British MPs demand tougher Iran policy, support opposition

ImageLondon, Oct. 12 – Members of Britain’s House of Commons from the country’s three major political parties took turns to lambaste Iran’s hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his government in a lively parliamentary debate, according to a transcript of their debate posted on the United Kingdom Parliament website.

Conservative Member of Parliament David Amess, who initiated the debate, described Ahmadinejad as a “hostage taker, murderer and terrorist” and his cabinet as “the Who’s Who of terrorism”.

“Ahmadinejad was a ringleader of the takeover of the United States embassy in Tehran just after the 1979 revolution. He is accused of plotting to murder Salman Rushdie, of interrogating, torturing and executing Iranian dissidents during his time with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards' [Corps] internal security brigade, and of terrorist assassinations around the world when he was a key figure in the formation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards' Jerusalem force”, Amess said.

Chris Bryant, from Tony Blair’s ruling Labour Party, highlighted human rights abuses in Iran. “Thirty juvenile offenders are currently on death row in Iran”, Bryant said, adding that Iran continues to execute children under the age of 18 despite having ratified international conventions against the practice.

Speaking for the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg told his fellow MPs that Iran was posing a major challenge to Western policymakers, as human rights abuses continued unchecked, Iranian influence in Iraq seemed to be growing day by day, and so did the threat of escalating nuclear proliferation in Iran and, therefore, the region as a whole.

Conservative MP Bob Spink, who recently returned from a visit to Iraq, said, “Senior politicians there are deeply concerned about Iran's wish to stop democracy and stability developing in Iraq and particularly in Kurdistan, where excellent progress has been made since the war. Senior Iraqi politicians told me that they believe sincerely that Iran's nuclear programme is continuing and most certainly with a military objective”.

Fellow MP Julian Lewis warned of a danger that Tehran could develop nuclear weapons and supply them “to non-state actors that would have no hesitation about using them for terrorist purposes”.

Labour MP Andrew Mackinlay, a member of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, asked the Minister if the British government would give assurances about the safety of several thousand Iranian dissidents in Camp Ashraf, Iraq. The Foreign Office Minister for the Middle East, Kim Howells, said their safety was assured.

Conservative MP Brian Binley warned that the Iranian regime had a direct impact on the UK. “Only last week the Foreign Office officially confirmed that Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps was behind the deadly attacks that recently claimed the lives of eight British soldiers. … Also last week a member of the British diplomatic service said that the Iranians were colluding with the Sunni Muslim insurgent groups in southern Iraq and were providing them with the deadly terrorist technology perfected by Iranian-funded Hezbollah militia in southern Lebanon. This does impact on us”.

David Amess, who was thanked by his colleagues for initiating the debate, urged the British government to take immediate steps to deal with the opposition Mojahedin-e Khalq (MeK) and remove all restrictions on its activities. “By taking such steps, apart from supporting the Iranian people in their quest for freedom and democracy, our government will be acting in their own interest by defeating the scourge of Islamic fundamentalism and the terrorism emanating from it”.

He called on the government to “abandon their policy of engagement vis-à-vis the Iranian regime. Instead, they should adopt a firm policy towards the mullahs, beginning with an active involvement in referring the Iranian regime's nuclear file to the United Nations Security Council without delay. In that way, they can show that they stand with the Iranian people in their struggle for freedom and democracy, and not with the mullahs who oppress them”.

Kim Howells, the Foreign Office Minister, said that Iran represented “the great contradiction”, adding that “pretty terrible things” were occurring there and there existed “great dangers for the whole world”.

“It is all the more hurtful, in a way, that Iran chooses to snub our approach when we have kept the country, for at least the last two years, from having to face an immediate referral to the United Nations Security Council”, Howells said, referring to the EU policy of “constructive engagement”. “It is foolish for Iran to do that”.

On the nuclear front, the minister reiterated, “There is absolutely no explanation for Iran's programme of nuclear conversion and nuclear enrichment, other than that they are building a nuclear bomb”.

On Iraq, Howells said that there was “no question that there has been at least Revolutionary Guard involvement there”.

“If Iran thinks that it can somehow stymie the efforts of the people of Iraq to create a democracy, it should think again. The world is watching and wants Iran to play a role that is constructive, not destructive”.
 

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