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The temperature is rising nicely. After the storming of the British embassy in Tehran, foreign secretary William Hague declared: "These events are a grave violation of the Vienna Convention... This is a breach of international responsibilities of which any nation should be ashamed."
He added: "We have been foremost among those nations arguing for peaceful legitimate pressure to be intensified on Iran in the light of the IAEA’s 'deep and increasing concern' about the Iranian nuclear program, including its 'possible military dimensions'.”
The operative word there is "possible", not definite military dimensions. There is no concrete proof, nevertheless Britain ganged up with the US and Canada to slap new sanctions on Iran.
In Britain’s case these included an order that its financial institutions cease doing business with all Iranian banks, including the central bank and all branches and subsidiaries thereof. It was an unprecedented attempt to cut off Iran's entire banking industry from the UK financial sector. The sanctions are aimed at “preventing the Iranian regime from acquiring nuclear weapons”, said British chancellor George Osborne. But of course the impact will have a far wider effect and may amount to collective punishment to the civilian population and their economy and wellbeing.
Remember the 12 years of vicious British-American sanctions against Iraq and the devastating effect on public health and the whole social fabric, with half a million excess deaths among children… and that was before our dumb-ass leaders went in and bombed the country to hell and back, all on a foul lie.
In July Hague was gloating as he announced: "I welcome the decision taken by the EU today to put in place an unprecedented package of sanctions on Iran. This demonstrates the strength and unity of our concern about the Iranian Government’s nuclear programme. Iran’s ongoing refusal to engage constructively on this issue leaves us no option but to implement these sanctions."
The package included restrictions on the oil and gas industries in Iran, as well as new limitations on the finance, transport and trade sectors.
Whether the attack on the British embassy was a spontaneous expression of popular protest or an act of vandalism orchestrated by the authorities, it was in retaliation to these unwarranted (as Iran sees it) impositions.
What gets up many people’s nose, especially the Iranians’, is Hague’s failure to say anything about Israel’s “ongoing refusal to engage constructively” on the issue of its nuclear weapons programme.
The Iranian parliament had earlier voted overwhelmingly for a bill to downgrade Tehran’s relations with London by expelling Britain's newly-arrived ambassador. London had not maintained a full diplomatic presence and was operating at chargé d'affaires level for several months after the previous ambassador left. Now Hague has withdrawn all staff and told the Iranian chargé in London that their Embassy must close and all Iranian diplomatic staff must leave within 48 hours.
"If any country makes it impossible for us to operate on their soil they cannot expect to have a functioning Embassy here," said Hague, a silly remark considering the Israelis make it impossible for Britain to operate even on other people's soil - the Palestinians' - but are still allowed to keep their embassy in London.
"This does not amount to the severing of diplomatic relations in their entirety. It is action that reduces our relations with Iran to the lowest level consistent with the maintenance of diplomatic relations." However, the Foreign Office will now have to conduct its business with Iran through third parties – not the cleverest way to communicate with a nation you are trying to cripple for dubious reasons and which could react with devastating consequences.
Holding a Grudge
Consider the murky history between the UK and Iran. Government-controlled British Petroleum for years short-changed Iran over its share of oil profits. This exploitation finally came to a head when Dr Mossadeq's democratic government nationalised Iran’s oil industry in 1953. Britain retaliated with boycotts and sanctions to bring Iran's economy to its knees. MI6 and the CIA then teamed up, overthrew Mossadeq and reinstated the hated Shah and his nasty secret police. This led, inevitably, to the Islamic Revolution of 1979... Iran's 'Arab' Spring came early.
During the Iran-Iraq war Britain deserted Iran and supported Saddam. In 2001 Jack Straw was the first British foreign secretary to visit Tehran in 22 years. Poor judgment and lack of diplomatic diligence, plus a shameful willingness to fall into line with America (and therefore Israel) in foreign policy matters, has brought us to the present sorry situation.
Hague called the storming of the embassy in Tehran "a grave violation of the Vienna Convention... a breach of international responsibilities." In his speeches he’s very hot on international responsibilities but does he practise what he preaches?
The Geneva Conventions place on all states that signed up a responsibility - no, a solemn obligation - to seek out and either prosecute or extradite those suspected of having committed grave breaches of the Conventions and bring them, regardless of nationality, to court. "Grave breaches" means willful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, and other serious violations of the laws of war… the sort of atrocities that have been (and still are) committed wholesale by Israel in the Gaza Strip, West Bank and Jerusalem.
Even the Zionists’ 63-year record of land thieving, piracy, ethnic cleansing, indiscriminate slaughter, mass abductions and imprisonment, torture, everyday terror and utter contempt for international law and human rights, wasn’t enough to diminish the eagerness of our Foreign Office to play bitch to Tel Aviv's thugs.
He went on to insult the public’s intelligence by saying: “The UK is committed to upholding international justice and all of our international obligations. Our core principle remains that those guilty of war crimes must be brought to justice.”
Falk went further: "The idea of Nuremberg after World War Two was that crimes against the peace, crimes against humanity and war crimes are also offences against the whole of international society...” Those who sat in judgment must uphold the rule of law in relation to their own behaviour.
"Universal jurisdiction is part of the struggle against impunity for the Israeli military and the country's political leaders,” said Falk. “That impunity has been possible both because Israel itself doesn't impose accountability on those who perpetrate violations of international criminal law and because the US, and to some extent European countries, have given a geopolitical insulation to Israel in relation to its responsibilities as a sovereign state."
As everyone knows, the beauty of the private arrest warrant is that it can be issued speedily. The bringing of a private prosecution for a criminal offence is an ancient right in common law and, in the words of Lord Wilberforce, "a valuable constitutional safeguard against inertia or partiality on the part of the authority."
Lord Diplock, another respected Lord of Appeal, called it “a useful safeguard against capricious, corrupt or biased failure or refusal of those authorities to prosecute offenders against the criminal law".
But Hague and his pals are contemptuous. They’ve politicized the legal process and created a safe haven for their favourite war criminals. And Israel’s defiance of international law and the menace its nuclear weaponry pose to the region and beyond are not subjects for discussion let alone a matter for sanctions.
But Iran... that’s different. Iran is fair game. And if there’s no legitimate excuse we’ll make one up, just like we did with Iraq. Our neo-cons have the skills.
Today Hague upped the provocation still further by pushing the EU for even more sanctions against Iran. At a meeting of EU foreign ministers Hague said: "I hope we will agree today additional measures that will be an intensification of the economic pressure on Iran… peaceful legitimate economic pressure particularly to increase the isolation of the Iranian financial sector."
His German counterpart Guido Westerwelle said the aim of sanctions "is to dry up Iran's financial sources."
They are also pressing for oil sanctions and a freeze on the assets of Iran’s central bank. And the bloc's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has urged the EU's 27 states "to ratchet up sanctions”, saying it was time "to make it clear to Iran that we are very serious."
As I write, the BBC reports that Iran's shipping and air cargo companies will be banned from operating in EU territory, and new visa bans and asset freezes will target Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. A satisfied Hague when interviewed said he got everything he was asking for.
In other words Iran is being put under relentless siege with all that that implies. Millions could die because a handful of brainwashed politicians here and in the EU and US hold a childish grudge. And why Hague is leading the charge when Iran is no threat to Britain isn’t explained.
- Stuart Littlewood's book Radio Free Palestine can now be read on the internet by visiting www.radiofreepalestine.org.uk. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.
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