Friday, October 28, 2005

More stick, less carrot

According to Foreign Policy the British government has been taking a tougher stance towards Iran:
British officials used to be certain that a military attack on Iran was out of the question. Now, it seems, they’re not so sure.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair has decided to play hardball with Iran. Frustrated by the lack of progress in negotiations over Tehran’s nuclear program, the British—who used to give Iran the benefit of the doubt—are now hedging their bets on nuclear diplomacy by using Iran’s meddling in Iraq to make military options more palatable to the British public.
Blair’s policy of treating Iran with kid gloves was born out of the conviction that Iran would soon evolve into a democracy. In 1998, a year after Blair won his first election, full diplomatic relations were restored between Britain and Iran (despite the fatwa on British author Salman Rushdie remaining in place). Jack Straw became the first British foreign secretary to visit Tehran since the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Straw assured the Iranians they were not a target in the post-9/11 war on terror.
Now, though, the tide is turning. Jonathan Lindley, a Middle East expert at the Royal United Services Institute in London, says that the prime minister’s office has decided to use “more stick and less carrot” in its relations with Iran.
I'm surprised but gratified that the British government has not been cowed into meekness as a result of widespread, and mostly unjustified, criticism of the war in Iraq. At any rate this trend seems to have intensified since the Iranian president called for Israel to be "wiped off the map." The Times reports:
Tony Blair gave warning last night that the West might have to take military action against Iran after worldwide condemnation of its President’s call for Israel to be "wiped off the map".
Ending a one-day European Union summit, the Prime Minister called the explosive declaration by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday a disgrace. Promising discussions with Washington and other allies over how to react, Mr Blair said that he had often been urged not to take action against Iran.
But he added: "If they carry on like this the question people will be asking us is — when are you going to do something about Iran? Can you imagine a State like that with an attitude like that having nuclear weapons?"
It was the first time Mr Blair had even hinted at military action and his words are likely to alarm Labour MPs. Mr Blair, clearly angry at the President’s outburst, said that there were people in Iran’s leadership who believed that the world was sufficiently distracted that it could not afford to focus on the nuclear arms issue.
"They will be making a very big mistake if they do that. Those sentiments are completely unacceptable,” he said. “I have never come across a situation in which the president of a country has said they want to wipe out another country. That is unacceptable."
Maybe this tougher attitude will give the diplomatic efforts a higher chance of success.

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