Iraq and the wider Middle East

Part of Point of Order – in the House of Commons at 5:19 pm on 24th January 2007.

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Photo of Michael Meacher Michael Meacher Labour, Oldham West and Royton 5:19 pm, 24th January 2007

No, my time is running out.

As for us, what moral authority do we have to say that Iran does not need nuclear weapons for self-protection when the UK Government are about to replace Trident with another round of nuclear weapons for exactly that quoted reason?

The truth is that there is no legal basis or military rationale for an attack on Iran. The UN Security Council would never authorise it, because Iran has not breached the terms of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. Nor can the US or Israel claim that they have a right to a pre-emptive strike—a phrase that has been used. By long established law, a pre-emptive strike is justified only to defend against an imminent and certain attack. To claim the right of self-defence against an attack that might or might not emerge in five years' time is to claim the right to wage war whenever one chooses. I remind the House that that was one of the two grounds on which the Nazi leaders were convicted and executed at Nuremberg.

In my opinion, it is unlikely that, militarily speaking, sustained air bombardment would destabilise, let alone overthrow, the regime. The policy would be counter-productive. The far more likely result is that such strikes would strengthen rather than weaken the clerical leadership and harden the resistance even of a recalcitrant nation behind it. Air blitzes never worked in the last world war. They did not work in Korea or Vietnam—or in Lebanon—and there is no reason to suppose that that would be any different in this case.

Even if all the military targets could be put out of action, which is highly unlikely, Iran has millions of Shi'a supporters in Iraq and Afghanistan and it is likely that they would rise in revolt. It must be very doubtful whether US forces in the region could contain such a heightened and widespread insurgency. I recall the words of an Iranian general to his counterpart—"You can start a war, but it won't be you who finishes it."