When it comes to issues such as the importance of family and marriage in society, Christians can find that they have more in common with people of other faiths than they do with people of no faith. So, although you may not find me agreeing with Muslims on any points of theology, the Conservative Muslim Forum may well be right in their response to the Globalisation and Global Poverty Policy Group's report An Unquiet World:
"Regardless of the foreign policies of the United States, hostility to Iran is not in Britain's national interest. A constructive engagement with Iran offers many possibilities for progress... Instead of joining the United States in demonising Iran, Britain should assist Iran in addressing these legitimate security concerns in a manner that improves our security rather than weakening it."In the current issue of The Difference, Christopher Catherwood argues that neither a military strike nor economic sanctions would be likely to provide a solution to the threat posed by Iran:
"To attack Iran would be to unite all Iranians against us, even those who might otherwise be deemed progressive. An attack on Iran would also, the experts claim, be logistically almost impossible to win, as the relevant nuclear material can be hidden in thousands of underground places all over the country, even if the two major installations could successfully be taken out in a large-scale strike.So, what options are left? Well, as the GGPPG intimated in An Unquiet World, there is the possibility of applying diplomatic pressure through India which, despite having voted twice against Tehran at the IAEA, maintains a strategic relationship with Iran and "is extending ties to other countries in the region with an equal interest in restraining Iran, including Saudi Arabia. The Saudi kingdom is India’s largest provider of oil and is home to an estimated 1.5 million Indian nationals. As important, it is one of the few Islamic theocracies viewed favourably by the West, which has worked for a demilitarised Kashmir and has supported India’s observership in the Organisation of the Islamic Conference."
But if we cannot attack Iran, and the hardliners and even moderates seem to want a nuclear capability, what can the West do? Russia refuses to get involved, as it considers anybody who damages the US or its interests as its friend, however dangerous they might be. Not only that but if Iran’s neighbours, including a majority Shia Iraq, refused to operate sanctions, then no matter how harsh the financial measures the rest of the world might want to impose, they would be unlikely to provide a solution."
As this blog argued earlier in the year, there is also an opportunity for America to undermine the mullahs' theocratic regime and promote democratic reform by lifting economic sanctions. So, to answer the question about whether or not to engage with Iran, I am inclined to agree with the CMF that while we should continue to oppose Iran’s nuclear weapon ambitions, our approach "should be one of negotiation and mutual dialogues, not threats" and "our primary goal should be assisting in the strengthening of Iranian state institutions to avoid any risk of the transfer of nuclear technology to non state actors."