Bill Carmichael: We must get tough with Iran

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Iran is a rogue state that threatens not just the stability of the Middle East, but of the entire world. The medieval bigots who run Iran have never been exactly rational or stable, but this week’s carefully orchestrated mob attack on the British embassy in Tehran has ratcheted up the tension by several notches.

Don’t for a moment imagine that this was a “spontaneous” expression of anger by excitable students as the Iranian authorities have risibly maintained. Spontaneous demonstrations just don’t happen in Iran.

No, the riots and fire bombings this week were in all likelihood carried out by paid government goons, many of them members of the feared Basiji militia – Iran’s equivalent of the Nazi Gestapo. This militia has been a key weapon used by the Iranian despots to maintain their grip on power with a combination of brutal repression at home, allied to a belligerent foreign policy.

The mullahs who have seized control in Iran have never had much time for the civilised niceties of the Vienna Convention, and this week’s attack was eerily reminiscent of the 1979 siege of the US Embassy in Tehran when American diplomats were held hostage for 144 days.

The big difference this time around is that many experts believe that Iran is close to producing a viable nuclear weapon.

If that is allowed to happen, disaster will ensue. Iran’s unstable and fanatical President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has vowed several times to wipe Israel off the map. So clearly Israel would be forced to act to defend itself, as it is entitled to do.

But even if a pre-emptive strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities was successful, the resulting conflagration could engulf several of Iran’s neighbours and send oil prices rocketing to even higher levels with ruinous consequences for the world economy.

If this nightmare scenario is to be avoided it is important that the international community acts in concert to curb Iran’s aggression. Luckily, after a failed and naïve policy of “engagement” with Iran under President Barack Obama, the US has finally come to its senses and is now ready for much tougher action.

Britain’s foreign secretary William Hague also seems ready to tighten the screw on Tehran. Yesterday the focus turned on our so-called allies and partners in the European Union. Mr Hague was in Brussels for a meeting of EU foreign ministers where he asked for an intensification of economic and diplomatic pressure against Iran.

France and Germany in particular have heavy investments in refining Iran’s oil to supply its domestic need for petrol and diesel. If these and other EU countries join in tough sanctions it will seriously weaken the Iranian regime and curtail its capacity for making mischief. Even with the eurozone collapsing, this should still command Europe’s attention. It is probably our last chance to avoid a new Middle Eastern war.

And it is time for Germany and France to do the decent thing for once.

Striking contrast

The filth left behind by striking public sector workers after their demonstration in Sheffield this week had to be seen to be believed. On Thursday morning, Barker’s Pool in the city centre, where the strikers held their rally the previous afternoon, was strewn with left-wing leaflets, fag ends, discarded coffee cups, sandwich wrappings and broken placards. Is it too much to ask these people to use the rubbish bins or, if they are full, to take their rubbish home with them? Can’t they make their point without trashing the environment?

The contrast with another large gathering at the same place just a few weeks ago couldn’t be sharper. Remembrance Sunday also attracted a large crowd who came to pay their respects to the war dead.

And when they left Barker’s Pool it was spotless.