Think before you act
In London Stuart Littlewood asks 10 questions William Hague won't answer
In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague claims that Iran is threatening to spark a nuclear arms race in the Middle East which could be more dangerous than the original East-West cold war.
"It is a crisis coming down the tracks," he says. "Because they are clearly continuing their nuclear weapons programme‚ê¶ If they obtain nuclear weapons capability, then I think other nations across the Middle East will want to develop nuclear weapons. And so, the most serious round of nuclear proliferation since nuclear weapons were invented would have begun with all the de-stabilising effects in the Middle East.
"We are very clear to all concerned that we are not advocating military action," he assures us. "We support a twin-track strategy of sanctions and pressure and negotiations on the other hand. We are not favouring the idea of anybody attacking Iran at the moment. But", says Hague, "all options must remain on the table."
That same day Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Sarkozy signed a "landmark agreement" committing their two countries to a shared programme of civil nuclear power and setting out a shared long term vision of safe, secure, sustainable and affordable energy.
"We are working together... to stop a nuclear weapon in the hands of Iran," said Cameron. "As two great civil nuclear nations, we will combine our expertise to strengthen industrial partnership, improve nuclear safety and create jobs at home. The deals signed today will create more than 1,500 jobs in the UK but they are just the beginning. My goal is clear. I want the vast majority of the content of our new nuclear plants to be constructed, manufactured and engineered by British companies. And we will choose the partners and technologies to maximise the economic benefits to the UK."
Such freedom of action or benefits must not be enjoyed by Iran, of course.
Some three weeks earlier Hague was clamouring for an "unprecedented" package of measures including an oil embargo and financial sanctions "to increase the peaceful, legitimate pressure on the Iranian government". It's tempting to add "as punishment for their peaceful and (so far) legitimate civil nuclear activities". Such measures are no doubt intended to bring ruin and terror in a way that bombing couldn't.
Most of us remember only too well how the Iraq sanctions devastated that country's economy and resulted in widespread hunger and disease among Iraqi people. John Pilger reported in the Guardian in 2000: "This is a war against the children of Iraq on two fronts: bombing, which in the last year cost the British taxpayer ¬£60 million. And the most ruthless embargo in modern history. According to UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund, the death rate of children under five is more than 4,000 a month -- that is 4,000 more than would have died before sanctions. That is half a million children dead in eight years. If this statistic is difficult to grasp, consider, on the day you read this, up to 200 Iraqi children may die needlessly."
With this evil still quite fresh in people's minds Hague successfully obtained his "unprecedented" measures, meaning worse than those taken against Iraq presumably, to inflict on Iranian women and children.
There are a number of issues raised by Hague's extraordinary antics.
Why does he say the Iranians "are clearly continuing their nuclear weapons programme" when there's no proof?
Why does he say "Iran is threatening to spark a nuclear arms race" when Israel has already de-stabilised the region with its nuclear arsenal?
And even if Iran really does have a weapons programme his claim that the present situation is "the most serious round of nuclear proliferation since nuclear weapons were invented" is rubbish. The BBC reported recently that back in 2009 the IAEA expressed concern about Israel's nuclear capabilities and called on it to join the Non-Proliferation Treaty, open its nuclear facilities to inspection and place them under comprehensive IAEA safeguards. "Israel refuses to join the NPT or allow inspections. It is reckoned to have up to 400 warheads but refuses to confirm or deny this."
Actually, Israel is the third or fourth largest nuclear force in the world and the only one in the Middle East. But our brave politicians dare not even whisper this fact let alone criticise it. According to a 2006-07 report by the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission most unofficial estimates put Israel's nuclear arsenal in the hundreds, possibly larger than the British stockpile. "Israel... has an unsafeguarded plutonium production reactor and reprocessing capability and possibly some uranium enrichment capability, along with various other uranium-processing facilities."
It is the only state in the region that is not a party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (Iran is). It has signed but not ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. As regards biological and chemical weapons, Israel has not signed the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention. It has signed but not ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention.
Israel just doesn't care. Who can forget that much-quoted remark by former Israeli defence minister General Moshe Dayan: "Israel must be like a mad dog, too dangerous to bother."
And is anyone surprised at reports that European cities are targeted?
Against this background it is difficult to understand how Hague's aggressive escalation against Iran is in the British national interest -- or anyone's interest except Israel's. Do the British people want it? If Hague's purpose is to help preserve the imbalance of power in the Middle East so that a rogue regime, Israel, remains the dominant military force, he must be called on to explain the wisdom of it.
