Iran threat: Britain must act as buffer between US and Iran after Brexit, says MP Baron

Express

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11.01.2020 11:47

And the committed Brexiteer has said once the UK leaves the EU, the nation should assume a more statesmanlike role on the world stage as part of a “Global Britain” strategy which would leave it well placed to mediate in international disputes. Last Thursday’s air strike on Baghdad, which also killed four others including Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the Iraqi-Iranian military commander of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) militia, triggering an angry response in Iran, and two Iraqi bases where US soldiers were stationed were subsequently targeted in rocket attacks, although no casualties were reported. In an article written for the Politeia think tank, Mr Baron, MP for Basildon and Billericay in Essex, said the relationship between the UK, the US and Iran was “long and complicated”, and had featured periods of cooperation, as well as the signing of the landmark Joint Compehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2015 which at the time had appeared to usher in a new era.

Mr Baron said: “The events of the last week have added a new layer to these complicated relationships, not least because of the growing space opening up between the US and UK on how best to approach Tehran.“It is for the US Government to make the case for killing General Soleimani, and supporters of this decision cite an apparent plot to kill US diplomats.“The general was renowned for his violent operations outside Iran’s borders on behalf of the Revolutionary Guard, and there is little doubt the conflicts in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen have been the bloodier and more protracted because of his involvement.“The Prime Minister is correct in his assessment that we should not lament his passing.”

Nevertheless Mr Baron, who rose to the rank of Captain and served in Northern Ireland, Cyprus and Germany, added: “Yet General Soleimani was a very senior figure in the Iranian regime, and it is telling that apparently over the years both the Israeli and British Governments have had opportunities to kill him – not least the latter, when his operations were contributing to the deaths of British soldiers in Iraq – but chose not to do so for fear of the wider repercussions of such a provocative act, particularly given the already complicated relations between Iran and the West.“It is welcome news that fears of the assassination leading to a wider confrontation between the US and Iran appear to be unfounded.“The Iranian missile attacks on coalition airbases in Iraq seem to have been carefully calibrated as a face-saving operation to assuage public opinion without raising the temperature still further by killing Americans, which would appear to be the ‘red line’ President Trump has drawn.JUST IN: Iran crisis - Tehran ‘set to attack four US embassies’, claims Trump

“In turn, the President’s remarks after the attacks were notably restrained – he stuck to a script at his press conference, in a deviation from his usual style.“While President Trump has a claim to be more of a war dove than a war hawk, with much of his campaign in 2016 centring on ending endless entanglements abroad, it does seem that he has something of a blind spot when it comes to Iran.“This has led him to withdraw from the JCPOA, which was the product of a long, stuttering and patient process of diplomacy.”DON'T MISSUS airstrikes LIVE: Updates as fears of World War 3 erupt over Iran [LIVE]Iran attack: Who was General Qassem Soleimani killed in US airstrike? [SPOTLIGHT]Iran news: What happened in US drone strike? Will Iran retaliate? [ANALYSIS]

Mr Baron, who voted against military air strikes against ISIS in 2013, added: “The deal was a compromise for both Iran and the international community, but in exchange for the removal of sanctions and the promise of boosting the flagging Iranian economy, the international community received credible assurances, backed up by in-country inspections, that Iran was not developing nuclear weapons.“Given that in 2012 the US, and possibly also the UK, came close to hitting Iran with military strikes over concerns about Iran’s nuclear ambitions, the JCPOA was a triumph of diplomacy over ‘hard power’.”Mr Baron said Mr Trump’s decision to withdraw the US from the agreement last year had therefore sparked real problems for its other signatories, particularly because American financial sanctions penalised any entity with any dealings in US which also is active in Iran.

As a result, the UK, which remains committed to the JCPOA, a fact restated by Prime Minister Boris Johnson this week, was caught between the so-called Special Relationship and its European allies who likewise favour keeping the deal, Mr Baron explained.He added: “This will require careful statecraft on the UK’s behalf – although this may all be moot if, as threatened following General Soleimani’s killing, Iran itself decides to withdraw completely.“As a way of bridging the divide between the US and its European allies, Britain, with its foot firmly in both camps, should not cease reminding Washington that diplomatic solutions are far more enduring than short-term military fixes.

“A wider conflict is in no-one’s interests, and the international community is still concerned by the possibility of an Iranian nuclear weapons programme.“With its cordial relationship with Tehran, Britain is also in a position to make similar points to the Iranian authorities.“Let us hope the Government truly takes up the mantle of ‘Global Britain’ and plays its full part in attempting to resolve these difficult issues.”

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