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August 26, 2020 4:11 am

The UK Must Support Sanctions on Iran

avatar by Leslie Turnberg

Opinion

The Iran nuclear program’s Arak heavy water reactor. Photo: Nanking2012 via Wikimedia Commons.

The recent refusal by the UN to accept an American request to renew sanctions against Iran is an unsurprising, but grave error.

The so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was supposed to have placed an embargo on Iran’s proliferation of conventional and nuclear arms in exchange for sanction limitations against Iran. It failed.

Iran’s continued conventional arms production — and more — will only gather pace absent snapback sanctions.

Iran seeks to improve its missile capability, including with new Land Attack Cruise Missiles, improved anti-ship ballistic missiles, mines, and more sophisticated submarines. China and Russia seem ready to help with these goals, including by way of advanced air surveillance systems and fighter aircraft.

And Iran is keen to lift the restraint on its nuclear program.

Iran is not a friend-in-waiting, ready to be brought in from the cold in exchange for the lifting of sanctions. Believing that is true defies all credibility. Look at its recent actions under the terms of the JCPOA, and you realize how illogical such a presumption is.

In the Middle East, Iran’s support for the Houthis in Yemen has brought terrorism into Saudi Arabia and increased threats to the Gulf States. The Saudi airport has been struck, and the damage to the Abqaiq oil processing facility resulted in oil price increases that were felt throughout the world.

Iran’s involvement in Iraq has made that country almost ungovernable, and its support for the designated terrorist organization Hezbollah in Lebanon has made life almost impossible for Lebanese civilians, even before the recent disastrous explosions in Beirut.

Iran makes no secret of its intention to wipe Israel off the map and enlists its proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas, in its efforts to do so. It has also played a central role in the collapse of civilization in Syria — a reality that has been manifested in the deaths and displacement of hundreds of thousands.

Its malign influence also spreads beyond the region. Mines were detonated on Japanese and Norwegian ships in the Gulf of Oman; an unmanned American aircraft was shot down over international borders; the Iranian navy seized a UK-flagged, Swedish-owned oil tanker in the Straits of Hormuz; and Iranian efforts to work with the regime in Venezuela give little confidence that a slackening of sanctions at this stage will be anything other than disastrous. Burning American and British flags and imprisoning British citizens on little pretext are not the actions of a regime that is moderating.

Iran is suffering badly from economic failure and COVID-19. Its citizens, who belong to a once proud nation with a long history of intellectual and social development, are being brought to their knees, literally, by a rigid theocracy that sees women as second class citizens and homosexuals as targets for hanging.

Constantly and brutally suppressed, the Iranian population has seen hundreds of dissidents hanged and thousands of demonstrators killed, including a reported 1,500 in last November’s demonstrations alone.

Every signal from Iran points to them being poised to take advantage of any easing of sanctions, and the case for extending the sanctions beyond the October deadline seems unanswerable.

Yet the EU, Britain, and the UN have rebuffed the US.

It is an extremely regrettable error that the UN has now turned down the bid by the US to press for more sanctions. But I strongly believe that Britain should play a more active role as it leaves the EU and seeks to demonstrate that it remains a significant player on the world stage. Its rejection of the US bid to reinstate sanctions on Iran, however, makes it very doubtful that the UK is willing to take on such a role.

In a world where political wisdom and moral leadership is sadly in short supply, it is vital that we find a path to de-escalation in what has become a Middle East armed quagmire.

The UK should be working with its allies and pressing them not to blink in the face of Iranian false promises. Appeasement has never worked in the past and is unlikely to do so now. We are facing many perils in the world. Iran is inflaming rather than stabilizing them.

The people of Iran deserve better, the Middle East and Israel need relief from existential threats, and the rest of us are eagerly seeking a safer world.

The UK must act firmly on the issue of Iran, demonstrating to friends and adversaries alike that it is prepared to do as should be done. A failure to do so, however, will be remembered and recalled.

 Lord Leslie Turnberg is a Life Peer in the British House of Lords and a publishing contributor at The MirYam Institute.

The MirYam Institute is the leading international forum for Israel-focused discussion, dialogue, and debate, focused on campus presentations, engagement with international legislators, and gold-standard trips to the State of Israel. Follow their work at www.MirYamInstitute.org.

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