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Yesterday, during an interview with a group of sixth form boys we touched upon the issues of the Middle East and particularly Syria and Iran.
Following questions about Iran, my response to the boys was that when necessary I am an interventionist by nature but that the UK cannot act as the world’s police officer, and that before intervention, I favoured the option of helping oppressed citizens achieve their own liberation and democratic destiny, especially in a country like Iran where the ruling faction are so far removed from the ideals of the citizens.
Sanctions which have been imposed must be given time to work, and diplomatic efforts exhausted. Discussion, however, will always come back to that same old chestnut: Will Israel stand by as Iran becomes nuclear-ready?
The answer is no, and last week Netanyahu was given an astounding promise by Obama, that the United States will support Israel should Iran reach the point of nuclear capability.
The timing of this promise is perfect for Obama. Sanctions such as the European oil embargo will not have worked their way through until after the election. Israel must be praying that should he win, Obama is a man of his word.
Two years ago the world was captivated by the heroic attempts of the green wave student movement in Iran. News leaked out via Twitter and mobile phones and for a while, it looked as though a reign of oppression by Ahmadinejad, the man who pronounced that he wants to wipe every Jewish face off the face of the earth, could be under threat. Unfortunately, the green wave movement has been defeated and students and citizens lost their lives in their valiant attempt to re-claim their country.
Ahmadinejad is nurturing new friendships and will shortly become a major power supplier to Iraq, putting into practice the old adage: keep your friends close and your enemies closer. This blossoming alliance with Iraq adds a new dimension to an already difficult problem.
The news that America will assist Israel should Iran become nuclear-ready must be reassuring to the people of Israel. Ahmadinejad cannot be allowed to have his finger resting on a nuclear bomb. It would be an impossible situation for the world to sit back and tolerate. Iran is not the Japan or Russia of yesterday. The threat from Iran is real but the tragedy is that innocent Iranian people, people who oppose Ahmadinejad and what he has done to their country, who desperately wish to remove his regime and become a free and democratic country will be killed in the process.
Last year, my daughter and her friend travelled through Iran. They flew to Tehran airport where they were to catch a connection to Esfahan.
They dressed appropriately, with all their hair and body covered and during the first leg of their flight, Iranian passengers came and sat on the empty seat next to them, including the flight crew and engaged in conversation about life in Iran.
My daughter and her friend moved onto the second leg of their journey blown away by the friendliness of their fellow passengers.
Stood in Tehran airport, studying a map and a monitor they realised their flight was delayed for twelve hours, until the next morning. An Iranian lady came over asked if they needed help. My daughter explained their predicament and the Iranian woman offered to take them back to her house to sleep, which my daughter and her friend gratefully accepted.
They were treated like royalty. Given a bath and a beautiful meal and put into the best bedroom in the house to sleep. During the meal in the evening they had laughed and chatted as the Iranian lady and her family taught them words they would need to get by in Iran and customs to observe.
They were woken up the next morning to breakfast, a packed lunch, fruit, sweet nuts, bottled water and enough Iranian money to start them off when they reached Esfahan and a car to the airport.
As they took their leave my daughter asked the Iranian lady to write down her name and address. She wanted to email me to write a letter and send a gift from England as a thank you.
She has not forgotten the intensity of the moment or the sense of urgency behind the words spoken as the lady took both of her hands in hers and said “all we ask is that you go back to your country and you tell your people what the people of Iran are truly like. Let the people in your country know who we are and that we are not like him”.
This is why sanctions have to be harder, negotiations more urgent. Aid to support citizens must be a priority and every means possible deployed to overturn Ahmadinejad before what sometime seems like the inevitable takes place. The people of Iran are not like him.