We can't shy away from action, the only language Iran understands is its own — hostility, extremism and power

HOW do you solve a problem like Iran?

A human rights abusing, terrorist sponsoring and religious-extremist regime has spent the past 42 years intent on causing as much damage to its neighbours and the world as possible.

Far from punishing the ayatollahs — the country’s ­religious leaders — for their hostility, our default position has often been to shy away from real action.

Successive governments have excused behaviour that would never be tolerated from others, and instead fooled themselves into believing that Iran under this regime is redeemable.

There has only ever been one beneficiary of this policy — the mullahs themselves, emboldened to try brazen tactics to exert their influence, secure in the knowledge they will not be punished for it.

The latest outrage occurred last Thursday, when the Israeli owned but British-managed oil tanker, the MV Mercer Street, was attacked by a drone off the coast of Oman.

There were two casualties — a Briton and a Romanian. Israel, the USA and the UK have blamed Iran, promising an “appropriate response”.

In response, Iran has rejected what it terms “baseless accusations”.

With Iran, we understand clearly which way the wind blows.

Desire for freedom

It props up the murderous Assad regime in Syria, runs Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon, pays Hamas terrorists in Gaza, sponsors militias in Iraq that have attacked British and American forces, and has tried to blow up Saudi oil fields.

It has also killed and tortured thousands of its own citizens who have dared to speak of their desire for freedom.

In the last few years alone, Iran has kidnapped British citizens — including charity worker Nazanin Zaghari- Ratcliffe — and hijacked British vessels.

On every occasion, it has got off scot-free. Despite claiming to be a democracy, Iran is by no means truly democratic.

Its nation’s ultimate leader is Ayatollah Khamenei, an ultra-hardline cleric selected as the ultimate beacon of commitment to Iran’s political interpretation of Islam. Beneath him is the “President”, the newly appointed Ebrahim Raisi, a ruthless former enforcer of Iran’s Sharia law, who was picked in a rigged election.

Both are men for whom hatred of the West is not just an attitude but a religious imperative. Western talk is cheap, and Iran knows it.

The mullahs have seen off criticism of their horrors without paying any penalty.

Why should they think differently now over an attack on another ship?

Iran knows that at the very moment we are promising retribution for attacks like this, we are engaged in talks in Vienna to try to bring it back into a deal to stop it building nuclear weapons.

Of all of Iran’s dangers, this is by far the most serious because a nuclear weapon threatens not just its neighbours but also global peace.

The regime entered into a deal in 2015 with the major world powers to cease nuclear development in exchange for sanctions relief, but it has been busy breaking every clause of that agreement for the past three years.

The Trump administration withdrew from this deal in 2018, identifying the reality that it had been poorly negotiated by President Obama and gave the Iranians too much leeway in pausing rather than ending their nuclear programme.

The Iranians, though, remain a party to it even while cheating at every step. So does the UK, but unlike the Americans, we have refused to reimpose sanctions on Iran.


And now, the Biden administration is keen to let bygones be bygones and reward Iran’s rule-breaking with yet more money and plaudits.

All of this is profoundly ironic, because only once in recent years has Iran been truly taken on by a great power, to remarkable effect.

In January 2020, President Trump ordered a spectacular response to repeated Iranian attacks on US contractors in Iraq by air striking Iran’s terrorist-in-chief, Qasem Soleimani.

The killing of the elite Quds Force commander was expected by many to herald a fearsome response.

Instead, the ayatollahs slunk away with their tails between their legs having launched a few missiles at empty US bases.

They had been told that if they dared retaliate further, the US would up the ante and return fire disproportionately, all the way to regime change if necessary. The mullahs backed down.

All this shows that there is only one way to deal with Iran and to use the language it prefers to use itself — power.

But to do so in an overwhelming manner that leaves the mullahs under no illusion that their regime will collapse if they lash out in response.

Trump spoke that language and secured results, because ayatollahs have always preferred to save their own skins rather than go down in a blaze of glory.

Summoning Iran’s ambassador to a formal meeting at the Foreign Office — the response mustered yesterday by our Government — is just not going to cut it.

It is power and not meaningless drama that Iran respects.

Trump is gone, and it is now up to Biden, Boris and Israel’s Naftali Bennett to deliver our response.

They can choose more of the failed same or put the ayatollahs back in their box.

Time will tell if they have the courage to walk the walk to back their tough talk.

But the future of global peace may just hang on it.

    Source: Read Full Article