Embassy in Tehran. He cited the interviewing of only the urban elite and exiles as leading to an incomplete picture of life inside Iran. “We should be modest in our claims to knowledge.” he said.
What if Israel went it alone and bombed Iran?
All the speakers felt this would make the situation much worse and give Iran’s executive president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad credibility a much needed boost, although ultimate control of Iran’s foreign policy rests in the hands of their supreme leader Ali Khamenei.
Sir Richard Dalton stated; “It would be an illegal act of aggression which Britain should have nothing to do with. There is no such thing as a cosmetic involvement in war.”
Stewart, who had just returned from a fact finding tour of Egypt, believed that US and UK embassies across the Middle East would have to close in the aftermath of such an attack.
In the future Iran might well join the nations who are capable of acquiring nuclear weapons at short notice, such as Japan which has the necessary technology or Saudi Arabia, who is rumoured to have discussed purchasing one from Pakistan.
However the future does not look at all bleak. After the Iran-Iraq war the Iranian clergy fearing a birth explosion encouraged contraception, the education of women and the delay of parenthood, resulting in the number of children per household falling from seven to under two.
New websites such as ‘Iran loves Israel’ and Facebook friendship pages are springing up, all helping to bridge the gulf in misunderstanding.
Finally there was criticism of the level of parliamentary control over the Government. Stewart informed the audience with the shocking knowledge that Lord Palmerston only consulted six people over the disastrous decision to invade Afghanistan in 1838. Less than 25 were privy to President Bush’s Iraq invasion plans, and how many had a say in Blair’s Government has yet to be revealed.
Everyone can play their part by writing to their local MP and making their views known.