London Avoids War with Tehran

Friday, November 2, 2012

Why UK Does Not Allow US to Use its Bases Against Iran

Interview with Dr. Majid Tafreshi
Researcher and Analyst of UK Issues

The government of the United Kingdom has recently turned down the United States’ request to use the British military bases, or its own bases on the British territories in a possible attack on Iran. Washington has apparently noted that it needs to use those bases to supervise over military forces it has based in the Middle East region. After the daily Guardian broke the news, a spokesperson for the British Foreign Office confirmed it, underlining the UK’s strategy to oppose any kind of military strike on Iran at the present juncture. The British authorities believe that international sanctions have left their mark on Tehran and diplomacy should be given time to bear fruit. The main reasons which have prompted the UK to explicitly turn down the US request for using the British military bases in Cyprus against Iran, possible isolation of the United States and Israel in their effort to forge global consensus for a military attack on Iran, and future outlooks of relations between Iran and the United States in view of recent political tension between the two countries are the main subjects of the following interview with Dr. Majid Tafreshi, a researcher and analyst of the UK issues.

Q: The UK has recently turned down a request from the United States for using British military bases in the region for a possible military attack on Iran. What, do you think, is the main reason behind London’s outright approach against a possible attack on Iran on ground of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear energy program?

A: Basically, there is no basic difference among the viewpoints of the United States, Israel, Britain, and the European Union on the necessity of exerting pressure on Iran. This means that all of them are unanimous that they have to take any step in order to limit or even shut down Iran's nuclear activities. However, the main issue here is that there exists serious difference between the British politicians and leaders, on the one hand, and the radical neoconservative politicians in the United States as well as Israeli leaders, on the other hand, about how such a pressure should be exerted. The British government believes that sanctions in addition to various kinds of economic and political embargoes are effective enough to make Iran get back to the negotiation table. In the meantime, the American politicians, especially neoconservative elements, and officials in Israel firmly believe that they will finally have to launch a military strike against Iran. The question, from their viewpoint is whether it has to be an all-out military attack, or just limited bombardment of Iran's nuclear facilities.

The UK, however, due to experiences it has gained through two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as in view of the existing conditions in the country, does not approve of a direct military strike against Iran. From the viewpoint of London, the economic as well as international political conditions do not allow for such an action to be taken.

On the other hand, the conclusion reached by the governments of the incumbent US President Barack Obama and the British Prime Minister David Cameron is that a possible military attack on Iran will not be to ultimate benefit of the West’s interests. They believe that such an attack will only benefit the Islamic Republic of Iran and its present government in the long run. They also maintain that such a military strike will have no substantial impact on Iran's nuclear activities and may even make the Iranian people more united in the face of a foreign aggression. As a result of such an analysis, the British government is currently against a military strike on Iran. London believes that imposing economic and political sanctions against Iran will be more effective and will, in the long run, be more efficacious than a military strike.

Q: Can one take this as a sample of a large-scale attitude among the Western countries and conclude that London will not only refrain from giving its bases to Washington, but will also oppose any kind of military option against Tehran?

A: Since George W. Bush Jr. was US president and Tony Blair was the British prime minister up to the present time, no US or British government has openly announced that they are totally against military strike against Iran. Even if they were opposed to such attack, they would never announce it in the open.

There is a maxim in political discussions which says: politics is the art of possibilities. Therefore, a military option is a possibility. However, it seems very unlikely that the Western countries are in a position to take such a possibility seriously into consideration.

It is noteworthy that three important events are ahead which will greatly influence the overall approach of the Western countries to Iran's nuclear energy program:

1. The US presidential polls which will be held in less than a week;

2. The public election in Israel which has been slated for January 2013; and

3. Iran's presidential election which is scheduled to be held next June.

Therefore, the aforesaid three elections which will be held in a matter of eight months will somehow shed more light on the situation of Iran's nuclear issue and will also determine to a great extent the general texture of political factions which will influence forthcoming developments in the next few years. They will also, to some extent, determine which parties will be taking part in any possible negotiation or dispute.

Q: Throughout the war in Afghanistan and later during the invasion of Iraq by the United States, the UK was always militarily present on the US side in the region. Why is it taking a different position on Iran attack now?

A: The British public opinion is against another war. It was due to pressure from the public opinion that the British government moved to withdraw almost all its forces from Iraq. The same pressure will later on make the British forces leave Afghanistan as well. Therefore, it is very improbable that the UK would be able to enter another war.

The next issue which has been reflected by the American and British media is that Britain, the United States and some member states of the European Union have spent a lot of time and effort in Afghanistan and Iraq, but the current governments in both countries are to a great extent under the influence of Iran. In other words, Iran has been the final winner of both wars, especially the war in Iraq.

As a result, when there have been wars in close neighborhood of Iran, and Tehran has finally emerged as their real winner, if this also happens in case of a war within Iran, the Islamic Republic will certainly benefit more and achieve its political goals more easily. Therefore, it seems that there are few political parties within international community or even among the member states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) which will welcome an attack on Iran or support it in any way.

Q: Relations between Tehran and London have seen more tension in the past year. Can the UK’s move [in not allowing the United States to use its bases against Iran] be considered a green light to Tehran as a prelude to diplomatic reconciliation?

A: Relations between Tehran and London have been frequently severed in the wake of the Islamic Revolution in Iran the most important instance of which occurred before the beginning of the Iraqi imposed war. At that juncture, the British Embassy in Tehran was shut down and following a short limbo, in early 1980, Sweden was introduced as the UK’s interests section in Iran.

According to many official British documents that I have studied, the same process is repeating itself. I mean the UK has severed its ties with Iran unilaterally and even for a while, it has shown no willingness to restore those ties. However, following a period of covert and overt diplomatic disputes between the two sides, the UK will express interest in resuming relations. Finally, after a period of delay on the part of Iran, diplomatic relations will be resumed.

As a result, I believe that the aforesaid period of indifference is gradually expiring. Therefore, sooner or later, and at most after the forthcoming presidential elections in the Islamic Republic of Iran and when the government changes, there will be also a change in relations between Iran and the UK. Of course, this time, unlike the past instance, the UK had a noteworthy excuse for lowering ties with Iran; that is, the attack on its embassy in Tehran last year. That measure, which some political circles claimed to have taken place by “some rogue elements,” had no logical justification and was totally against the national interests of Iran. The Iranian officials also expressed their disapproval of the attack in their later remarks.

Key Words: UK, US, Iran, War, Military Bases, Guardian, Cyprus, US Presidential Polls, Tafreshi

Source: Iranian Diplomacy (IRD)
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

More By Majid Tafreshi:

*From Britain’s Efforts for Hong Kongization of the Iranian Islands to Saddam Army’s Communiqués:

*Cutting UK Ties Is a Mistake:

*A Threat with Unpredictable Consequences:

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