Friday, May 19, 2006

Time to talk tough on Iran

Sir Malcolm Rifkind’s remark with regard to Iran that “military intervention might have to be considered…” should serve as a rallying call to Conservatives everywhere. The time has come to talk tough, and more importantly mean it. Being a Conservative is about being proud of British values, being a fierce exponent of democracy and liberty and, moreover, being unflinching in one’s determination to defend those values. That is not to say that we should be war mongers, far from it. Rather we should approach conflict (or potential conflict) with an olive branch in one hand and a claymore in the other. Determined to use the former, but unquestionably prepared to deploy the latter should the need arise.

It is unfortunate indeed that Blair’s illegal incursion into Iraq has cast a dark shadow over the potential use of our armed forces. However we absolutely must distinguish the Iraq situation from the Iranian one. With regard to the latter our ability to use armed force, if necessary, lies not in a dubious legal argument about the so-called revival of Security Council authorisation to use said force, but rather resides in that most ‘inherent’ of rights belonging to all states; namely self defence. Article 51 of the UN Charter states that:

“Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations…”

It is true of course that an ‘armed attack’ has not occurred, but, just as it is clear that an individual may pre-emptively defend him/herself against an aggressor, so too is it clear that a state may act pre-emptively to defend itself from an imminent attack. However does this mean we must wait until nuclear weapons are developed and handed over, or perhaps are about to be handed over, to terrorists before we may act? Surely not. Limiting imminence to a purely temporal understanding of the term is dangerous enough when considering conventional weaponry, but when considering nuclear weapons surely it is madness. When dealing with a leader who has publicly stated his desire to see an ally of the west “wiped off the map” alarm bells must start ringing. It is to those alarm bells that we must respond, at first with diplomacy and other methods of pacifically settling disputes; but always with the unwavering reminder to those we engage peaceably with of our resolve to use armed force if necessary.

I submit that it is incumbent upon us, as Conservatives, to hold the government to account when they fail to wave the claymore in front of the eyes of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Moreover we should be vocal in our support of armed force when and if necessary to defend the United Kingdom, its values and its allies. We must ensure that the potential use of military action remains on the table and is not simply dismissed. Such a stance does not make us war mongers any more than the person who finds themselves confronted with a would-be attacker is made a thug by their reminding that would-be attacker of their determination to use force to defend themselves if the dispute cannot be resolved peacefully.

As for a nuclear response to Iran we should not shirk the possibility, nor should we retreat when faced with cries that such a response would be madness, rather we should constantly remind ourselves that true madness would instead be a failure to use nuclear weapons if such a response was indeed both necessary and proportionate to the threat we, and our allies, face.