Western wariness about Iran’s agressive behaviour is warranted
There is much to recommend in French President Emmanuel Macron's sober assessment of the risks of destabilisation posed by Iran to the Middle East.
Iran, he said, needed to be put “under surveillance over its ballistic missiles. It’s indispensable for the security of the region and so we need a mechanism of sanctions and control adapted to that.”
His recommendations are timely. Tensions are mounting in the Middle East, in Syria in particular. Iran’s role is not helping when there are too many foreign powers in Syria pursuing conflicting agendas. Some are suddenly shooting at each other.
In recent days, UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura reiterated his organisation’s appeal to all belligerents and other concerned countries “to de-escalate immediately and unconditionally.”
Iran arms and supports proxy militias from all over the world and they fight to widen Tehran’s influence. It’s also busy establishing an enduring military presence in Syria. The search for a lasting peaceful settlement there is not among Iran’s priorities.
This is the context in which the French president’s proposal bears examination. It includes a clear plan for international involvement in limiting the threat of Iran’s ballistic missiles. For this, Macron suggests “a new cycle of negotiations with regional parties and the permanent members of the Security Council.”
This is right and proper. Iran’s ballistic missile tests have consistently triggered alarms because of the aggressive cast of the country’s foreign policy. The Iranians argue the topic is off-limits because ballistic missiles are not covered by the 2015 nuclear deal. This would be a credible argument if Iran had not used the deal’s economic dividends to finance its expansionist agenda, one that threatens regional and international stability.
It’s worth noting that Macron is not the only one sounding the alarm. British Prime Minister Theresa May said her country shared the United States’ concerns about “Iran’s destabilising activity in the Middle East and we stand ready to take further appropriate measures to tackle these issues.”
Her remarks came after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned that “Iran’s presence in Syria is only destabilising to the region.” He pointed out the dangerous role played by Iran’s Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah, and how its “entanglement in regional conflicts” threatens Lebanon’s and regional security.
Greater international resolve is building against Tehran’s behaviour. Iran should pay heed.