The dangerous folly of pretending Iran’s regime is our friend

By David Campbell Bannerman MEP, Chairman of the Iraq Delegation of the European Parliament.

Over the past few weeks, we have witnessed chaotic scenes on the streets of Iran which has resulted in the sad loss of protestor’s lives during a series of anti-Government demonstrations. This unrest reportedly stretches across many cities and towns from Mashhad, Iran’s second largest city, to Rasht in the North, Kermanshah in the West, to the capital Tehran itself. Yet the West is reluctant to comment because of the so-called ‘nuclear deal’.

In my view the EU has led the world – through heading up the ‘E3+3’ or ‘P5 + 1’ (the permanent members of the Security Council including the UK, plus Germany) – into a dangerous policy of appeasement on Iran. This is thanks to the EU’s insecure desire to prove itself as a world player, alongside cynical economic reasons: French-led Peugeot, Total oil and Airbus are all benefiting from major Iranian contracts and partnerships.

It is totally hypocritical for the EU enthusiastically to pursue an Iran trade deal, whilst denying China a trade deal on the basis of human rights. This is despite the fact Iran executes more people a year than China, with the ‘reformist’ President Rouhani allegedly executing thousands of political prisoners since coming to power, and at least four major ballistic missile tests conducted since the deal was signed. President Trump is right to deeply question the Iran deal and to propose the return of US sanctions. His recent approval of targeted sanctions against several Iranian government officials for corruption and human rights abuses – some linked to the recent demonstrations – is a welcome move.

The dearest folly has been thinking of Iran now as a ‘friend’ – just because it has agreed to some time limited and ineffective controls on its nuclear programme; ones that merely delay but don’t stop the march towards a nuclear bomb: the ultimate consequence being a major Middle Eastern state wearing a suicide belt of nuclear missiles, and a nuclear arms race between the Saudis, Iran and Israel. Britain has meekly followed this EU-led idiocy and President Obama’s legacy-seeking like a lapdog following a master. Brexit must free itself from this naïve ‘Groupthink’ and fundamentally rethink our own independent foreign policy on Iran.

What is most disgraceful is that the concentration on the ‘nuclear deal’ has come at the price at unfreezing massive Iranian assets – at least $100 billion, maybe $150 billion – that are now being put to malign use right across the Middle East in a way that would have made Libya’s Gadhafi envious. The current Iranian riots are reported to be in part due to dissatisfaction over heavy Iranian involvement in foreign wars; and are also an indicator that sanctions work, and that further economic pain could be enough for the good, intelligent, sophisticated, technologically-minded people of Iran to dispense with their clerical tormentors.

The courageous Kurdish Peshmerga in Iraq, who I visited on their front line fighting ISIS opposite Mosul, have been displaced by senior ‘Quds’ Republican Guard units in oil-rich Kurkistan, who are ostensibly part of Iraqi Government forces, yet replace portraits of former President Barzani of Kurdistan with those of former spiritual leader Ayatollah Khomeini not Iraq’s Masum. The Republican Guards were formed after the demise of the Shah as the clerical government could not trust the Army: they are the paramilitary Brown shirts of the Mullah regime.

Wherever I visit or study in the Middle East, I see Iranian destabilisation, learnt from the Soviets, and often on a massive scale: in Iraq their Shia militias maybe praised for fighting Sunni ISIS, but are as damned for allegations of similar atrocities against Sunni civilians. Increasingly Iran exerts a powerful influence in Baghdad – with the disappointment of some US-trained Iraqi forces abandoning their new equipment to ISIS and fleeing, Iraq has leant too greatly on the battle-hardened Iranian forces to keep ISIS at bay, and at too great a price.

In Syria, Iran funds an army a quarter of a million soldiers in size. In Bahrain, Iran is the malign force behind regular unrest against its rulers, with deaths of policemen and civilians, and unjustified claims on the state as its own. In Gaza, Iran finances Hamas.

I was shown by the Iranian Resistance under Mrs Rajavi (I don’t take sides; but I do take note) a compendium of 30,000 names, ranks, salaries of Republican Guard loyalists sent into Iraq to destabilise it after it was liberated from Saddam Hussein. Weapons of mass destruction? Even there we were played by Iran – the great source of this claim turned out to be an Iranian spy. Iran fears Iraq after years of rivalry and a bitter war fought between them in the 1980s – how convenient to have the West do its dirty work.

In Qatar, relations have worsened with Gulf ally states such as Kuwait and the UAE, over allegations of Qatar supporting terrorism, whilst having cosy relations with Iran. In Lebanon, the Prime Minister Al Hariri was forced to flee as he feared the Iranians would kill him just as they did his father, accusing Iran of spreading “fear and destruction” in several countries.A former Israeli General showed me the Lebanese and Syrian borders near the Golan Hei

ghts, explaining they fear 30,000 more missiles and a reinvigoration of Hezbollah attacks, formerly suspended by the lack of Iranian funding, once they end their intervention in Syria. These are not pipe bombs or some New Year fireworks – the threat is now highly sophisticated and powerful missiles, as donated to the Houthis, and the consequence could be a major new war.

Now as ballistic missiles fall on Saudi Arabia’s main Riyadh airport (what would happen if it had hit a packed aircraft?) and others are intercepted on route to the capital, we have to ask whether the ill-equipped Houthi rebels in Yemen are capable of such technology? The left in the EU and in Britain are zealots in attacking the Saudis and in seeking to deny them military hardware and training to improve accuracy, but are blind to the Iranians playing them as Lenin-like ‘useful idiots’.

Whatever reservations the West has on the regime, the Saudis were strong allies over Saddam’s Kuwait invasion and have not invaded anyone themselves. In Yemen they are supporting the official government and are doing so mainly in self defence against intrusion into Saudi Arabia itself. The Iranian Resistance Movement allege senior left wing figures are in the pay of Iran’s Mullahs.

There are reliable reports too that Iranian scientists stand side by side with North Korean scientists at their ballistic missile tests – how useful to them both to share such technology and to make their missiles more effective. Two rogue states hand in hand – except the Iranians are meant to be our ‘friends’, apparently.

The West has simply been suckered by Iran, time and time again. But the lesson must be if this malicious clerical regime, this septic octopus with tentacles wrapped around the Middle East and beyond, has to beg a lifeline from the West to stay alive, we must resolutely and unhesitantly refuse.

If Mugabe can be toppled in 2017, let’s earnestly hope we can see the end of Iran’s evil Mullah regime in early 2018.