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Backbench Business — Iran (UK Foreign Policy)

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 2:16 pm on 6th November 2014.

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Photo of Neil Parish Neil Parish Conservative, Tiverton and Honiton 2:16 pm, 6th November 2014

It is a great pleasure to follow my hon. Friend Guy Opperman, who made good points about the quality of the debate and the views that have been put forward.

I, too, want to state clearly that I am a huge supporter of Israel. I have concerns about the direction in which Iran will eventually take us. Previous leaders of Iran have stated clearly that Israel should be wiped off the face of the map. If we had a neighbour like that, we would be somewhat concerned. The Israeli people or the Jewish people lost half their population in the 20th century. Do we want the rest of them to be wiped out in the 21st century? I think not. We therefore have to be careful.

Mr Straw was right to bring this matter forward and is very well informed about it. I will put forward some views that he might not agree with entirely, but which need to be said.

Many right hon. and hon. Members have spoken about Iran’s nuclear programme and the negotiations that are taking place in Vienna with the P5 plus 1. The ultimate aim of the negotiations must be a permanent and verifiable guarantee that Iran cannot escape all the restrictions on its nuclear programme, reach break-out capability and quickly produce a nuclear weapon.

In return, Iran seeks to have all sanctions lifted immediately and permanently once an agreement is reached. Many of the sanctions, once lifted, would be almost impossible to reinstate quickly enough to act as a deterrent against Iran’s transgressing on any agreement. The lifting of sanctions must be a gradual process to ensure that Iran keeps to its side of the agreement. Some argue that that will not be acceptable to Iran and is doomed to fail, and that we must therefore soften our negotiating stance.

The UK Government and their allies must ask the following questions. Can Iran be trusted to abide by international norms and agreements? Is President Rouhani genuine in his commitment to engage positively with the international community on Iran’s nuclear programme and other issues affecting the region? Even if President Rouhani is genuine, to what extent does that matter when it is the Supreme Leader who must ultimately approve any agreement and when the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, who are personally loyal to the Supreme Leader, run the nuclear programme and its sites?

I believe that a look at the terrible human rights abuses of the Islamic republic of Iran against its own people and at its role as a lead sponsor of terrorism across the world goes some way towards answering those questions. According to Amnesty International, Iran now leads the world in executions per capita—surpassing China. As of April 2014, more than 500 people had been executed under President Hassan Rouhani’s regime—206 in 2014 alone. That includes two Iranian men executed in August this year for the act of “consensual sodomy”. Article 110 of Iran’s Islamic penal code states:

“Punishment for sodomy is killing”.

Iran also continues to persecute religious minorities, including those of the Baha’i faith, whose origins are in Iran. The Baha’i community faces arbitrary arrest and imprisonment, is denied access to education and receives no protection of the law from religiously motivated violence from vigilante groups.

Some will argue that this is the work of the judiciary, who are appointed by the Supreme Leader and that President Rouhani is not to blame. However, it was President Rouhani who appointed Mostafa Pourmohammadi as Justice Minister. During his time as Deputy Intelligence Minister, he was implicated in the 1988 massacre of thousands of political prisoners. Despite his welcome words as a reformer and pragmatist, the President has yet to deliver on his promises—something that does not bode well for any future agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme.

Iran’s role as a sponsor of terrorism is well documented, from Shi’a death squads in Iraq to its proxy Hezbollah in Lebanon, which was responsible for a series of terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians and diplomats in India, Georgia and Thailand in 2012. In its support for sectarian terrorism, Iran has repeatedly shown itself to act not as a responsible member of the international community, but as a country whose foreign policy aims are ideologically motivated and will continue to propagate Khomeini’s bloody revolution. It is this record of support for terrorism and its treatment of its own people that the UK must have in its mind when considering its policy towards Iran.