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Backbench Business — Iran (UK Foreign Policy)

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 12:02 pm on 6th November 2014.

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Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw Chair, House of Commons Governance Committee 12:02 pm, 6th November 2014

I have seen that quotation before. One of the truths about the Iranians is that they have a history of sticking to the letter of what is agreed while trying to make that agreement as accommodating to themselves as possible. They are not the only country to do that. However, it was Hassan Rouhani—now President Rouhani—sitting across the table and leading the negotiations, and I believed that he was a man with whom we could do a deal. I am glad that the present British Government self-evidently still think that; otherwise, they would not be sitting across the table from his representatives now. There is no evidence one way or the other that what was being installed at Isfahan was related to the weaponisation of the nuclear programme. I have seen no such evidence whatever, and Iran has a right to a nuclear power programme in the same way as any non-nuclear weapons state does.

My plea to the British Government is that they do not make the best the enemy of the good in these negotiations. Just as the world changed 25 years ago with the collapse of the Berlin wall, so it is changing again before our eyes, especially in the middle east. With chaos in Iraq and in Syria, many now see the potential of Iran to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. A deal that is good for both sides would have other benefits, not least for human rights. There cannot be anyone in the House who does not share the profound concern about aspects of Iran’s human rights record, including the recent incarcerations and executions.

One of the truths about Iran’s complex and opaque system of government is that the elected Government do not control the judiciary. There are other unacceptable elements of the regime. The more we are able to do a deal—of course on acceptable terms—the more it will empower the elected Government and the better able we will be to secure a resolution of the other concerns, including those on human rights. The reverse is also true.