In February 2007 Simon Bessant tabled a Private Members Motion on Iran. Against a background of intense media speculation about the threat of military action against Iran the PMM secured the necessary signatories to secure Synodical time for a debate in July 2007. Although media and political speculation regarding the possibility of a military action against Iran has since abated, Iran remains a pressing international security concern. In considering this motion, Synod will need to grapple with three separate but related issues. First, the threat posed by Iran to regional and international peace and security. Second, whether military action or the threat of such action is the most effective means of neutralising that threat. Third, the potential impact of what is said in the debate, and what might be set out in any resulting resolution, on the position of our fellow Christians in the region generally, and in Iran in particular.
Any analysis of Iran has to be set in the context of wider regional and international issues. The attached briefing paper attempts to provide a framework within which the General Synod can think through these inter-related issues. It provides a brief overview of the government’s priorities to the Middle East and an insight into the range and depth of the Church’s presence in the region. In addressing the Church’s presence in the region, particular attention is given to the fluid and fragile situation regarding the Anglican Church in Iran. The paper then proceeds to focus more closely on Iran before concluding with an analysis of the government’s understanding of relationship to Islam in the region.
In considering further the ethics of pre-emptive action, as referred to by the motion, Synod might wish to refer to the recent publication The Price of Peace: Just War in the Twenty First Century, published by Cambridge University Press in February 2007. The Price of Peace is a collection of essays commissioned and co-sponsored by the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales and the Church of England’s Mission and Public Affairs Council. It takes an interdisciplinary approach to examine how the ‘just-war’ tradition works in both theory and practice, by bringing together a distinguished group of academics (politics, philosophy and theology) and practitioners (soldiers, church people, civil servants and lawyers) from both sides of the Atlantic. Although it does not deal explicitly with the Iranian issue, it tackles a broad range of ethical issues related to the moral status of warfare that are pertinent to this debate.
Rt Revd Tom Butler
Bishop of Southwark
Vice Chair: Public Affairs
Mission and Public Affairs Council
The Government’s International Priorities to the Middle East
The government’s White Paper , Cm 6762, of March 2006, Active Diplomacy for a Changing World: The UK’s International Priorities, establishes a new set of strategic international priorities which build on those set out by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in its first White Paper, on the UK’s international priorities, Cm 6052, 2003. Prime Minister Blair expounded further on the strategic priorities underpinning British foreign policy in his speech to the Los Angeles World Affairs Council, 1 August 2006, and in his HMS Albion lecture, 12 January 2007 (http://www.number-10.gov.uk). The cumulative effect of these policy pronouncements is to commit the UK to a values’ based foreign policy that rejects ‘benign inactivity’ in favour of an interventionist strategy that confronts extremist and reactionary views in the Middle East by defeating terrorism and by promoting democracy and progress.
The Middle East engages every aspect of our foreign policy, not just our security with regard to conflict, proliferation and terrorism, but also the security of our economy. It is a region of the world that is central to the deeper goal of building a safe, just and prosperous world for all. The growing links between domestic and international issues means that British foreign policy to the Middle East can impact as much upon the UK’s well being as it does on the security and prosperity of the Middle East. This interdependence of concerns necessitates a comprehensive and integrated foreign policy that carefully balances its use of soft and hard power in a way that recognises the inter-linkage of the challenges and the diversity of Middle Eastern societies.1 This entails guarding against seeing the region’s problems as sui generis and therefore beyond rationalisation, and the temptation to reduce the region’s problems to over-riding explanations that legitimate simplistic policies.
It is against this background that any evaluation of the shape and direction of British foreign policy to the Middle East needs to be made. Thus a major issue to be considered is the implication of Middle East policy for the relationship between the UK, the United States of America and our European and Commonwealth partners. While it has been right for Britain to counsel its European allies of the dangers of US isolationism, it is far from clear what political dividend Britain has accrued through its uncritical relationship with the US. To many commentators British foreign policy to the Middle East increasingly appears to accept and echo the US conflation of complex and separate issues into a ‘global war on terrorism’, now rephrased as ‘the long war’. Despite Prime Minister Blair’s 1 August 2006 Los Angeles speech, British foreign policy in the region is widely seen as far from even-handed, fair and just in its application of the values of moderation. The renaissance of strategy called for by Mr Blair appears, publicly at least, to rely more on hard rather than soft power. The net impact has been a reduction of Britain’s influence and political capital in the Middle East and the isolation of the UK in this aspect of EU foreign-policy.
