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EU division must not undermine unity in Iran nuclear talks

4 min read

Co-chair of the British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom (BPCIF) and Lib Dem peer Lord Carlile writes about the Iran nuclear talks in Brussels later this month.

On June 25, the member countries of the European Union will participate in a summit in Brussels. It is expected to be the scene of some energetic debate between the UK on the one hand and France and Germany on the other, regarding the future of the EU.

It is coincidental but significant that the meeting will take place so close to the deadline for the Iran nuclear talks, which are set to conclude on June 30. The UK, France, and Germany are collectively representing the interests of the European Union in those negotiations, alongside the US, with the additional participation of two relatively pro-Iranian powers, Russia and China.

Doubtless the EU will find time in the margins to discuss Iran.

Given the global importance of the Iran nuclear issue, it is important that whatever political disagreements occur between the EU3, as they are called, they do not present the Iranians with an opportunity to seize on them for their own advantage. Tehran has already had more than enough advantage in the talks, dealing as it is with soft negotiating positions and concessions on the part of the US. The regime in Tehran can smell weakness, and if there is any sense that the European powers are divided, the P5+1’s leverage risk to diminish still further.

Whether or not the UK remains part of the EU, and whether or not Prime Minister Cameron succeeds in renegotiating the UK's terms under a new EU Treaty, the issue of Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and Middle Eastern hegemony will remain an important issue for Europe.

Apart from more than a decade of over Iran’s nuclear weapons programme, there is a worrying list of regional issues which threaten to spread the consequences of Iran’s destabilising influence even beyond the borders of the Middle East.

Foremost on the minds of most policymakers, Iran’s growing presence in Iraq and Syria has not only failed to defeat ISIS, but according to observers has contributed to its recruitment by helping to divide the region along strict sectarian lines. The consequence of this is the further growth of both Shiite and Sunni Islamic terrorism on a large scale. And this is a threat that the UK, France, and Germany should all recognise with a common sense of purpose.Threats to global stability and the freedom of entire nations such as are posed by Iran require a firm and united stance.

On June 13, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) will hold its annual Paris rally in support of the Iranian people’s democratic aspirations, and in support of the political opposition to Iran’s religious dictatorship. Attendance at last year’s massive event was in the tens of thousands,, comprising Iranian expatriates, international activists, and political figures from five continents, including members of Parliament from the UK, France, and Germany.The international participants are politically diverse, representing cross party panellists often diametrically opposed on most other political issues but united in the fundamental cause of Iranian freedom. The event stands each year as a unique declaration of unity of purpose in confronting the Iranian regime, not least on its ongoing human rights abuses, its repression of political dissent, and its intrinsic resistance to internal moderation.

Already, the list of confirmed speakers at the June 13 rally includes a former Italian foreign minister, three former French officials, and three former German officials, one of whom also served as vice president of the European Commission.

Simple declarations of support for the Iranian opposition and its message of freedom and democracy for Iran by the British, French, and German governments would have the same powerful effect. That support already is well established in prominent political circles in each country, but it remains for Prime Minister David Cameron and his European counterparts to recognise publicly the Iranian people’s desire for change and endorse their struggle for a free, democratic, and truly non-nuclear Iran.

Lord Carlile of Berriew CBE QC, is a Liberal Democrat member of the UK House of Lords and co-chair of the British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom (BPCIF). He was the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation in the United Kingdom (2001-11)

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