PM seeks new coalition to tackle ‘pariah state’ as UN and EU fail to deter Tehran’s nuclear ambition
Britain is drawing up plans to join forces with the US and France to impose tough new sanctions on Iran amid fears that more formal UN and EU measures are failing to deter Tehran from developing nuclear weapons.
David Cameron, who depicted Iran as an “international pariah state”, has instructed officials to create a “coalition of like-minded allies” to target sanctions on Iranian finances.
Under the prime minister’s plan, Britain, the US and France would impose co-ordinated unilateral sanctions on Iran outside the EU and UN framework.
Cameron showed his impatience with Iran after a meeting in Doha with his Qatari counterpart, Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al Thani. It is understood that during his Gulf tour the prime minister has heard concerns about Iran which echo the claims in the recent WikiLeaks cables that Saudi Arabia is adamant that Tehran must be dealt with, possibly through military means.
Cameron said: “Iran remains a grave concern because of its intent to acquire nuclear weapons. They are already suffering from international sanctions, their economy is weak and vulnerable and the regime only survives by cracking down on its political opposition.
“On its current path Iran is set to become an international pariah state with no friends, no money, nowhere to go. Britain and its international partners remain ready to negotiate but we are not going to be taken for a ride. So we will continue to find ways to increase the pressure.
“We will work vigorously to ensure international sanctions are implemented. I have asked my officials to consider what more can be done in this important area.”
The prime minister decided that more action needed to be taken after Iran tabled “ridiculous pre-conditions” at a recent meeting of the “E3 Plus 3” group in Istanbul. This is the group, consisting of Britain, France, Germany plus the US, China and Russia, which has been negotiating with Tehran over its nuclear plans.
A British official said: “Iran tabled ridiculous pre-conditions at the talks in Istanbul which then collapsed. We need a tougher approach. We are looking for a coalition of like-minded allies to put in place co-ordinated unilateral action.”
Officials insist the initiative is not a criticism of the EU or the UN, though there is irritation with Russia and Italy which often slow sanctions in the UN and EU respectively. Britain says that the EU sanctions imposed in the autumn on Iran’s oil and gas industries were good. But Britain does believe the process is slow because the EU usually acts after the UN. “It takes time when you go down the UN and EU route,” the official said.
Cameron’s remarks in Doha were carefully scripted. He described Iran as a “pariah state” because he wants to make clear that it is isolated across the world and in the Middle East.
The prime minister has deliberately avoided condemning Iran in strong language because he believes Tehran sets out to attract attention with stunts.
This explains why Cameron has used diplomatic language in response to Iran’s decision to seek – and to win – permission from the new Egyptian authorities to sail two warships up the Suez Canal. Hosni Mubarak, the ousted Egyptian president, never granted such permission to Tehran.
Speaking earlier during his visit to the Middle East, the prime minister outlined this approach when he said: “In terms of the Iranian vessels, we should not try to draw attention to or big up what Iran wants us to overreact to and pay lots of attention to. We should spend a bit more time pointing out the many and varied weaknesses there are in the Iranian political system rather than playing up to their slightly transparent attempts to draw the world’s attention to what is happening in the Suez Canal.”