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

Senior Marketing Manager - Central London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (Campaigns, Offlin...

Head of Marketing - Acquisition & Direct Reponse Marketing

£90000 - £135000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing (B2C, Acquisition...

1st Line Service Desk Analyst

£27000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client who are...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Huxley Associates

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Huxley Associates are currentl...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Norovirus the food poisoning bug that causes violent stomach flu  

A flu pandemic could decide next year’s election

Matthew Norman
J. Jayalalithaa gestures to her party supporters while standing on the balcony of her residence in Chennai. Former film star Jayalalithaa Jayaram is one of India's most colourful and controversial politicians  

The jailing of former film star Jayalalithaa Jayaram is a drama even Bollywood couldn’t produce

Andrew Buncombe
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style