Opinion: Memo to Jeremy Browne MP

Dear Jeremy,

Thank you very much for your typically robust performance on BBC TV’s Question Time last night. However I wish to counsel you against using the prospect of war with Iran as a vehicle to demonstrate your resolve, and the Party’s new-found ‘establishment’ credentials. Your political future, and maybe even your personal freedom, are at stake here….

In the debate you not only expressed your support for blockade-type unilateral sanctions, that do not have UN support, but also you gave the distinct impression that you were in favour of the UK joining a major war against Iran.

The recent rise in tensions arises from the latest IAEA report (Nov 8 2011) which has been successfully spun by parts of the US government as providing new evidence of Iran’s intentions to weaponsise its civilian nuclear capability. This is a disingenuous untruth. The report says nothing of the sort and I invite you to read it. All of it.

This report states clearly that Iran abandoned its fledgling nuclear weaponsisation programme in 2003, and that there is no evidence of the diversion of enriched nuclear material. In this it agrees with the US ‘NIE’ of 2007, and other formal US government analyses. It states that Iran may have continued some aspects of this pre-2003 programme, and calls for further inspections.

You should avail yourself of the context: first, that there have been credible expert criticisms in the US, of new accusations of Iranian weaponsisation activity passed to the IAEA by the US, and second, that the Iran issue is being used in a cat-and-mouse game between political factions in the US and between the US and Israel, over Obama’s re-election. Indeed the threat of unilateral Israeli action was a key factor in the UK persuading the rest of the EU to agree to new sanctions on Iran – which could easily lead to war by themselves.

Even US Defense Secretary Panetta is against the war, and clearly the White House is trying to avoid it. Last Monday when Panetta was asked on TV if Iran was actually developing a nuclear weapon he said ‘no‘, referring to ‘potential capability’ intentions in an obvious attempt to guard his political flank.

So where does your FCO ‘briefing’ material come from, and whom in the US is instructing whom in the UK, as part of the game to outflank Panetta (and Obama) ?

The massive UK and US military build up required is now underway. It would be a devastating war with hundreds of thousands of deaths, involving Gulf States, and maybe even Russia and China. UK ministers who supported another illegal war would be at best vilified and at worse convicted in the international courts. Are you really sure you wish to stick to the apparent comfort of your FCO briefings ?

* Paul Reynolds works with multilateral organisations as an independent adviser on international relations, economics, and senior governance. He is a member of the Lib Dem Federal International Relations Committee and an Executive member of Liberal International (British Group).

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  • Leslie K. Clark 27th Jan '12 - 5:12pm

    “We don’t want a war with Iran.” Jeremy Browne, 46:39 mins (ish) into QT. He stated it repeatedly.


  • David Allen 27th Jan '12 - 5:28pm

    Next, in the popular Victorian refrain, is “But by Jingo if we do, We’ve got the boats, we’ve got the men, we’ve got the money too!”

  • Paul Reynolds 27th Jan '12 - 6:00pm

    Indeed. Instead of rushing around Europe and Cathy Ashton’s offices trying to promote a dangerous blockade of Iran’s oil and Central Bank, UK FCO ministers should be siding more decisively with the Obama White House and Secretary of Defense Panetta, in trying to stop the march to war (in our own, and Europe’s interests). Declaring that the UK ‘will not take any options off the table’ (military-diplomatic code for ‘we are happy to go to war, and use our nuclear weapons if necessary’) puts us at the centre of the campaign to go to war with Iran. Iran has been allegedly ‘2 years away’ from having a deliverable nuclear weapon since 1984. And instead of our only FCO minister doing the feeble ‘We don’t want war….but…’ routine, we need the party to take a different line from the Tories, in both substance and rhetoric.

  • Cheer up. At least now we know the UK isn’t going to be the 51st state. That will be the Moon …

  • Matthew Harris 28th Jan '12 - 3:50pm

    @Geoff Payne You’re surely not comparing Jeremy Browne to George W Bush? Jeremy Browne is a thoughtful and principled Liberal Democrat telling the truth as he sees it – hardly comparable to President Bush!

    @Paul Reynolds The Obama Administration strongly favours the UK/EU sanctions that this British government is imposing on Iran. You ask for the UK to get more in step with Obama on this – by pursuing sanctions, we couldn’t be MORE in step with US, which is also imposing similar sanctions.

    Here is the BBC’s Question Time page, so that you can watch Thursday’s episode and decide for yourself re:- Mr Browne’s comments: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/question_time/default.stm

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