CONSERVATIVE
New Forest East

FOREIGN AFFAIRS – IRAN & CONTAINMENT – 13 January 2020

Dr Julian Lewis: Given the parallels between the ruthless and reckless behaviour of Iran, and the way in which the late and unlamented Soviet Union used to behave, does the Foreign Secretary accept that a policy of long-term containment, as worked in the one case, is probably most likely to work in the other? If he does accept that, is he satisfied that our American allies are now communicating with us to the extent that they need to so that our troops, who are their partners, are not unduly affected by sudden, dramatic initiatives without warning?

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and First Secretary of State (Dominic Raab): My right hon. Friend makes a series of important points, including about close consultation with our American partners. Of course, I discuss these issues regularly with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. I am not entirely sure that the analogy with the Soviet Union is quite right. There is at least the semblance of regular elections in Iran.

Dr Lewis: There was in the Soviet Union.

Dominic Raab: In fairness, not on the same level as in Iran. I think the question is the balance between containing the nefarious behaviour and ensuring – while holding Iran to account in the way in which my right hon. Friend and other hon. Members have mentioned – that there is still a route back to the negotiating table, and that is what we are seeking to pursue.

Robert Halfon: I concur with my right hon. Friend for New Forest East – I also believe that Iran is the Soviet Union of the Middle East, given what it does and the extent of its reach. My question to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is simply this: the United Kingdom and the allies supported dissidents and pro-democracy protesters in the Soviet Union at that time, so what are we doing specifically to support democracy protesters and dissidents in Iran?

Dominic Raab: We make it clear in international forums – we have done so in the UN, for example – that we support the right to peaceful protest and freedom of expression in Iran. My right hon. Friend will know of the already febrile state in Tehran, which would point to interference in domestic affairs and attempts to usurp the regime. We track a careful balance between standing up for the norms, values and human rights that he and I share, and ensuring that we do not play into the hands of the hardliners. Ultimately, we want Tehran to make the choice to take responsibility for its actions, and we have seen at least a semblance of that with its acknowledgment that it was responsible for the downing of the airliner. We then want the country to take it a step further by reversing the path towards political and economic isolation, and that will only happen if Iran comes back to the negotiating table through the diplomatic channel.