The intended draw down of British troops from Iraq, and the change of Prime Minister in the UK, together provide an important opportunity for Britain to recalibrate its foreign policy to the US and Europe as well as to the Middle East. The strategic challenges identified by the 2006 White Paper will remain constant, but Prime Minister Brown will have the opportunity to re-assess British policy. In particular, he will be able to move beyond the contested history of the Iraq war and effect the changes in British policy necessary to meet the challenge of events in the region, including the need to re-vivify the peace process. The failure to make progress with the Middle East peace process is a key factor in the politics of the region, including Iraq and Iran, and a major seed-bed for terrorist groups.
The Church of England and its Relationship with the Middle East.
The Church of England has a multiple set of relations with the Middle East in general and the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East in particular. The latter is a Province of the Anglican Communion stretching from Iran in the East to Algeria in the West, and Cyprus in the North to Somalia in the South. Geographically it is the largest and most diverse Anglican Province. The Province consists of some 30,000 practising Anglicans. There are churches throughout this area, mostly looked after by indigenous clergy, as well as schools, hospitals and other foundations - many of them in places where poverty, civil strife and religious problems are commonplace.
The Church of England through its dioceses, mission agencies and development agencies supports the ministry and mission of the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East. A number of Church of England dioceses have active companion links with particular churches or diocese in the region. Mission agencies such as the Church Mission Society, the United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, CMJ, the Mothers’ Union provide financial assistance to particular projects like the Ahliyyah Girls School in Amman, Jordan, the Princess Basma Centre for the Handicapped in Jerusalem and kindergarten facilities associated with St George’s, Baghdad and the Ahti-Arab Hospital in Gaza.
The Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East has always been affected by political developments in the region. However, developments in the Middle East since September 2000, including amongst others the second intifada, the geopolitical fallout of 9/11, the regional instability caused by the 2003 Iraq war and more recently the 2006 Lebanon war have all placed additional strains upon the indigenous Church. The most visible expression of this strain is the accelerated migration of Christians of all traditions away from their homelands.
This migration threatens the Church’s existence as a viable and sustainable community in the region. It substantially reduces the valuable contribution that the Church makes to the diverse fabric of Middle Eastern society. Left unchecked it risks reinforcing the myth, both in the East and the West, that the underlying tensions in the region are part of an irreconcilable clash of faiths and cultures. The situation on the ground is somewhat different from that envisaged by Mr Blair in his 1 August 2006 speech.
There are strategic dimensions to this development. The Iraq Study Group noted, in recommendation 36 of its report, the contribution that religious communities and leaders can make in fostering dialogue and reconciliation across the sectarian divide. One example of this contribution is provided by the Maronite Church in Lebanon, which was widely acknowledged as offering the most promising of schemes for a lasting peace during last summer’s conflict.
It remains important for the Church to maintain commitment to developing inter-religious dialogue in the region and supportive of efforts to form inter-religious councils in particular countries such as Iraq and Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. However, the continued exodus of Christians from Iraq and the wider region diminishes the Church’s leverage to contribute effectively to initiatives aimed at promoting peace and reconciliation. Efforts to strengthen the position of the local Church through re-energising the diverse set of relationships that exist remain a key priority. However, while an important act of solidarity such efforts can offer little more than a band aid given the multiple problems that the local Church faces.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, following his pilgrimage to the Holy Land in December 2006, has expressed his concern that Western interventions in the Middle East, most notably in Iraq risked jeopardising further the position of Middle Eastern Christians by reinforcing the perception of them as supporters of a crusading West. In this statement he was repeating the concerns expressed four years ago, in October 2002, in the Church of England’s House of Bishops’ submission to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee. It would ease this deeply troubling situation if the British government would refrain from portraying its policies as part of a wider struggle for ‘our Western values’, inferentially against the values of Islam and the East.
