A peaceful Middle East and a nuclear-free Iran, some British politicians claim, is only achievable if the "moderates" in Tehran can be won over.
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, in The Times, declared:
"New sanctions legislation, which some in America are calling for, would undermine Iranian confidence in the negotiations and irreparably damage the chances of a deal. Hardliners in Tehran, who oppose any deal in principle, would be strengthened."
Similarly, Conservative MP John Baron has stated: "We should not forget, by the way, on Afghanistan and 9/11, that at least partly because of the West's robust rebuttal of Iran's overtures, the moderate President Khatami was removed and the hardliners again assumed the ascendency."
In September 2014, former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw wrote in the Daily Telegraph that successful negotiation with Iran depended on balancing the forces of "moderates" and "conservatives."
Iran's President Rouhani, wrote Straw, was "at the helm of Iran's negotiations with the West 10 years ago as national security chief to President Mohammad Khatami. A deal was close." These talks collapsed, Straw concludes, because of "hardliners in the Bush administration... With the moderates in Iran discredited, the conservatives saw their chance."
In November, Jack Straw further told the House of Commons: "I am certain that improvements in human rights will come about only through the empowerment of the forces for good in Iran and a diminution of those who are opposed to change."
That seems to be the British position: the Iranian regime has remained despotic and opposed to peaceful compromise because of the West's failure to satisfy Iranian interests.
More baffling than that, many Western statesmen appear to hold the Rouhani government as distinct from the Iranian regime.
Since Rouhani's election in 2013, media and politicians in Britain mostly refer to the Iranian President as a "moderate," despite the fact that under the Rouhani government, according to Ban Ki-moon's annual report to the U.N. General Assembly, "the number of executions, especially of juveniles, has increased."
A number of British MPs, however, have declared: "[Human Rights] issues are outside the control of Dr Rouhani, the President of the Islamic Republic. I believe than an Islamic Republic of Iran that felt more secure and respected, and less threatened and demonised, would also, in time, become a kinder Iran."
Moreover, in November 2014, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, when told by a Labour MP that, "Iran has never committed an act of aggression against another country," responded: "I am happy to agree with that as a matter of historical fact."
Not everyone within the House of Commons, however, agrees. Conservative MP Neil Parish has reminded lawmakers that:
"Iran's role as a sponsor of terrorism is well documented, from Shi'a death squads in Iraq to its proxy Hezbollah in Lebanon, which was responsible for a series of terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians and diplomats in India, Georgia and Thailand in 2012. In its support for sectarian terrorism, Iran has repeatedly shown itself to act not as a responsible member of the international community, but as a country whose foreign policy aims are ideologically motivated and will continue to propagate Khomeini's bloody revolution. It is this record of support for terrorism and its treatment of its own people that the UK must have in its mind when considering its policy towards Iran."
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, when told by a Labour MP that, "Iran has never committed an act of aggression against another country," responded: "I am happy to agree with that as a matter of historical fact." Pictured above, Iran's proxy Hezbollah (left) controls a large part of Lebanon's territory, while the Shi'ite Houthi militia (right), supported by Iran, recently overthrew the government of Yemen and seized power. (Image source: YouTube video screenshots)
While British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond was paying homage to Iran's passive foreign policies, Iranian-backed Houthi rebels were, in fact, busy overthrowing Yemen's government. Ali Shirazi, a representative of Iran's Supreme Leader, said in January that, "The Houthi group is a similar copy to Lebanon's Hezbollah, and this group will come into action against enemies of Islam... The Islamic republic directly supports the Houthis in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the popular forces in Syria and Iraq."
President Rouhani is not an alternative to the regime; he is merely its friendly face. Even if the "moderate" Rouhani, in whom the West has placed its trust, did harbor hopes for détente, he is -- as the Iran expert Lawrence Franklin has explained -- "of superficial significance and has little influence over policy. What holds the real power is the ideological vehicle."
Outside of London's political and media bubble, it is widely understood that the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Iran's Revolutionary Guards wield absolute power.
If British lawmakers were to pay just some attention to the Iranian network in Britain, in fact, they would see that it is the revolutionary zeal of Iran's Supreme Council that inspires; not the façade of pledged moderation of President Rouhani.
In 2014, Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn took part in these celebrations. He shared a platform with Abdolhossein Moezi, Supreme Leader Khamenei's personal representative to the UK, who, in 2009, urged "Muslims to defeat the opposition to the Iranian regime and keep the 30-year-old Islamic Republic alive." Corbyn also spoke alongside Mohammad Ali Shomali, a prominent Shi'ite cleric who works for the Imam Khomeini Institute in Iran. In 2003, the Imam Khomeini Institute ran advertisements reported to have recruited thousands of young Iranians for Iran's suicide-bomber brigade inside Iraq.
This year, on February 14, Kanoon Towhid, a hard-line British Shi'ite student group closely aligned with the Iranian regime, hosted an event celebrating 36 years since Ayatollah Khomeini violently established control of Iran. The event's "keynote speaker" was Dr. Kamran Daneshjoo, a former science minister of Iran. Daneshjoo is a designated individual on the European Union sanctions list, because, the EU report notes: "Iran failed to provide the IAEA with clarification of his role in relation to missile warhead development studies."
In 2012, Kanoon Towhid organized, by video-link, a speech before British-Iranian students by General Mohsen Rezai, the former Commander-in-Chief of the Revolutionary Guards. Rezai is wanted by Interpol for his role in the bombing of the AMIA Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires.
The nature of the Iranian government is clear. Its human rights abuses, its violent interference in foreign lands, its brutal treatment of its own citizens and the zeal of its support network in the West are all unmistakable evidence of a fanatic and aggressive regime.
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, however, warns us that "new sanctions legislation" would "undermine Iranian confidence in the negotiations." Other British lawmakers believe easing sanctions is "essential to stabilizing a Middle East tumbling toward chaos," while some British politicians are even preparing for the removal of sanctions altogether.
Britain's determination to reach a deal with Iran, coupled with America's desperation to reach one, makes it look as if both counties will allow Iran to keep its centrifuges and become a threshold nuclear power. The leaders of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE have all expressed concern over this possibility.
Britain's wilful blindness to the regime's structure and openly violent ambitions -- as well as lawmakers' keenness to collaborate with Iran against the Islamic State -- promises that the ongoing talks with Rouhani's government will benefit no one but the Mullahs in Tehran.