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Don’t trust the scaremongers. The US government and its allies in Israel and the Gulf States would have us all believe that Iran poses the single biggest threat to the stability of the Middle East through its expansionist drive to build a ‘Shia crescent’ of Iranian hegemony across the region. That was the thinking behind the assassination in January of General Qasem Soleimani — but nothing could be further from the truth. Iran is a proud nation whose attitudes towards the West have been shaped by decades of domination and interference, including the 1953 removal of its democratically elected leader, Mohammed Mossadegh, in a UK-US-orchestrated coup. This, as well as the bloody experience of the Iran–Iraq War when the country stood alone for eight years against Saddam Hussein, has left many Iranians with a firm mistrust of the West. Instead of our frequent sabre-rattling against Iran and treating it as an enemy, we should instead pursue a policy of engagement and diplomacy. We had a chance to show goodwill by easing sanctions when Iran was hit early by Covid-19. We missed that opportunity for reconciliation. We must seize the next chance.
That’s the view of the dovish Middle East peaceniks. But it’s a complete misunderstanding of the way Iran and its ruling mullahs think or operate. The Iranian regime is the world’s most preeminent exporter of violence. It sponsors countless terrorist groups around the world, including Hezbollah which has thousands of rockets pointed at Israel, Houthi rebels sowing chaos in Yemen and Saudi Arabia, and Shia militia in Iraq which have killed scores of British and American soldiers and have committed horrific atrocities against Sunni citizens. Iran has propped up the murderous Assad regime and allowed Syrian forces to massacre hundreds of thousands of civilians. Its fanatical theocratic leaders have promised to annihilate Israel on multiple occasions — a chilling genocidal threat — and it has restarted a nuclear programme whose clear intention is to develop nuclear weapons. The regime in Tehran is a menace to its people, its neighbours and everyone else. It must be defeated, for all our sakes.
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