Hague and Cameron both voted enthusiastically for the Iraq war, and we know the consequence in lives and irreversible damage to the country, its heritage, its social fabric and infrastructure and its survivors... and of course to Britain's reputation. We want no repetition, surely.
William Hague, according to the Jewish Chronicle, told David Cameron when he became Conservative party leader in 2005 that a deep understanding of the Middle East would be crucial if he wished to be taken seriously as a statesman‚ê¶ "because you can't understand it without the history. That's been one of the failings sometimes with the Western governments."
The pair's support for Israel and its Zionist ambitions is such that no sane world would allow them anywhere near the levers of international power. Besides, Hague seems to have jettisoned his history. In March 1951 the Iranian Majlis and Senate voted to nationalise Anglo-Iranian Oil, in which the British government had a majority interest and which had controlled Iran's oil industry since 1913 under terms that were disadvantageous to Iran. Mohamed Mossadeq, the newly elected prime minister, carried out his government's wish to cancel Anglo-Iranian's oil concession, which was not due to expire for another 42 years, and take over its assets.
In a speech in June 1951 he explained: "The Iranian state prefers to take over the production of petroleum itself. The company should do nothing else but return its property to the rightful owners. The nationalisation law provides that 25 per cent of the net profits on oil be set aside to meet all the legitimate claims of the company for compensation. It has been asserted abroad that Iran intends to expel the foreign oil experts from the country and then shut down oil installations. Not only is this allegation absurd; it is utter invention."
Considering Britain paid Iran only 16 per cent of the profits during the inter-war years and treated Iranian oil workers abominably, while profiting hugely herself, these were generous terms.
Faced with nationalisation the British government went mad and imposed a blockade and vicious sanctions, quickly bringing Iran to its knees. Mossadeq, popular and highly regarded, was removed in a coup by MI5 and the CIA, imprisoned for three years then put under house arrest until his death. The Iranians were condemned to suffer the re-imposition of the hated Shah and his secret police for another 25 years. The Islamist Revolution of 1979 was the inevitable consequence.
Perhaps Hague, before pressing the History Repeat button too many times, should pause to reflect and answer just 10 questions:
First, have we so easily forgotten the cruel and devastating effect of economic sanctions on civil society, especially children?
Would the foreign secretary kindly explain the reasons for his hostility towards Iran?
What concrete proof is there of Iran's military application of nuclear technology?
Why is he not more concerned about Israel's nuclear arsenal, the threat it poses to the region and beyond, and the mental attitude of the Israeli regime?
Why is he not seeking sanctions against Israel for its refusal to sign up to the NPT or engage constructively on the issue of its nuclear and other WMD?
How many times has a British foreign secretary visited Tehran in the 32 years since the Islamic Revolution?
Did Hague make an effort to go and talk before embarking on his punitive sanctions programme?
Britain's conduct towards the Iranians in 1951-53 when a previous Conservative government, in cahoots with the USA, snuffed out Iran's democracy and reinstated a cruel dictatorship, was largely responsible for bringing about the Islamic Revolution and setting the pattern of future relationships. Is it not shameful that this Conservative government is spoiling for another fight? Shouldn't the Foreign Office focus on exerting influence through trade and co-operation?
Iran's present administration, like others, may not be to our liking but nor was Mossadeq's democracy 60 years ago. Similarly the Israel-leaning administrations of the US and Britain are not much to the liking of the rest of the world. In any event, what threat is Iran to Britain? And why is Hague leading the charge?
Final question: By pulling our people out of Tehran and kicking Iran's people out of London Hague has shut the door on diplomacy. How can he now communicate effectively with a nation he seems determined to goad into becoming an implacable enemy?
On this last point I hear that Baroness Ashton, the EU's foreign minister, is handling contacts with Iran on behalf of the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany. So much for Hague's talk of negotiations alongside sanctions. While playing the role of chief bully he has shut himself out of any direct conversation. As for Ashton, she hasn't made the slightest impact on the crisis in Palestine, even with the clout of 500 million citizens behind her, so is anyone holding their breath?
Most of those questions were put to Hague through my MP (who happens to be one of Hague's junior ministers) two-and-a-half months ago and repeated in early January, but Hague isn't replying.
Until he does, the foreign secretary ought to be made to stand in the parliamentary naughty corner.