Timid Foreign Office get Iran wrong – by Brian Binley MP

As the news of the first British casualty in Afghanistan in 2010 broke on Monday, fingers continued to point conclusively towards Tehran as being the financial and tactical backbone behind the insurgencies in Afghanistan and Iraq.

A Tehran backed Taliban in 2009 inflicted the bloodiest year for British troops since the Falklands, killing over 108 soldiers in Afghanistan. Now, as the town of Wootten Bassett prepares for the return of another fallen British hero, one must ask why Britain is appeasing an Iranian regime which is helping to inflict such heavy losses upon our young military personnel who are risking their lives in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Currently, whilst rumours of a prisoner swap to obtain the release of hostage Peter Moore, kidnapped more than two years ago in Iraq continue, the cost of a dubious policy of talking to terrorists is leading Iraq and Afghanistan further into the hands of Tehran’s leadership. Unfortunately, the convenient timing of the release of a senior figure within the group who kidnapped Moore, Qais al-Khazali, a cleric who is prominent in the Righteous League, a militant group backed by Iran, raises further questions regarding a prisoner swap deal.

Although the US military insists that Moore was held for part of his two and half years of captivity in Iran, the British Foreign Office and Prime Minister Gordon Brown continue to issue denials. So, what evidence have the US authorities seen which we have not? Or is the answer simply that the British Government continues to deny the destructive role played by Tehran in Afghanistan and Iraq, because it believes that appeasing the Mullahs regime will bear fruit.

Continuing to take a blinkered view of the negative role played by Tehran in the vain hope that appeasement will bring about change is not only naïve, but extremely dangerous. As we move into the next phase on the battlefield in Afghanistan and Iraq builds up to elections later next month, Britain must adopt a much more distinctive policy towards a regime that is working hard to undermine the prospect of democracy and hamper the early withdrawal of British troops for its own political purposes.

Iran’s support for the Taliban involves both financial and technical assistance, including the supply of IED roadside bombs and the training required for their use. Yet Tehran has been invited to a London conference later this month to help solve the ever growing problems in Afghanistan? You couldn’t make it up. The major issue for discussion at this conference should be how to end Tehran’s destructive influence, not involve them. They don’t wish to be a part of the answer but they will continue to be central to the problem and it is ludicrous to think that an invitation to a London conference will change that view. Appeasement didn’t work in Berlin in the 1930’s and it won’t work in Tehran now. If our Prime Minister thinks that turning a blind eye will make the matter disappear he is deluding himself and letting the nation down.

Tehran is and will continue to be one of the biggest foreign policy issues facing the nation in 2010. If the British Government seriously wishes to find a solution to the Iran problem, they need look no further than the streets of Tehran and the Iranian people’s determination to purse democratic ambitions.

For a number of years now, colleagues and I on the British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom have worked with Iran’s largest opposition group in exile, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and its President Mrs. Maryam Rajavi to strengthen our policy towards Iran whilst seeking increased support for the Iranian opposition movement.

A new direction in our relations with Iran must include the imposition of a wider range of targeted sanctions which are forcibly monitored. Secondly, we have to change our attitude to the Iranian democratic opposition in exile and work more closely with them. We should recognize their wide ranging connections within the democratic movement inside Iran which has surprised the world and has sizably increased the possibility of internal regime change.

Finally we should start sending a firm but consistent message to the Mullah’s regime that we mean what we say and we should cease our policy of appeasement which has been so harmful to our national interest.

Continuing a policy of appeasement will have only one outcome, that of forcing both Afghanistan and Iraq even further towards Tehran’s sphere of influence.

Strong and consolidated action now will not only reduce British troop losses but will hasten their return. And that really is in Britain’s interest.

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