Finally, the Synod should note that this debate takes place against a fluid and delicate situation for the Anglican Church in Iran. Until very recently, the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middles East, which includes the Diocese of Iran, had no Bishop or priest in Iran and the status of its property remained contested. This situation reflects the belief in some circles of the Iranian government that the Church is a foreign body serving foreign purposes and interests.
Due in no small part to the efforts of the Episcopal Vicar General, the Rt Revd Azad Marshall, the fortunes of the Church in Iran now look slightly more promising. Having visited Iran repeatedly over the last few years from his home in Pakistan, Bishop Azad has been able to secure the partial restoration of the Diocesan structure in Iran and the prospect of three priests responsible for the local Anglican Church in Tehran, Isfahan and Golfa. It is anticipated that Bishop Azad is to be installed as the new Bishop of Iran in early August 2007.
As part of his ministry, Bishop Azad has been taking forward conversations with the Government of Iran regarding the status and ownership of Church property in Iran. These conversations are still ongoing, but there is renewed hope that they might culminate with a restored official relationship between the Government of Iran and the Anglican Church in Iran. Relationship building is a difficult but important aspect of Church ministry in any Islamic country, but never more so than in Iran. Synod will no doubt wish to ensure, therefore, that its deliberations, which may well be reported in Iran, are measured and do not impede or impair the dialogue already underway.
The government is right to argue that Iran’s refusal to comply with United Security Council resolution 1737 is a matter of grave concern, both regionally and globally. In the absence of effective guarantees Iran’s nuclear programme, allied to its missile programme, represents a serious security threat to the region as well as to the wider non-proliferation system. That threat can only be met by internationally validated guarantees. There are two issues here. The first is the direct challenge to the authority of the United Nations. The UN has its limitations but with all its imperfections it is the only internationally legitimate body constituted to secure peace. Its moral and political authority has to be upheld, nor undermined.
The second, and arguably more pressing issue is that, further nuclear proliferation in the Middle East is wholly undesirable. Iran’s relationship with Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Palestinian Occupied Territories and Shia militia in Iraq complicates the moves towards regional peace and security. The deteriorating situation in Iran with regard to human rights and the diminished space in which civil society operates underlines the fragility of Iran’s political system at a time when the country is experiencing declining economic performance. The prospect of Iran crossing the nuclear threshold, at a time when its long-term stability, as well as that of its neighbour Iraq, is in question, is a matter of grave concern. The Iranian government must recognise that the pursuit of policies unacceptable to the international community is not cost free.
What is likely to be the most effective response to these serious concerns? Will Iran’s further isolation, economically and politically, resolve the current crisis? Although it is too early to assess the economic and political impact of UNSC resolutions 1737 and 1747, Iran, despite its best diplomatic efforts, now stands isolated internationally. There is, however, always a risk in such situations that an incremental toughening of the UN backed sanctions regime will strengthen the Iranian government domestically by providing it with an opportunity to explain away its own economic mismanagement. This could lead to an unhelpful mobilisation of popular support in favour of the intransigence of the Iranian government, at a time when there is mounting popular and political criticism of President Ahmadinejad’s domestic and foreign policies.
To avoid the danger that UN sanctions might prove counter-productive, it is essential that the UK government, working with its EU partners, better explain its policies to a wider Iranian audience. This could be done by use of existing programmes, such as the ERASMUS MUNDUS programme, to strengthen the message that these policies are targeted at the current Iranian government rather than the Iranian people. The government’s decision to provide funds for the creation of a BBC Farsi TV channel is a positive development. It should explore further other additional ways of strengthening the links with Iranian civil society.
The Mission and Public Affairs Council’s own ongoing engagement with Iranian civil society, most notably through the Institute for Interreligious Dialogue in Tehran and certain seminaries in Qom demonstrates that some sections of Iranian civil society are willing and able to engage with third parties in a way that is often overlooked by Western governments and media. It would be particularly unfortunate if such civil society relationships were lost as a consequence of the hardening of diplomatic positions.
It is encouraging that Prime Minister Blair stipulated that a diplomatic and political solution is the only viable and sensible solution to the issue of Iran’s nuclear capability. Only a clear and imminent threat from Iran could justify a military attack, and it would have to meet the ethical tests Christians have set out in ‘just war theory’, particularly that of proportionality.2 Based on information publicly available it is difficult to conclude that a clear and imminent threat exists, or that, if it did, a military response to it would be justified. However, the UK government does need to take prudent precautionary measures to ensure that Iran’s increased political and economic isolation does not lead either to the Iranian government increasing its support for regional non-state actors or to it adopting policies in Iraq that are counter productive and damaging to regional security and stability.
Evidence suggests that the US naval build up in the Gulf has led to Iran actively strengthening Hezbollah militarily. This increases the risk that Iran and the international community will become embroiled in a series of proxy wars, such as occurred in Lebanon in 2006. Similarly, Iran’s seizure of British military personnel who were operating under a UN mandate in the Northern Gulf, although totally unwarranted and unjustified, points to the way in which these issues and concerns are linked. Both actions were deeply damaging to the region as well as to the prospects of a negotiated settlement between Iran and the international community.
It is often argued that economic sanctions are an effective way of achieving desired changes in the policies of a state, which is out of step with the consensus of the international community. But it is clear that economic sanctions alone will not resolve the current problems with Iran. A more effective carrot-and-stick policy is needed, one which recognises that recent changes in the Middle East have, paradoxically, both boosted Iran’s self-perception as the hegemonic power in the region, and yet done so in a way that leaves many of its own security concerns unaddressed. The most effective policy response is likely to be one which analyses and addresses Iran’s genuine security concerns, but without underwriting its hegemonic status. The June 2006 proposals by the P5+1 countries (the five permanent UN Security Council members and Germany) provide Iran with the possibility of a modern civil nuclear power industry and offer a basis for wider co-operation. However, the proposal failed sufficiently to address Iran’s legitimate security needs, offering only a new political forum to discuss security issues. What is needed is a more effective package of incentives and disincentives, which seeks to both engage and contain Iran. The successful negotiations between the international community and North Korea offer a potential model for further engagement.
All too often the UK government portrays Iran’s nuclear programme as irrational and ideologically driven. This is an inadequate analysis. There are clear ethical and political reasons for trying to understand more accurately what is motivating the Iranian government. Ethically, it ensures that we do not dehumanise our neighbours or those who threaten us. Politically, it opens up a range of activities from diplomacy and constructive foreign policies, to agreements and confidence building measures, including addressing long standing grievances that are critical to achieving the common good, including the good of the perceived adversary.
This is not to suggest that Iran’s regime and ideology poses no threat to Western values and interests. Iran’s recent seizure of British sailors clearly illustrates that it does. That the threat can be overstated does not mean that it does not exist, but it does suggest the need to assess that threat dispassionately and rigorously and then to develop an appropriate policy response designed to contain or remove it.
One very important question is how American policy will develop, particularly given the results of the 2006 Congressional elections and the run up to the presidential elections in 2008. The bi-partisan Baker-Hamilton report in December 2006 underlined the importance of negotiating with Iran other than on the streets of Baghdad.3 It is neither in the US nor Iran’s interests for Iraq to descend further into civil war. Given that Iran, of all of Iraq’s neighbours, has the most leverage in Iraq, it is encouraging that the US participated in a regional conference in Baghdad involving Iran and Syria and that a subsequent regional conference has been planned in the near future. This needs to be built upon. The focus of these conferences is rightly on Iraq, but it is to be hoped that they will provide the basis for more constructive engagement on other issues. It would be deeply damaging if Iranian co-operation on Iraq was rewarded with an ‘axis of evil speech’, as occurred following Iranian cooperation on Afghanistan.
Engaging with the Islamic world
In his Los Angeles speech, 1 August 2006, Mr Blair called for a ‘complete renaissance’ of foreign policy to combat ‘Reactionary and Radical Islam’, not only regionally in the Middle East but also globally. He justified the interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq and his support for the G8 Broader Middle East and North Africa Initiative on the grounds that such interventions are not just about changing regimes but about changing the value systems governing the nations concerned. His comparison of ‘Radical Islam’ to early revolutionary communism suggested that the current battle over values is similar to that of the Cold War, in that ultimately it can only be defeated at the level of ideas. Mr Blair then went on to use this grand narrative to explain that most of the ills of the Middle East, whether in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon or Gaza are the product of religious extremism intent on depriving people of their democratic freedom in favour of government by a semi feudal religious oligarchy. The challenge therefore was, in Mr Blair’s words, to “empower moderate mainstream Islam to defeat reactionary Islam”. The then Prime Minister argued that this process of modernisation within Islam was already showing signs of success: in the United Arab Emirates; in Bahrain; in Kuwait, in Qatar; in Egypt; in Libya and in Algeria.
Whilst there is much within the analysis that is accurate, to adopt one single overriding narrative risks oversimplifying what is clearly a complex and fluid situation. There is certainly a radical and violent Islamist element to much of the violence in the Middle East. But, as with regard to Iraq, it would be erroneous to assume that there is uniformity to the violence, either in terms of its origins or in terms of its agents. The government’s analysis risks reducing the region’s problems to over-riding explanations that legitimate uniform and misguided policies.
The danger of over-simplification is illustrated by the government’s – and others - use of terms such as ‘reactionary Islam’, ‘radical Islam’ and ‘moderate Islam’ in much of its public diplomacy. What do these categories mean in practice? Those who use them run the danger of labelling all Islamist movements and organisations as dangerous and hostile, ignoring the significant divergence of views and strategies that exist along the Islamist spectrum. When the government speaks of ‘moderate Islam’, is it referring to secular Islam or to those mainstream Islamist movements that remain conservative in nature, but have eschewed violence in favour of peaceful political activity? The government - and others who speak and write in such terms- need to clarify just what they mean.
It is true that some Islamist movements and organisations are dangerous because of their willingness to resort to indiscriminate violence. These organisations have the potential to cause great loss of life in the pursuit of political goals, which are ill defined and impossible to achieve. These movements are as much a threat to Islamic communities who do not share their views as they are to non-Islamic states such as those in Europe and North America. They will rightly remain a key focus of attention for those seeking to prevent terrorist attacks against European and North American targets, as well as in the Middle East and North Africa. It is, however, unwise to see them as central figures to the political landscape of the Middle East. By contrast, mainstream Islamist movements have had and will continue to have a significant impact on the future political evolution of the Middle East. They have already impacted upon the social landscape of many countries by halting and in some places reversing the secular trends, not least in the way that many Arabs dress and behave.
Many Islamist movements are fulfilling their immediate political goal by becoming powerful political forces. This includes Morocco’s Parti de la Justice et du Developpement (PJD), Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and Al-Wasat Centre Party, Yemen’s Islah (Reform) Party, Jordan’s Islamic Action Front, Kuwait’s Islamic Constitutional Movement and Bahrain’s al-Wefaq (Concordance society). These movements contrast favourably with other powerful Islamist movements that have run in elections such as the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine that show a willingness to engage in the political process even if they have not formally renounced violence.
If the British government is serious about its commitment to strengthening the cause of moderation in the Middle East then it needs to engage more constructively with these Islamist movements. Even within these organisations there are crucially important issues to be addressed, such as the application of Islamic law, the legitimate use of violence, pluralism, civil and political rights, women’s rights and religious toleration. The resolution of these issues will determine whether the political rise of Islamists movements leads the Arab world toward democracy or, conversely, to a new form of authoritarianism.
