Iran threat: ‘Global Britain’ will play a key role in a post-Brexit world, says Baron



23.01.2020 17:35

Relations between the two countries have plummeted in recent months, and US President Donald Trump’s decision to order the drone strike which killed senior Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani last month in Baghdad prompted a retaliatory attack on Iraqi air bases hosting US military personnel - and fears of an all-out war. Speaking hours before Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged world powers to confront Iran, Mr Baron, who reached the rank of Captain in the British Army before entering politics, acknowledged Iran was a potential flashpoint when it came to threats to world peace.

He said: “I think it could be. There is a long history and sometimes we ignore history at our peril.”Nevertheless, Mr Baron adopted a more nuanced tone than Mr Netanyahu, who compared Iran to Nazi Germany, saying: “Very few hands are clean - all sides have made mistakes including our own.“I think actually we have made a mistake now. For nearly five years the Iranian nuclear deal has provided some assurance that Iran is not pursuing a nuclear weapon.

“International inspections confirmed that they were keeping to the agreement.“We now have the situation where the agreement under real strain to the point where it is make or break time.“Small steps in the right direction are very valuable.”JUST IN: Falkland Islands celebrate groundbreaking new flight

Mr Trump pulled the US out of the JPOCA deal aimed at preventing Iran developing nuclear weapons last year, accusing Tehran of repeated violations.The “sixty-four thousand dollar question”, Mr Baron admitted, was whether Mr Trump himself could be persuaded of the importance of persevering with efforts to negotiate a solution with Iran, in conjunction with the UK, France, Germany and other key players.He added: “I think you have just got to be as persuasive as you can.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]

“If you are sitting in Tehran at the moment you would say ‘Look, for two years after the President actually started repudiating the agreement the Iranians have been patient’.“I think we have just got to keep the pressure on the Iranians and Americans - jaw-jaw is better than war-war.“All I know is that, without being naive, you make peace with your enemies not with your friends.”Addressing the risk associated with losing the JPCOA: “We are now on our way, essentially, to trying to tear up this agreement and it does bring back into focus the possibility of Iran defying the nuclear deal and developing a nuclear weapon - now I don’t see what the positives are in that.”

At the same time, with Brexit nearing, the country now had an opportunity to assert itself as part of a ‘global Britain’ strategy, Mr Baron said.He added: “There is a world of opportunity out there. There are parts of the world which are growing very fast indeed and I think this gives us added freedom to actually be part of that.“But we’ve got to invest for the long term. Both our hard and soft power capabilities require a greater investment.“I think we need higher spending on defence - I would talk about three percent rather than two - but also I think we need to spend more on our diplomatic services.

“Some of our interventions we simply have not thought through sufficiently and there’s a myriad of reasons for that.“But I think one of them certainly is there has been a lack of understanding and I think we need to invest more in putting experts back on the ground.“Our diplomatic footprint in various parts of the world is pretty sparse.”Such an approach would reap a “foreign policy dividend”, he stressed, including wide-ranging trade deals with third countries, a fairer immigration policy, faster economic growth, and better funding for the military and diplomatic service.


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