By Daniel Kawczynski
August 3, 2019
The crisis in the Arabian Gulf with Iran seizing a British registered tanker stems not from a tit for tat measure of the UK impounding an Iranian ship off the coast of Gibraltar; it goes back much further than that. We have turned a blind eye to Iran’s malign actions throughout the Middle East for so many years that it has given them the green light to completely ignore international laws and the world-based order and to do as they please.
Five or six years ago when discussions of a nuclear deal with Iran were first mooted, our key allies in the Gulf visited us in London to warn us of the consequences if the deal was to be purely focused on nuclear weapons and failed to take into account the highly dangerous and destabilizing actions that Iran has been inflicting on her neighbors.
The European Union and President Obama in their rush to secure a deal with the Iranians chose to ignore these concerns and indeed to brush them under the carpet. Concerns were raised by the likes of Benjamin Netanyahu that a strengthened (and financially bolstered) Iran would simply support other extremist countries in their quests for nuclear weapons. Sure enough, in recent years we have seen Iran attempting to destabilize the government of Bahrain, a key Gulf ally of the UK and where we have a permanent naval base.
We have seen Iran sending troops and weapons to top up the Assad regime of Syria which has brutalized its own population. Iran continues to fund and equip Hezbollah which is perched on the Lebanese/Israeli border. This aggressive behavior has contributed to the area of Lebanon becoming highly unstable and increasingly dangerous, particularly for the numerous minorities who live there. We have also seen how Iran funding and supplying Houthi rebels in Yemen has led to huge human misery and suffering as well as bloodshed and a drawing out of the conflict there.
If these examples weren’t sufficient, last year it was revealed that Morocco had decided to break off diplomatic relations with Iran following the alleged Iranian backing of the Polisario in the Western Sahara.
These are the actions of a country completely out of control and blindly indifferent to the suffering caused by her actions. As we leave the EU and regain our independence and sovereignty, we will play a pivotal role in influencing how the international community deals with serious problems such as this.
If we follow the EU line which seeks to ignore these issues, then the seizure of our ship is just the start of further problems down the line. If we instead seek the support of our American partners in a more robust approach through sanctions, we will finally make the Mullahs in Tehran realize that this behavior is unacceptable. Given that President Trump withdrew from the Iran Nuclear Deal over the aforementioned concerns surrounding Iran’s behavior, it is highly likely that the United States will support us in this endeavor.
As the sole EU country with a naval base in the Gulf we have a responsibility to ensure that the naval base is protected and expanded and that we help create the right circumstances in the region to foster stability and peace. By ignoring Iran’s conduct for too long, we now need a major rethink of our strategy. Much has been made in recent years of “red lines” but, when it comes to Iran, we must make sure that our red lines are never crossed.