Thank you, Mr Speaker, for granting this urgent question. I thank Mr Baron for securing it and for the consistency and clarity of his statements, which go back many years, about the need for peace with Iran.
Today is a deeply sad day for all of us, on all sides, who regarded the Iran nuclear deal as one of the crowning diplomatic achievements of this century and who saw it as opening a door to potential progress on all the other issues on which we have such grave problems with Iran— not least its human rights record. We very much hope for the contrary of what we fear, which is not just that the door to progress has been closed today, but that a very different door is being opened—one that leads us back to the past and to the threat of a new and devastating conflict in an already devastated middle east.
Let us make no mistake. The theocratic wing of the Iranian Government has always wanted the nuclear deal to fail, just as much as Donald Trump and the neo-con hawks who advise him. Frankly, this is not the day—tempting though it is—to berate those who are seemingly destroying the deal and throwing away the prospect of future progress. Today is simply a day to ask what our Government, our European Union and our United Nations can do together to prevent the slide back to confrontation and, eventually, war.
Iran is a country nine times the size of Syria, with a population three and a half times that of Syria before its civil war. Colin Powell’s former top adviser, Lawrence Wilkerson, who helped to create the case for the Iraq war, saw a potential war with Iran as
“10 to 15 times worse…in terms of casualties and costs.”
My only question to the Government today is the same question asked by the hon. Member for Basildon and Billericay: what practical steps will they now take to get the nuclear deal back on track and avoid descent into a catastrophic new war?