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The UK’s paradoxical stance on Iran

ByMilad Sherzad

Feb 11, 2020

Just as we thought relations with Iran had peaked at some of their worst for years, Iran went and arrested the UK ambassador to the nation: claiming participation in a candlelight vigil and more pertinently an “illegal” protest surrounding the shooting down of Ukrainian International Airlines Flight 752 – something the ambassador strongly refutes participating in.

Although subsequently released from custody, this will invariably make the UK government fearful of showing solidarity with protesters as Iran has, in recent years, conjured up almost instantaneous, albeit sporadic, heated responses to any Western intervention. In this nature, I believe the UK must be cautious in its expression of solidarity yet must certainly condemn the killings; a rather paradoxical situation for the Government to deal with. Ideally, we should aim for a goal of social progress in Iran through peaceful reform; a nearly impossible feat with the current Iranian regime.

Many of the anti-government protesters demand reform as they believe that the nation has been too long tarnished by traditional mullah rule, with some even crying out for the return of the monarchy, previously abolished in the 1979 revolution. The lack of honesty from the Government and the shooting down of its own citizens, regardless of its justification, has enraged and inspired the population to take to the streets and I believe this is undoubtedly justified.

Subsequent anti-government protests have followed in the capital Tehran but have been met with harsh resistance, from tear gas to live ammunition, by police forces as well as pro-regime protesters who continue to condemn both the killing of General Qasem Soleimani by the United States, and the West as a whole for its persistent intervention in the region.

The morality of Western intervention over the last two decades has remained under constant scrutiny and I maintain it is time for the foreign policy of these nations to change. I wholeheartedly believe that Donald Trump overstepped a major line by assassinating General Soleimani on foreign soil that was not even the General’s own land, with no prior warning or ultimatum. Furthermore, the claims that “the World is a safer place now” with him killed are completely unfounded; one must only look as far as the ‘accidental’ shooting down of PS752 to find that “safety” compromised.

Drawing on past experiences, the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq no doubt remain controversial in Western society. Numerous reports released retrospectively claim that UK-US relations, one of the key determinants of Tony Blair’s support of the invasion, would not have been harmed if the UK had rejected a joint invasion of either nation. Moreover, the subsequent societal and cultural impacts within the respective nations have left wounds that may never heal.

However, do not misinterpret this as a support of these regimes: promotion of democratic ideals is something that I believe should be spread worldwide if we are ever to pursue perpetual peace. In order to achieve this, we must resort to more diplomatic methods to limit the firm grip of authoritarianism evident in both Iran and countless other nations worldwide. Military intervention should always be reserved as a method of last resort as it has countless knock-on consequences for society worldwide.

Despite this, we cannot afford to look subservient or weak in Iran’s eyes; with Iran’s own Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, now defending the military’s action in shooting down the aircraft, claiming it “maintained the security” of Iran, we must swiftly re-condemn the shooting down as well as act toward renewing and updating peaceful deals, such as the 2015 Nuclear Deal, in order to promote both democratisation and peace.

Image: Fars Fotógrafos via Wikimedia Commons

By Milad Sherzad

Senior Writer