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Backbench Business — Iran (UK Foreign Policy)

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 2:55 pm on 6th November 2014.

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Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw Chair, House of Commons Governance Committee 2:55 pm, 6th November 2014

I wish to reinforce the thanks of all of us to the Backbench Business Committee for agreeing to this debate, and I thank all 15 Members who have spoken in this thoughtful and valuable debate.

There is common ground on the importance of Iran and on Israel’s entirely legitimate concerns, as a small and potentially vulnerable country in the region, to protect its own security—the difference lies in the approach we should adopt towards Iran. When I said we need to be careful what we wish for, I was drawing the attention of those who may take a different view from many of us in this House to the consequences of an antagonistic approach towards Iran. I simply ask those who do adopt that view not to look into the crystal ball but to examine the record of the past 50 years and, indeed, the past 10 years.

The hon. Members for South Norfolk (Mr Bacon) and for Basildon and Billericay (Mr Baron) referred to the offer of a grand bargain with the United States and the co-operation that was actively delivered to us—it was not just offered—by the Khatami Government in the wake of the 9/11 atrocities. It was actions and inactions by the west, particularly the United States, fanned by the right wing in Israel, that led to those offers by the reformists in Iran being rebuffed. The consequence was not that Iran disappeared or that the possibility of Iran building up a nuclear weapons capability disappeared, but that Iran became more difficult to deal with, more belligerent and disruptive in the region, and its 200 centrifuges increased to 18,800. So please let nobody here believe that if there is no deal because of pressure from parts of US and parts of the Israeli governmental elite, that would lead to a status quo or, madly, to attacks on Iran. What it will lead to, in the judgment of many of us here, is an increase in enrichment capabilities and an empowering of precisely those elements inside the governmental system of Iran whom we do not wish to see empowered. There will also be more difficulties on human rights.

I understand, of course, that there are risks on both sides, but I hope that the Minister, whom I thank for his thoughtful contribution, will take away from this debate the point that many of us who took part in it—both Government and Opposition Members—believe that there are risks worth taking in these negotiations, because the benefits of a respectful deal on this nuclear dossier will extend far beyond nuclear and will far outweigh the risks.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House has considered UK foreign policy towards Iran.