Iran, ISIS and Britain: Weakness with a cost
While the Left loves to fall into the moral relativism of treating hardline Islamist politics as regionally acceptable, this cannot be the position of a country that gave the world the Magna Carta. Why is David Cameron sucking up to Iran?
Lost in the excitement of the announcement that Britain would be joining allies in airstrikes against ISIS, the press paid far too little attention to the decision by David Cameron to meet with the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The meeting was a mistake and continues the unprincipled and weak foreign policy of the Cameron Government.
No British Prime Minister had met with the President of Iran since the 1979 Revolution. No doubt Cameron believes that with US-Iran relations warming, the UK is also right to seek a thaw. Such a policy is as misguided as it is immoral.
Despite a minor rhetorical recalibration by the current President, Iran remains an adversary rather than a partner across all aspects of our foreign and security policy.
The Iranian regime continues to be the largest sponsor of terrorism worldwide, particularly in their support for Hezbollah and Hamas, but most notably today in the cowardly support they offer to the Butcher of Damascus.
That ISIS is currently dominating the headlines should not lead us to forget the horrendous civilian toll that has already come in Syria, largely at the hands of the Iranian-backed Assad regime.
Domestically, Iran remains a grotesque abuser of human rights, persecuting religious minorities such as the Baha’is and even clamping down on people for creating a music video in which women dance.
While the Left loves to fall into the moral relativism of treating hardline Islamist politics as regionally acceptable, this cannot be the position of a country that gave the world the Magna Carta.
Not satisfied with supporting terrorism and trampling on the rights of their own citizens, the Mullahs and their Government continue to play cat and mouse over their illegal pursuit of nuclear weapons.
Iranian intransigence in this regard should not be rewarded if David Cameron is serious about preventing a nuclear-armed Iran that could act with increased impunity in their nefarious goals.
Meeting with President Rouhani suggests Iran has made progress on these issues, and has done something to deserve warmer relations. This is evidently not the case.
The Government might counter that perhaps the Prime Minister may be able to persuade Rouhani to compromise on the nuclear issue and enlist his support against ISIS. Such a position, however, is utterly undermined by the fact that the true power in Iran lies not with the superficially reformist President, but with the hardline Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.
The meeting legitimised the abhorrent form of government currently in place in Iran, and swept under the rug the support for terrorism which defines the Islamic Republic, and takes away the only thing we have to offer the Iranians: full normalization of relations.
The moral bankruptcy and misjudgments of the Obama Administration on Iran should have been an opportunity for Britain to be the voice of Western values and strength in the region. Rather than also seek compromise simply for the sake of it, Cameron should have stood firm for British interests and the universal values our society proclaims. Instead the Prime Minister is appeasing a human rights abusing terror state.
This represents both a strategic and moral mistake of huge significance to the security of our country. There may still be time to change course and to take the threat of Iran seriously, but time is surely running out.
Philip A. Gardner is a Briton pursuing post-graduate studies at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University
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