NCRI – Lord Alton of Liverpool called for a "robust, creative and firm diplomacy" on Iran in his article published in The Universe. The full article follows below:
For those of us who have been following developments in Iran for over two decades, these are critical times.
Critical, because Western governments are facing a tet of historic proportions in the way they deal with the Iranian challenge. An already explosive situation has been accentuated by the outrage over cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed and by the election of Hamas in the Palestinian territories.
Whether the stand-off with Iran turns out to he another Munich, with all tire disastrous consequences that appeasement of a fascist regime, this time in a religious guise, would entail, or a triumph for our policy-makers, remains to he seen, But one thing is certain: Iran under its fanatic, apocalyptic, totalitarian rulers, presents a grave threat to peace and stability everywhere.
The options before Western governments have already been narrowed by Iran’s resumption of uranium enrichment and the dangerous rhetoric of the country’s hard-line president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. What is heartening is that the great powers, including China and Russia, have at last started to speak with one voice. What a tragedy they failed to do this earlier when it might have made a real difference.
As the crisis with Iran deepens, it is particularly important not to be lulled in to a false sense of security by soothing platitudes and dishonest assurances about the benign nature of Iran’s intentions. Just look at their track record.
Iran flagrantly violated a November 2004 agreement it struck with the "EU-Three" – Britain, France and Germany – by breaking seals at its Natanz nuclear plant. The move marked the climax of a pattern of non-compliance and lack of transparency that has charactrised Tehran’s nuclear policy for a decade.
The Islamic Republic kept critical parts of its huge nuclear programme concealed until two top-secret sites in Natanz and Arak; were revealed by the opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran in August 2002. The revelations triggered scrutiny into the nuclear programme and led to the current stand-off.
Tehran’s unilateral breach of its agreement with the Europeans has convinced even the most ardent supporters of ‘constructive engagement’ with the radical Islamist regime that economic and political concessions to Iran will not encourage the Iranian rulers to abandon their nuclear ambitions.
On the contrary, Europe’s dogged pursuit of rapprochement with the Islamic Republic, and our repeated offers of carrots to the mullahs, have been interpreted in Tehran as a sign of weakness.
Reassured by Europe’s complacency, emboldened by the US predicament in Iraq and holstered by unprecedented oil revenues, the hard-line Islamists around the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, went on the offensive, First, they installed a former Revolutionary Guards commander as president and then consolidated power through purges.
But a deeply unpopular religious tyranny at loggerheads with a young and demanding population needs to generate crises beyond its borders to overshadow problems at home, and motivate its radical base. These crises came in abundance, thanks to Tehran’s meddling in Iraq, Ahmadinejad’s repeated calls for Israel to be "wiped off the map" and an intransigent nuclear policy that projected to Muslims around the world an image of Iran thumbing its nose at the west.
Ahmadinejad recently told a gathering of Revolutionary Guards that his calls for the destruction of Israel and his denial of the Holocaust were "part of a deliberate strategy" and were winning the hearts and minds of "young Muslims around the world", His senior adviser recently described the president’s statements as a "shock and awe strategy".
This brings us to the essential question: what should we do? Now that it has become clear that international efforts to stop Iran’s atomic programme have failed the west had no choice in the immediate future but to push for Iran’s ease to be referred to the UN Security Council. Failure to take this step would eliminate the possibility of a peaceful resolution, as it will enhance the arguments of those in Washington and Jerusalem who see no viable alternative to a military option to halt Iran’s march towards nuclear weapons.
Security Council referral was an essential first step, but it will not be sufficient to defuse the crisis. To succeed the west needs to craft a hold initiative on Iran that makes a clear break with appeasement and provides an efficient alternative to the military option.
The key to a successful approach to Iran lies in our recognition of the aspirations of the millions of Iranians chafing under the ayatollahs’ repressive rule and the movement that has embodied these aspirations in the past quarter-century; the coalition National Council of Resistance of Iran and the principal op position movement inside Iran, the People’s Mojahedin.
These courageous Iranians deserve our full support no less than the Poles who challenged communism in the 1980s.
We would be sending the wrong signal to the hard-liners in Tehran if we continue to brand the mullahs’ most active opponents as terrorists. The Iranian resistance has garnered considerable support in Britain, Europe and the US by advocating a platform based on respect for human rights, free elections, recognition of the rights of religious and ethnic minorities and support for the Middle Last peace process. More than 450 MPs and peers recently called for the removal of the Iranian resistance from the terrorism list.
It was in Iran, under Ayatollah Khomenei, that the radical theocratic mutation of Islam had its birth. And it will be in Iran that democratic, freedom-loving Muslim people will end a tyranny which has been violent and brutal towards its own people and those beyond its borders.
Britain is in a unique position to take the lead in launching a new policy on Iran and forging a transatlantic consensus that would prevent Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons through a robust, creative and firm diplomacy, It is time for Mr Blair to take up the challenge.
Lord Alton, The Universe, Britain and Ireland’s best-selling Catholic newspaper, March 5, 2006.