US seeks support to isolate Tehran

JOHN LICHFIELD

Is Iran behind the Hamas suicide attacks on Israel? The United States is saying that it may be, without offering firm evidence. Other Western governments are far from convinced. They are, however, supporting Washington in its strident criticism of Tehran to head off the possibility of a collision over US attempts to organise draconian international sanctions against Iran.

The British Government yesterday summoned the senior Iranian diplomat in London to the Foreign Office to hear a lecture about Iranian "support for terrorism" and Tehran's "highly distasteful" remarks welcoming the suicide bombings in Israel which have killed 75 people in the last 10 days.

British officials said there was no difference in general approach between the Clinton administration and European Union governments in their condemnation of Iran's opposition to the Middle East peace process and its - at the very least - rhetorical support for acts of violence against civilians. But an official said there was no direct evidence so far that the recent suicide bombings by the Palestinian Islamic fundamentalist group Hamas had been sponsored by Iran.

The US is pushing for international moves to isolate Iran diplomatically and economically but European governments are unwilling to go that far. "If, and it's a big if, America or anyone else can show that there is a direct Iranian hand in the attacks inside Israel, we will have to completely reconsider our approach," one European official said.

EU governments are consulting on the wording of a possible joint statement criticising Iran's virulent opposition to the Middle East peace process and its public exultation in the suicide attacks. The statement may be endorsed by European foreign ministers when they meet informally in Palermo, Italy, today and tomorrow. The intention is to warn off Tehran - and mollify the US - by extending the chorus of criticism to those European governments - Germany, Italy and Greece - which enjoy relatively good relations with Iran.

France yesterday called off a planned visit by Iran's deputy Foreign Minister, Mahmoud Vaezi. The French Foreign Minister, Herve de Charette, is to fly to Israel and the Palestinian territories in express support for continued peace efforts.

The US is calling for international efforts to isolate Iran, including trade sanctions. All American trade with, and investment in, Iran is already banned. One piece of legislation before the US Congress would impose US sanctions on foreign companies which continued to trade with Iran, raising the possibility of a serious collision with the EU and other American allies. The Washington campaign to convert the rest of the world to Iranian sanctions - driven in part by political imperatives in an election year - began long before the present suicide bombing offensive by Hamas.

The Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, suggested yesterday that continued trade with Iran would amount to support for terrorism. "We think Iran is deeply involved in [the Hamas bombings] at various levels - encouragement, funding, perhaps some direction... It is a good lesson - ought to be - for the world as to why we've been so strongly opposed to Iran and... to those who would give Iran the kind of financial support they can divert into terrorist activities of this kind."

Middle East analysts do not dispute that Iran gives at least political support to Hamas and other so-called "rejectionist" groups. But they say there is no evidence of direct involvement in planning a campaign of violence inside Israel. The analysts say that Iran channels most of its direct assistance in the region to the Hizbollah militia in Southern Lebanon and has recently reduced even this. Relations between Hamas (a Sunni Muslim organisation) and Shia-dominated Iran are not thought to be close.

On the other hand, two senior Iranian officials, including Hussein Shaikholeslam, deputy foreign minister for Arab affairs, attended a meeting in Damascus last week with Palestinian and Lebanese groups in the "Peace Rejection Front", including officials of Hamas. The Iranian officials were said to have promised all the groups Tehran's "full support and with all means at its disposal".

The meeting took place in Syria with the government's approval . This raises the question of why the US is singling out Iran, when there is at least as much circumstantial evidence of Syrian support for Hamas.

Tehran yesterday dismissed claims that it was involved in the suicide bombings.

Suggested Topics
News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Travel
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
News
news
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn