Sadeq Saba, the head of the BBC’s Persian Service, told an audience in parliament on Monday that foreign intervention “in any shape or form” will harm Iran’s democratic movement. Speaking as part of an expert panel at a meeting entitled Iran: Which Way Forward?, he argued that Iran’s future will be determined by “the people, the struggle for democracy and also the economy.” With unprecedented levels of disunity within the regime, Saba believes that the tipping point will come when “poor sections of the society come to the street and demonstrate, and I think Iran is heading towards this situation.”
The meeting, convened by the Westminster committee on Iran, explored the current crisis over Iran’s nuclear programme, bringing together parliamentarians, security analysts and middle east experts to explore ways to resolve the standoff and to assess both the dangers of military intervention and the risks associated with not taking action.
In his analysis Paul Ingram, executive director of the British American security information council, said that there were a number of uncertainties but that even under “ideal conditions”, Iran was several years away from having the capability to deploy nuclear weapons. “At current rates it would take Iran around four years to produce enough 20 per cent-encriched U235 uranium,” he explained, “that would then require further enrichment for a nuclear weapon.”
Saba suggested that “both sides are exaggerating Iran’s nuclear capacity for their own motives” and pointed out that since the election there has been a significant shift in ordinary Iranians’ attitude to the nuclear programme. “For a lot of Iranians the main priority has become the democratic issue rather than the nuclear issue.”
“The idea of military intervention against Iran makes my blood run cold,” added Lord Phillips, who has been visiting Iran since 1961. “It would strengthen all the wrong elements in Iranian society.” Ben Zala, a security analyst, added that military action “would not involve surgical strikes, but would be the start of an ongoing war”. The repercussions of such a war would be far-reaching, with Iran withdrawing from the non-proliferation treaty, redoubling its efforts to acquire nuclear weapons and engaging in long-term acts of retaliation.
On the subject of air strikes, Alan Mendoza, executive chair of the neo-conservative…