An illustration may be found in the question of religious freedom in Egypt. There the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood is calling for full-fledged democratic reforms but it remains, unlike the Wasat Party, reluctant to endorse equal rights for Copts, Egypt’s native Christian minority. The difference is explained by the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood remains a religious movement with a political identity, whereas the Wasat Party is a civil party with an Islamic marji’iya. Unless Islamist organisations that have a dual political-religious identity, can be encouraged to accept the principle of universal citizenship without discrimination on the basis of religious belief, their position towards religious minorities will remain uncertain and worrying.
The UK government may need to accept that its objective of democratic reform in the Middle East is unlikely to lead to the imminent emergence of secular organisations with unblemished liberal qualifications. Such organisations, where they do exist, lack any large constituency and are therefore unlikely to be able to secure political office for some considerable time. Abstract messages about democracy resonate only at a very general level and, with the notable exception of Lebanon’s Cedar Revolution, have failed to serve the basis for political mobilisation.
Islamist groups will continue to provide the foundation of political opposition for the foreseeable future. They are likely to be the immediate beneficiaries of any political reform. They will attract popular support for a multitude of reasons, not least the appeal of the Islamist message which powerfully combines a religious ideal with the concept of social justice. This concept of social justice is embodied in the network of welfare organisations that Islamist parties have set up in many countries and which are now well financed and organised.
This is not to suggest that Middle East countries will never experience Western style secular, liberal democracies, but rather that Islamist groups have more than a head start in the electoral race. The UK government’s strategy of encouraging an ‘arc of moderation’ in the Middle East by providing democracy training for political parties or even funding to secular parties and liberal civil society organisation is unlikely to alter this reality. On the contrary, America’s funding of Fatah’s election campaign illustrates, it could make the situation worse, since it will more closely identify the government with some political parties at the expense of others.
The UK government would do better to engage constructively with Islamist organisations, especially their reformist wings, in an attempt to influence the balance of debate between hardliners and reformers on particular grey issues. This will require an in-depth understanding of the internal politics of Islamist movements and a recognition that there is no uniform tipping point between movements. Such a nuanced strategy would not sit well with the government’s uncritical use of the language of ‘Radical Islam, ‘Reactionary Islam’ and ‘Moderate Islam’.
A strategy of engaging with Islamist organisations needs to go hand in hand with intensified diplomatic pressure on Arab governments to introduce political reform. Despite the government’s claim that there are signs of democratic reform in the Middle East, the most that can be said is that there are some liberalised autocracies: there remain no Western-style democratic Arab countries in the region. While nearly all Arab states now possess parliaments, these parliaments lack any significant power or the ability to overturn decisions taken by an unelected executive.
The UK government should be wary of the political discourse, promoted by a number of authoritarian governments in the region, that argues that political liberalisation will lead to political instability and seizure of power by radical Islamic extremists. This discourse plays to the natural insecurities and anxieties that many Western governments have about Islamist politics. It ignores, however, the evidence that suggests that political success strengthens the side of reformers and encourages Islamist parties to change further by clarifying their position on certain key issues. Islamist groups become more radicalised the greater their exclusion from the political process since there is no motivation to progress beyond unyielding dogmatic positions.
The most effective, but often overlooked tool that the government has at its disposal in encouraging the pace of economic, social and political reform in the region is the EU’s Mediterranean and Middle East Policy. Since 1995, the Barcelona Process has provided the foundations of a new regional relationship between the EU member states and partner countries in the Near East (Egypt, Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza Strip) backed up by bilateral co-operation and association arrangements. These technocratic and bureaucratic agreements provide the EU and its Near East partners with a safe environment in which they can consider, in a coordinated and sustained manner, the three main goals of EU Mediterranean policy as set out in the Barcelona Declaration (1995) and in the Common Strategy adopted by the European Council in Feira (2000).
The Barcelona Process can be no substitute for the wider resolution of the Middle East Peace Process, but it is a necessary prerequisite for any agreement. The challenge is surely to make the Euro-Med Free Trade Zone a reality by delivering and promoting regional infrastructure initiatives in important areas such a transport, energy, telecommunications, environment, equal opportunities and education and training and employment. In so doing the EU must ensure that its relations with its Near East partners remain conditional on each country’s measurable commitments to achieving respect for the principles underpinning the Barcelona Process. If successful, the Barcelona Process provides the EU with important leverage to help integrate the Middle East into the global political economy.
