Mary Dejevsky: A misreading of Iran that risks a fatal replay of Iraq

There is no evidence at all that Iran colluded with al-Qa'ida

Share
Related Topics

Since its misfired election last June, Iran increasingly resembles a curled-up hedgehog: preoccupied with its own difficulties, while projecting general hostility to the outside world. I only hope the impression of introversion is true, because Tehran has been the target of some deeply misguided words, and perhaps also deeds, in recent days. Just now, it would be better if Iran were not listening.

From Washington come reports that the US is sending Patriot missiles to the Gulf States, and keeping two warships in the region capable of shooting down Iranian missiles. Now Patriots are neither state-of-the-art nor offensive weapons and deploying two warships is hardly the most aggressive stance a superpower can take. But the deployments – or their threat, it is not entirely clear which – hardly send a friendly message, especially not as "spun" to the US media. They speak of contingency planning and expecting the worst.

These signals from Washington, though, were a good deal less menacing than the image of Iran that emerged from Tony Blair's testimony to the Iraq Inquiry in London last Friday. A recurrent theme of his self-justification over the war was a nigh-apocalyptic forecast of what role an un-checked Iran might play. Although he was being questioned about Iraq, he mentioned Iran several dozen times, and always in a negative light. In the worldview of the former prime minister, Iran came across as the next threat to global peace. George Bush's "axis of evil", it seems, never really went away; the overthrow of Saddam Hussein merely reduced its membership by one.

But Mr Blair's analysis fatally, and doubtless deliberately, confused cause and effect. Iran is only as powerful as it is today because of the vacuum created in Iraq by the US and British invasion. We are fortunate, in fact, that because of its own post-election turmoil, it is not even more dominant than it is. The notion that Iran – in league with al-Qa'ida – fomented the violence that ravaged Iraq in the latter part of 2003 and 2004, rather than exploiting it, has no basis at all in either the facts or the sequence of what happened.

In the intervening days, we have had two categorical rebuttals of the Blair version from people unimpeachably qualified to know. Sir Richard Dalton, Britain's ambassador in Iran at the time, accused him of fundamentally misreading the situation. Iraq then and Iran now, he said, were quite different situations. There was no evidence that Iran and al-Qa'ida had colluded to destabilise Iraq's reconstruction, he said, and there was no precedent for a nuclear-capable state passing its secrets to terrorists – one of the catastrophe scenarios held out by Mr Blair.

Yesterday, testifying to the same Iraq Inquiry, General Lord Walker, who was Chief of Defence Staff as the violence spread, said that he had no evidence of anything more than marginal involvement by Iran. In his view, the chief cause of the mayhem was the US- ordered disbanding of the Iraqi army, which had destroyed a whole tier of administration. Iran might have moved a few border look-out posts, he said, but most of the border was guarded and there was no trace of infiltration by Iran's Revolutionary Guard. Mr Blair's view was that, once a dictatorship collapsed, the whole state did too – a lesson, he said, to be learned.

It is hard not to conclude that this analysis was more about creating a continuing defence of the Iraq war (and the near-civil war that followed) than it was about today's Iran. Maybe there will some time be a dictatorship that links up with a terrorist group that links up with nuclear weapons. But that is not what Saddam Hussein was about, nor is it where Iran – which, by the way, is far more complex than a dictatorship – is today.

To suggest that it is, however, is highly dangerous. An argument constructed for largely personal ends will circle the globe via Mr Blair's lucrative consultancy commitments, poisoning influential, or at least highly-paid, opinion as it goes. The threat of US deployments can equally be seen less as reflecting reality – today's Iran is divided and weak – as meeting a sectional political requirement: Mr Obama's need to show that he will not be made to look foolish during the mid-term campaign by Iran's apparent rejection of his outstretched hand.

There is no sign that Iran harbours malign or expansionist intentions, or even that a nuclear Iran would present a global threat. Unlike India, it is signed up to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. To misread Iran so comprehensively is to sow the seeds of the very same misunderstanding that brought us the Iraq war.

m.dejevsky@independent.co.uk

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SEN Teacher, Permanent Role in Ashford

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: Randstad urgently seeks a qualif...

SAP BI CONSULTANT

£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: SAP BI CONSULTA...

Infrastructure Manager - Southampton - Up to £45K

£35000 - £45000 per annum + 36 days holiday and more: Deerfoot IT Resources Li...

Drama Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Liverpool: We are looking for someone who can t...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Spy chief speaks on the record: "Thank you, and that's it, really"

John Rentoul
 

The daily catch-up: fathers looking after children, World Cup questions and Nostradamus

John Rentoul
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice