2.34 pm Thursday January 30th
Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
My Lords, it is possible that the shocking and tragic downing of Ukrainian passenger jet PS752, with the loss of 176 lives, followed by a farrago of lies, denials and distortions will be Iran’s Chernobyl moment—a moment when another fundamentally flawed regime is exposed for what it is.
The conflation of lies, denials and distortions, accompanied by bulldozers trying to plough up the evidence, was a vivid demonstration of the nature of a cruel and barbaric regime, unworthy of a great people and a great country.
As widespread demonstrations have shown, this is Iran’s greatest existential crisis since 1979; it is a regime forced to kill hundreds of protestors and to terrorise thousands of others who show its true face.
Khamenei and Soleimani are two sides of the same coin.
However, there are harbingers of change.
Kimia Alizadeh, Iran’s only female Olympic medallist, has defected, while the country’s most popular actress told her 6 million followers on Instagram: “We are not citizens … We are hostages”. The sooner that the hostages—the people of Iran—are all freed, the better it will be for Iran and the rest of the world.
Last month I was in northern Iraq and Kurdistan, where I saw the Kurdish Regional Government attempting to build a pluralist and democratic society.
That is endangered by a pincer movement of rekindled sleeping ISIS cells and by proxy Shabak militias funded by Iran.
All over the region, Iran has destabilised countries, peddling a violent hateful ideology.
Think of the consequences in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq. Since its foundation in 1979 the Iranian regime has been based on two pillars: domestic oppression and the export of terrorism and chaos abroad.
Since 2018, Iranian-backed groups of militants have fired over 30 rockets at US facilities in Iraq, including the US embassy in Baghdad, the consulate in Basra and military training facilities in Taji, Mosul, and Nineveh. Congress and the White House have repeatedly warned that this will not be tolerated for ever.
According to the Times, Iran attempted to build, or has built, a dozen underground missile silos in Syria and was doing the same in Iraq. In Lebanon it has over 100,000 missiles.
As the noble Lord, Lord Turnberg, warned us in his excellent opening remarks, this remains Israel’s greatest threat.
For 40 years Iran has supported acts of terror and been responsible for egregious violations of human rights, and we can be certain that it will not balk at carrying out more.
I have two questions for the Minister.
A report in the Daily Telegraph recently revealed that Soleimani’s Quds force and Afghan mercenaries are secretly directing military operations in the north-west city of Idlib in Syria, despite a promise during peace talks not to attack that city.
Could he give us his response to that, and to our repeated calls to proscribe the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps?