The events in Iran and Iraq that have followed the assassination of General Soleimani have been utterly appalling. They include the missile attacks on US bases in Iraq; Iran’s decisions to remove all limits on uranium enrichment; the recent attacks, in the past few days, on protestors on the streets of Tehran; the detention, as has been mentioned, of our excellent ambassador, Rob Macaire; and, of course, the unforgivable shooting down of the Ukrainian airliner, killing 176 innocent civilians, including four Britons, all of whose deaths we mourn today.
These are sure signs not only that the hardliners in Tehran are firmly back in the ascendancy in the Iranian regime, but that their actions are out of control. Nothing and no one can excuse those acts of violence. Like all of us, I fear not just for the Iranian people and the stability of the region, but especially for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and other dual nationals who are languishing in Iranian jails. I hope that the Foreign Secretary can comment on their current health and safety. Like him, I will be raising those concerns when I meet the Iranian ambassador to London tomorrow.
The question we must all ask, and which I ask the Foreign Secretary today, is: where do we go from here? Ever since Donald Trump started to walk away from the Iran nuclear deal, we have been on a path to this point. With the strategy of engagement from the so-called moderates in Iran now discredited and abandoned, and with the hardliners firmly back in charge in Tehran and an equally unpredictable, trigger-happy President in the White House, we are just one more mistake or miscalculation away from brinkmanship tipping over into war. What action is the Foreign Secretary taking to ensure a permanent de-escalation of the tension, rather than an inexorable drift towards war?