The author is the CEO of the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre
– “No British Foreign Secretary can simply, like the Psalmist, ‘speak the truth from his heart.’ Not often, anyway. But last week William Hague demonstrated that moral clarity still has an important role in international relations. By announcing to a shocked House of Commons that the Iranian Embassy in London would be closed in response to that regime’s sponsorship of the ransacking of the British Embassy in Tehran on Tuesday, Hague invited the world to do what Israel had perhaps begun to despair would ever happen – end the equivocation, see Iran plain and act decisively to confront it.
And not a moment too soon. BICOM has consistently challenged the British political class for greater moral clarity in this area. The international community has offered carrot after carrot to dissuade the Iranian regime from its pursuit of a nuclear bomb. Russia offered to enrich uranium for an Iranian civil program, while the EU made available broad co-operation with Iran not just in the technological and economic fields but also in security.
President Obama’s stretched out his hand and asked only for an unclenched fist in return. He did not get it. He got only duplicity and concealment, threats to neighbors, ‘Death to America!’ and, as last month’s IAEA report confirmed, steady progress towards weaponising its nuclear program.
By closing the Iranian Embassy, and by calling on the international community to support sanctions on the central arteries of the regime, William Hague sent a clear message that intimidation by fear societies will not stand against free societies. For make no mistake, the purpose of the Quds force organized riot at the British Embassy in Tehran was to intimidate all countries – especially those with more extensive commercial dealings with Iran than Britain, such as Germany – from following the UK lead and sanctioning Iran’s central bank.
Britain’s action has had a catalyzing effect. European solidarity was impressive, with Germany, France and the Netherlands recalling their ambassadors. On Thursday, the United States Senate voted to penalize foreign institutions that do business with Iran’s central bank, while the European Union stepped up sanctions by targeting 180 new individuals with connections to the state shipping line and the Revolutionary Guards Corps. And in January the EU will consider further sanctions on Iranian oil imports.
Perhaps, sometimes, it is only by ‘choosing the way of truth,’ as the Psalmist has it, that the international community can restrain fear societies like Iran. That Hague has grasped this is no small achievement. As Natan Sharansky put it in “The Case for Democracy,” while those who live in societies of fear such as Iran ‘must find the inner strength to confront evil,’ the challenge for those who live in societies of freedom is to find the moral clarity to ‘see evil in the first place.’ And this is often difficult because, as the former Gulag prisoner observed, so much of our intellectual culture allows the ‘deep desire for peace to turn into a weapon of tyranny.
Last week, the British foreign secretary chose another way. He chose the way of truth and invited the international community to do the same. By doing so he provided the world’s democracies with ‘a place to stand’ in Sharansky’s words. If others would only stand with him, peace may yet be preserved.”