Leading article: An escalating and irresponsible war of ill-considered words

The confrontation between Iran and London and Washington was building up well before Mr Ahmadinejad's remarks

Share
Related Topics

Which makes it, in the most obvious sense, doubly stupid for the new Iranian leader to have given ammunition to his foes in this fashion and - more important, perhaps - greatly embarrass Iran's allies on the Security Council such as Russia. If London and Washington, with support from Paris, are now intent on isolating Iran in the world, and facing them with united UN sanctions, Mr Ahmadinejad could hardly have done more to further their cause.

Did he know what he was doing, or, as some commentators suggest, were the remarks the ill-considered outburst of an inexperienced zealot? It's a difficult, but all-important, question. That Mr Ahmadinejad is a religious fundamentalist anxious to return to the pure doctrines of Ayatollah Khomeini should not be in doubt. But his election seems to have left the Iranian clerical and political establishment as surprised as the world outside.

Since he took office, Iran's spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has moved to clip his wings through the Expediency Council under Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani. Mr Ahmadinejad's election represents a hardening of Iran's nationalistic stance, especially on the nuclear issue, but it does not necessarily represent a complete change in foreign policy.

Just as uncertain are the intentions behind the recent hardening in the rhetoric of George Bush and Tony Blair. Although the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, has specifically ruled out military action, President Bush has always been ambiguous on the issue, and Tony Blair seemed almost to be hinting at it on Thursday when he spoke of Iran's actions leading to a point where "the question people will be asking us is: when are you going to do something about Iran?".

This is a form of madness, and grossly irresponsible of the British Prime Minister. Whatever criticisms may be levelled against Tehran, it has the right to develop nuclear power and uranium enrichment for peaceful purposes; it remains a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty and, as Iraq's largest neighbour and co-religionist, it is bound to take an active interest in developments there.

Not the least fault of Washington in its dealing with Iran has been to try to isolate it early on when it was most willing to co-operate in the immediate aftermath of the overthrow of its most hated enemy, Saddam Hussein. To try to isolate it further now and to seek actively regime change would only drive it into a corner with incalculable results.

The international community cannot allow to go unchallenged public statements by the leader of one state urging the elimination of another. Nor can it ignore any signs of a move by Iran to become the possessor of nuclear weapons. But these are issues which should be resolved in the United Nations and through dialogue, not by adopting the language of dark military threat.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: This post arises as a result of the need to...

Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teacher Required ASAP In Uminster

£120 - £150 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am recruiting on instruction o...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wimbledon, SW London

£24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

I’m not sure I fancy any meal that’s been cooked up by a computer

John Walsh
Labour leader Ed Miliband delivers a speech on his party's plans for the NHS, in Sale, on Tuesday  

Why is Miliband fixating on the NHS when he’d be better off focussing on the wealth gap?

Andreas Whittam Smith
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel: