Iran’s Regional Role Cannot Be Overlooked

Iran’s Regional Role Cannot Be OverlookedIran’s Regional Role Cannot Be Overlooked

A former British diplomat made a plea for the normalization of relations with Iran, arguing that Tehran's role as a regional player is "too big" to be ignored.

"Iran is too big, too strategically placed to be sidelined. It won't go away," Jack Straw said in a speech at the University of South Wales on Friday.

"(In) a region of extraordinary turbulence, Iran is a stable and advancing country, with elements of democracy which have themselves strengthened in recent years," he said, adding, "(After all there) has been significant, if largely unacknowledged, cooperation between Iran, the US and others to seek to end the dominance of the so-called Islamic State terrorists from Iraq and Syria."

Highlighting the positive consequences of a nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany), which is set to be finalized by an end-of-June deadline, the former foreign secretary said, "If there is a deal at the end of this month, could Iran move from being seen by many in a pejorative light, to a more active partner with the West? I think so."

A "good deal" could lead to a "rebalancing" of the crisis-wracked Middle East, he said, warning that "no deal" would have "profound consequences," according to WalesOnline. "I hope and pray that there will be a deal. If there is, it will owe much to the courage and vision of both US President Barack Obama and of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani."

  Great Benefits

On the consultations between London and Tehran to normalize bilateral relations, along with the ongoing nuclear negotiations, the former Labour cabinet minister admitted it will be "years" before the type of rapprochement that is taking place between the United States and Cuba will be possible, but noted, "(There) would be great benefits not least for the UK and Iran, from a normalization of relations, for a full reopening of our embassy, and a resumption of trade, education and cultural interactions on a significant scale."

Arguing that Iran is a "good opportunity for us to develop an explicit and distinctive foreign policy," he called on British officials to step up efforts to help boost ties with Tehran, stressing, "We should encourage trade relations with Iran."

“(It) is striking that of all major western countries the United Kingdom is the only one to have adopted a unilateral policy of discouraging trade which is otherwise allowed under the sanctions' regime," he lamented.