Foreign Affairs Committee: Press Notice

29 February 2008

EMBARGOED PRESS RELEASE

NOT FOR PUBLICATION UNTIL 00.01 (GMT)

SUNDAY 2 March 2008

(one minute past midnight)

The Foreign Affairs Committee will publish its report on 'Global Security: Iran' at 00.01 on Sunday 2 March (one minute past midnight on Sunday).

This will be the Committee's fifth report of Session 2007-08 (HC 142). Advance embargoed copies will be made available to witnesses and members of the press in electronic (pdf) form at 10am on Friday 29 February and in printed form from the Press Gallery, and the Foreign Affairs Committee office, House of Commons.

Mike Gapes MP, the Chairman of the Committee, said:

"This is a comprehensive Report addressing the broad scope of concerns that we wish to raise with the UK Government. Iran is a complex and diverse society at present governed by a theocratic regime. Based on the evidence we have received and our own visit to Iran we believe its nuclear ambitions remain. There is a strong possibility that it could establish a "breakout" nuclear weapons capability by 2015. Iran has a legal obligation established by a number of Security Council resolutions to halt its enrichment activities. It must not be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon. If it did it is very likely to lead to a domino effect in the Middle East. This challenge requires the world's urgent attention. Equally importantly, we must not let the nuclear issue distract us from addressing Iran's malign influence in the Middle East, its support for insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan and its shocking human rights record."

On how to deal with Iran's programme, Mr Gapes said:

"We are concerned that existing sanctions against Iran have been ineffective, but future sanctions may inadvertently help President Ahmadinejad by providing him with a scapegoat for his economic failings. We are recommending that the Government in framing its sanctions policy does its utmost to try to preserve unity within the United Nations Security Council and European Union. Iran can only fully obtain the confidence and cooperation of the international community by obeying the Security Council resolutions that demand it suspends its uranium enrichment."

On US policy towards Iran, the Committee conclusion states:

"We recommend [...] that the Government urge the current US Administration to change its policy and begin to engage directly with Iran on its nuclear programme, as the absence of such engagement has deprived the international community of a significant diplomatic tool. The international community has made clear that if Iran suspends dual use enrichment it can expect cooperation on civilian nuclear power and Condoleezza Rice has said she will meet the Iranians "any time, any place". If this positive offer is accepted then it would be possible to make progress towards a solution."

The report's conclusions and recommendations are as follows:

Iran's Nuclear Programme

1. We conclude that, whilst Iran's suspension of an active nuclear weapons programme since 2003 is welcome, its continued enrichment activities and questions over its previous conduct mean its potential to develop such a programme remains. We further conclude that although technological constraints are likely to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, if that is its intention, in the near future, there is nevertheless a strong possibility that it could establish a 'breakout' nuclear weapons capability by 2015. (Paragraph 23)

2. We conclude that the E3/EU was too slow to build on Iran's suspension of enrichment activities. By failing to present a compelling offer to Tehran before the ascendancy of President Ahmadinejad, the E3/EU made reaching an agreement a much more challenging task. (Paragraph 31)

3. We conclude that Iran has a legal obligation established by a number of Security Council resolutions to halt its enrichment activities. We also welcome the offers of enriched uranium to Iran by Russia, deliveries of which have already commenced, and the international community. These offers are significant. We further conclude that Iran must not be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon. (Paragraph 39)

4. We conclude that the E3+3's diplomacy over Iran's nuclear programme is currently a long way from successfully achieving all its goals. We acknowledge, however, that its establishment has been useful in maintaining some degree of international unity towards Iran, thus adding to the diplomatic pressure on the Iranian authorities. (Paragraph 57)

The Regional Dimension

5. We conclude that the call by President Ahmadinejad for the destruction of the State of Israel and his provocative hosting of the Holocaust denial conference were deplorable and we condemn these actions unreservedly. (Paragraph 63)

6. We strongly oppose President Ahmadinejad's policies towards Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories and reaffirm our support for a two-state solution of an independent, democratic and viable Palestinian state peacefully co-existing with a secure Israel. We conclude that Iran is a malign influence with regard to the prospects for peace in the Middle East. (Paragraph 66)

7. We conclude that the support originating from within Iran for Iraqi insurgents has been responsible for the deaths of coalition troops and is completely unacceptable and reprehensible. We recommend that the Government continues to take a vigorous and proactive approach in intercepting this support. We further recommend that, in its Response to this Report, the Government sets out its latest analysis of the levels of training, weaponry and finance provided by elements within the Iranian regime to Iraqi militants. (Paragraph 74)

8. We conclude that the reports that Taliban insurgents are receiving support from Iran is a matter of very serious concern. Any such assistance is unacceptable, endangers regional stability and can only hinder efforts to establish closer relations between Iran and the international community. As with Iraq, we recommend that the Government continues to take a proactive stance in intercepting any support emanating from within Iran and that in its Response to this Report it sets out its latest analysis of the level and nature of the support being provided by the Iranian regime to Taliban insurgents. We further recommend that the Government supports greater cooperation with Iran on counter-narcotics. (Paragraph 77)

9. We conclude that, should Iran acquire a nuclear weapon, it is very likely to lead to other states in the Middle East developing their own weapon programmes. This domino effect would heighten regional tensions and seriously weaken the Non-Proliferation Treaty. It would also seriously undermine any prospect of moves to a nuclear weapons free zone in the Middle East. (Paragraph 82)