Iran’s relationship with the wider international community remains problematic and contested. The British government is right to take seriously the threat posed by Iran, whether because of its nuclear programme, its support of non-state actors in the Middle East or its aggressive attitude to British service personnel working under a UN mandate in the northern Gulf. The Iranian government must recognise that the pursuit of policies unacceptable to the international community is not cost free. A diplomatic and political solution is the only viable and sensible solution to the issue of Iran’s nuclear capability. However, the efforts to isolate Iran politically and economically needs to be balanced by a more effective strategy of diplomatic engagement with Iran as to its security concerns. The effective policy response should be to analyse and address Iran’s genuine security concerns, but without underwriting its hegemonic pretensions. A further tightening of the UN sanctions regime might be necessary, but careful thought and attention needs to be given to ensuring that the UN sanctions regime does not impact negatively on civil society relations (paras 13-25)
The fluidity of the international community’s relationship with Iran is set against a wider concern that many Islamist movements in the Middle East pose a significant security threat. This concern has at times shaped the international community’s understanding of the Islamic Republic of Iran. While the threat posed by Islamist organisations and movements must be taken seriously, the use of terms such as ‘Reactionary Islam’, ‘Radical Islam’ and ‘Moderate Islam’ in much of the British and American governments’ public diplomacy is unhelpful and needs further clarification. At present both governments run the danger of labelling all Islamist movements, organisation and governments as dangerous. This ignores the significant divergence of views and strategies that exist along the Islamist spectrum, even within a country such as Iran. If the British government is serious about its commitments to strengthening the cause of moderation in the Middle East then it needs to engage more constructively with mainstream Islamist movements or parties (paras 26-40).
The migration of Christians from the Middle East is due to a multiplicity of factors. This migration threatens the Church’s existence as a viable and sustainable community in the region and it reduces the valuable contribution that the Church makes to the diverse fabric of Middle Eastern society. Public debates regarding Iran’s relationship with the wider international community and the role of Islamist movements within the Middle East overlook the precarious position that many Middle Eastern Christians find themselves in. All too often governments combine these issues in a way that helps them to justify particular policy positions. It would ease the deeply troubling situation if the British government refrained from portraying their policies as part of a wider struggle for ‘our western values’ inferentially against the values of Islam and the East (paras 5-14)
1 Soft power is the ability to secure ones objectives by attracting and persuading others to adopt your goals. It differs from hard power, the ability to use the carrots and sticks of economic and military might to make others follow your will.
2 In its simplest form, the just war tradition argues for certain conditions and criteria to be met before any military action occurs. It has two thematic branches, classically denoted by the terms jus ad bellum and jus in bello. Jus ad bellum as generally understood today consists of seven principles, which need to be met to justify the resort to war. They include that war must have a just cause, be waged by a proper authority and with a right intention, be undertaken only if there is a reasonable chance of success and if the total good outweighs the total evil (i.e. overall proportionality). It must also be used as a last resort and be waged in the pursuit of peace. In contrast, jus in bello is defined by two concerns: discrimination or avoiding intentional harm to non-combatants and proportionality of means, which implies using such force as is essential to achieve an objective that is itself necessary. The history of just war thinking suggest that these criteria will atrophy if they are not reworked and then applied afresh in the unprecedented context of the contemporary international environment. The sheer number of military interventions post Cold War that have led to the emergence of internationally sanctioned military occupations, in the form of protectorates and trusteeships, has seen the just war tradition expand to include a third branch, namely jus post bellum. Jus post bellum addresses many of the issues that have arisen in post conflict situations like East Timor and Iraq.
3 The Iraq study group (ISG), also known as the Baker-Hamilton Commission, was a ten person bipartisan panel appointed on 15 March 2006 by the United States Congress. It was charged with assessing the situation in Iraq and the US-led Iraq war and making recommendations. It was first proposed by Virigina Republican Representative Frank Wolf. The ISG Report was published on 6 December 2006.