In Parliament last night, CMEC hosted a distinguished panel on Iran’s nuclear ambitions consisting of The Rt. Hon Liam Fox MP, former Defence Secretary, The Rt. Hon Lord Lamont of Lerwick, former Chancellor of the Exchequer and Chairman of the British-Iranian Chamber of Commerce, John Baron MP and Con Coughlin, Executive Foreign Editor at The Daily Telegraph. Liam Fox opened the evening by first making clear that the international community’s problem with Iran was with the regime, not the people or the nation, before going on to argue that a nuclear Iran would lead to regional proliferation, which could have awful consequences in an unstable region.
John Baron discussed the evidence surrounding the Iranian nuclear programme, particularly the IAEA 2011 report, and warned we must be very careful with circumstantial evidence, using the invasion of Iraq in 2003 as an example. He continued by arguing that if Iran were to make nuclear weapons, the nuclear deterrent would hold as with India and Pakistan. He also said that more balance is needed when approaching Iran and both sides have made mistakes, such as Iran’s rebuff of Obama when he first came to office.
Con Coughlin then made a short speech where he contended John Baron’s position on the IAEA report and made it clear that Iran did have a nuclear weapons programme until 2003. He argued Iran cannot be considered a rational state, looking at the recent assassinations of Israeli diplomats and the attempted assassination of the Saudi Arabia Ambassador to America. He concluded by arguing regional proliferation would become an issue if Iran were to obtain a nuclear weapon but the fundamental problem for him was who runs Iran with its complex power structure.
Norman Lamont finished the speeches by making it clear that Iran having a nuclear weapon is only a bad thing but bombing Iran would be a grave mistake. He also argued the international community should accept Iran’s right to nuclear energy under the Non-Proliferation Treaty and ended by saying that sanctions are hurting Iran economically but not politically.
The speeches were followed by questions, ranging from whether a war could happen and if the international community could have any influence on the new leadership after the 2013 elections.