Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Archive for May 16th, 2007

Hands off Iran!

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 16th May, 2007

ahmedinejad.jpgThe BBC World Service this evening put on a briefing on Iran, in the grandiose surroundings of Committee Room 10 in the Houses of Parliament. An unlikely cross-party trio of peers — Avebury (LibDem), Lamont (Conservative) and Temple-Morris (Labour) — were in the audience as my old Bush House colleague, the BBC diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus, the Editor of the BBC Persian Service, Enayat Fani, and Professor Haleh Afshar from York University gave their take on the complex tensions in Iran under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the international furore over Tehran’s nuclear pretensions. As Jonathan outlined, in recent years there has been a fundamental reshaping of the map in the Middle East, in which the big regional players are now the non-Arab states: Iran, Turkey and Israel. Iran’s influence is in the ascendance, which is the precise opposite of what the United States was meant to be trying to achieve with its foreign policy — two contributory factors to this situation being the destruction of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and the removal of Saddam Hussein.

Enayat Fani argued that a coalition of opposition forces is now coalescing inside Iran, embracing supporters of the two former presidents, Rafsanjani and Khatami, who reject both the renewed conservatism within the religious leadership and the antics of Ahmadinejad, whose crass Holocaust denial and declared wish to see Israel wiped off the map did incalculable damage to Iran’s reputation abroad. Haleh Afshar emphasized the way that many women in Iran have doggedly resisted efforts to curb their ambitions. Nearly two-thirds of students in Iranian universities are female and they have successfully challenged their exclusion from several areas of public life. Given the anger particularly felt amongst young people, blighted by poverty and unemployment, the public mood in Iran is distinctly hostile to the President. But the one thing that would be guaranteed to rally them to his standard would be if the United States or Israel launched a military strike at the country’s nuclear facilities. That would moreover inflame the whole Middle East, which is anyway rather sympathetic to the way that Tehran has stood up to what is seen as Western bullying. So the message to the White House and the Israeli government is clear: Hands Off!

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