Tehran is Part of the Solution

Tehran is Part  of the Solution
Tehran is Part  of the Solution

Former top British diplomat has criticized London's "antagonistic approach" toward Iran and urged the British government to seize the opportunity to push for a nuclear deal with Iran.

"My plea to the British government is that they not make the best enemy of the good in these negotiations. 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." said Jack Straw, former Labour foreign secretary and current MP for Blackburn.

"In my view, there was a worry that if a deal was struck that resulted in the normalization of relations with Iran, the part of the American system—and, indeed, the part of the Israeli system—that always likes to define itself against some kind of enemy would have had that enemy removed," Straw told a parliament session debating UK foreign policy toward Iran on Thursday in Westminster, according to the website of the British parliament.

The debate came less than three weeks ahead of a November 24 deadline for Iran and the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) to reach a broad-based agreement over Tehran's nuclear program.

The veteran politician also said, "There is no reason why, with some flexibility on both sides, a deal should not be concluded. If that happens, the gradual lifting of sanctions—which Iran so desperately needs—will help to bring Iran back fully as a partner in the international community," adding, "Iran has a right to a nuclear power program in the same way as any non-nuclear weapons state does."

The Labour MP said, "Unlike North Korea, which pulled out of the non-proliferation treaty, or India, Pakistan and Israel—all nuclear weapons states which have never accepted the treaty’s obligations—Iran has stayed within it. "The treaty protects the inalienable right of all the parties to the treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes."

Straw has been an outspoken opponent of military action against Iran. He negotiated directly with Hassan Rouhani when the latter was the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council in the early 2000s over Tehran's nuclear program. The former foreign minister also paid a visit to Iran in January this year at the head of a parliamentary delegation and met with administration officials.

  Plummeting Trade

He said US has imposed mechanisms of sanctions against Iran in a way that "across the EU, such exports have slumped in the past 10 years, whereas in the US they are on a rising trend. Ten years ago, US exports to Iran were one ninth of ours, but now they are double."

"One reason for the fall in our exports, proportionately greater than any other western country’s is that the UK is alone in maintaining a policy of not supporting any trade with Iran."

Tobias Ellwood, a conservative lawmaker and the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs also described a deal with Tehran as a "historic opportunity" and said "I very much hope that we will soon be able to say that nuclear negotiations have succeeded. We remain committed to reaching a comprehensive nuclear agreement."

He pointed to the important role Iran plays in the region and said, "With a proud and rich history… Iran is an important regional power" and in view of the regional threats including Islamic State (IS) militants and extremism, "those forces are a direct threat to regional stability and to the UK."

  Reopening Embassies  

Elsewhere, the lawmaker referred to the reopening of the British embassy in Tehran and said, "We want to see the UK and Iran have functioning embassies in each other’s capitals."

"We announced in June our intention to reopen the British embassy in Tehran and have been engaging intensively with the Iranian authorities since then on the practicalities." In November 2011, London cut off its ties with Tehran and withdrew its diplomatic staff from Iran and the Iranian embassy in London was closed.

The move came after angry students stormed the British embassy in Tehran in protest at Britain's policy on Iran. Parliament had earlier voted in favor of downgrading diplomatic relations with Britain. Nearly two years later in October 2013, the two countries agreed to appoint non-resident chargés d’affaires as a first step toward reopening their respective embassies.

"Reopened embassies will better equip us to address challenges as well as the range of areas where our interests coincide," the MP told Westminster.