UK has ‘common interest’ with Iran in defeating Iraq extremists

Iran and the West have common interests in seeing the defeat of extremists who have swept into Iraq, according to Foreign Secretary William Hague.

Shiite tribal fighters raise their weapons and chant slogans against the al-Qaida-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Basra

As he updated MPs in the Commons on the fighting in Iraq yesterday, Mr Hague said that further announcements on Britain’s relations with the Government in Tehran could be made today.

Addressing MPs, Mr Hague said: “I spoke to the Foreign Minister of Iran on Saturday about a number of matters, including the situation in Iraq. He said there is a case for further steps forward in our bilateral relations... I will have something more to say about that imminently – very imminently if you are here tomorrow.”

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In his statement about Iraq, Mr Hague said: “We are taking action in three areas: Promoting political unity among those who support a democratic Iraqi state and stability in the region; offering assistance where appropriate and possible; and alleviating humanitarian suffering. We have made it clear that this does not involve planning a military intervention by the United Kingdom.”

Former Labour foreign secretary Jack Straw said: “Do you accept that with the current Rouhani government, there is an opportunity to build more positive relations because the Iranians have a similar interest to us in ensuring their neighbour is a stable democracy, not reduced the chaos it is in now?”

Mr Hague replied: “Of course we do have, over many decades including now, important common interests with Iran. That includes stability in Iraq and in Afghanistan. There are many other issues – dealing with the narcotics trade and so on – on which Iran and the UK have common interests.

“That is a very good argument for trying to advance our bilateral relations. Of course, we do also have to deal with the issue of Iran’s nuclear programme.

“We do need Iran to make its contribution to stability in the region by seizing support for sectarian groups in other parts of the region.”

Former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell said: “There is no question the United States and Iran have different motives... but they have common interests and co-operation between them, even if covert, would be in the interests of us all.”

Mr Hague said: “Covert co-operation is not something I will speculate about... but of course those common interests are there with Iran in the stability of the entire region. That is very clear.”

Former defence secretary Liam Fox warned military options should not be taken off the table.

He said: “It is sadly inevitable now there is going to be heavy loss of life and bloodshed in the region, but it is imperative Isis are defeated. While this must fall to the governments in the region, primarily Iraq in the first place, where they have identified military capability gaps, we must be sympathetic to help them because the last thing we want is to send out the message in advance that we have ruled anything out, which can only be of help and comfort to the terrorists.”

Mr Hague said: “Isis must be defeated... I agree, and I think it is the mood across the whole House, the prime responsibility rests with governments in the region, including the Iraqi government, with very substantial security forces at their disposal.

“As I said, we can provide assistance of various kinds and there are other nations looking at other assistance.

“The United States has said publicly they are looking at all options, they are the country that has the assets and capabilities of the type and scale and location to deliver such assistance if they believe they can do so productively.”

Mr Hague pledged support for countries taking in Iraqi refugees.

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