The Domestic Dimension

10. We conclude that Iran is a complex and diverse society at present governed by a theocratic regime. Iran's quasi-democratic political system is not fully closed and may lead to reform that will result in a more constructive approach on the nuclear issue. We recommend that the Government should be careful to avoid action that could be manipulated by the hardliners such as President Ahmadinejad to bolster their position against the more pragmatic and reformist elements ahead of his campaign for re-election in 2009. We recommend that the Government in its Response to this Report sets out fully why it has resisted the decisions of both the High Court in the UK and the European Court of Justice that the People's Mujahideen of Iran (PMOI), also known as the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MeK), should no longer be listed as a terrorist organisation. (Paragraph 98)

11. We conclude that Iran's human rights record is shocking. We recommend that the Government presses Iran to remove the death penalty, which includes hanging by strangulation, stoning, flogging and amputation from its statute books. We further recommend that the Government ensures human rights are not treated as a secondary concern to the nuclear issue, and that it underlines to Iran that its poor record in responding to human rights concerns makes it more difficult for the international community to trust its intentions in other fields. (Paragraph 103)

Options for the International Community

12. We conclude that the fundamental challenge of Iran's nuclear programme is one of mutual political mistrust€”mistrust that is not misplaced on the part of the United States and the European Union. We further conclude that a long-term solution to this crisis will need to go beyond the necessary constraints on Iran's nuclear programme by eventually working towards a wholesale recasting of its relationship with the international community, particularly with the United States and European Union. (Paragraph 109)

13. We conclude that although the sanctions currently in place against Iran act as a disincentive for its nuclear programme, they are not sufficiently robust to coax it into suspending its enrichment. We are concerned that the new political dynamic following the publication of the US National Intelligence Estimate, and underlying differences within the international community, mean future UN and EU sanctions are likely to remain ineffective and may inadvertently help President Ahmadinejad by providing him with a scapegoat for his economic failings. We recommend that the Government in framing its sanctions policy does its utmost to try to preserve unity within the UN Security Council and the EU. (Paragraph 117)

14. We conclude that it seems very unlikely that Iran will accept the demand that it suspend enrichment before substantive talks can begin. It feels it got little reward for its previous suspension, and its present Government has ramped up nationalist feeling on this issue. This stalemate is in no-one's interest but simply pressing for a resumption of Iran-US dialogue without an end to President Ahmadinejad's defiance of UN resolutions will strengthen him and dismay and weaken reformers. We recommend therefore that the Government urges the current US Administration to change its policy and begin to engage directly with Iran on its nuclear programme, as the absence of such engagement has deprived the international community of a significant diplomatic tool. The international community has made clear that if Iran suspends dual use enrichment it can expect cooperation on civilian nuclear power and Condoleezza Rice has said she will meet the Iranians "any time, any place". If this positive offer is accepted then it would become possible to make progress towards a solution. (Paragraph 126)

15. We conclude that the Government is playing a vital role in the E3+3. The UK's diplomatic presence in Iran and its close relationship with the United States put it in a good position to show leadership on this issue. We note the Foreign Secretary has met his Iranian counterpart on several occasions and we recommend that he continues his personal diplomacy and gives consideration to visiting Iran at an early opportunity to push the process forward. (Paragraph 130)

16. We conclude that the publication of the US National Intelligence Estimate has made a military strike against Iran less likely. We remain of the view that such a military strike would be unlikely to succeed and could provoke an extremely violent backlash across the region. We recommend that the Government urges Washington to consider offering a credible security guarantee to Iran if the Iranian Government in turn will offer an equally credible and verifiable guarantee that it will not enter into a nuclear weapons programme and improves its cooperation with the international community in other areas. (Paragraph 140)

Media enquiries:

Members of the press with enquiries should contact Alex Paterson, Select Committee Media Officer, on 020 7219 1589, or 07917 488488, or by email to [email protected]

Further Information:

1. The Foreign Affairs Committee is responsible for scrutinising the "administration, expenditure and policy" of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and its associated agencies. The text of all Committee publications, including Reports, can be found on the Committee's website at www.parliament.uk/facom

2. Committee meetings are open to the public. Access is via St Stephen's Entrance for the House of Commons Committee Rooms and the main entrance on the Thames Embankment for Portcullis House Rooms. It is advisable to allow about 10 minutes to pass through security checks. There is no system for the prior reservation of seats in the Committee Rooms.

The membership of the Committee is as follows: Mike Gapes (Chairman), Labour, Mr Fabian Hamilton, Labour, Rt Hon David Heathcoat-Amory, Conservative, Mr John Horam, Conservative, Mr Eric Illsley, Labour, Mr Paul Keetch, Liberal Democrats, Andrew Mackinlay, Labour, Mr Malcolm Moss, Conservative, Sandra Osborne, Labour, Mr Greg Pope, Labour, Mr Ken Purchase, Labour, Rt Hon Sir John Stanley, Conservative, Ms Gisela Stuart, Labour, Richard Younger-Ross, Liberal Democrats.

Specific Committee Information: Tel 020 7219 6394, email - www.parliament.uk/facom

Media Enquiries: Alex Paterson, Tel 020 7219 1589, 07917 488 488 email - [email protected]

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