It is an honour to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Nokes, and I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire (Stephen Crabb). I should declare an interest: the Conservative Friends of Israel paid for accommodation at the Conservative party conference, and it will be on the register shortly. I am also chair of the all-party parliamentary group on Kurdistan.
It is with depressing predictability that these debates on Iran’s malign activities occur. The contributions of Members have been remarkably consistent. I have long held the belief that Iran can best be described as the Soviet Union of the middle east. I first made that observation in December 2011 and almost a decade later, it rings as true today as it did then. Iran continues to oppress its citizens at home, just as it uses its notorious Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to export violence and instability abroad. Domestically, thousands of Iranians have been executed and hundreds more killed for daring to promote democracy. It is known for financing Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah, as well set out by right hon. and hon. Friends and Members.
The JCPOA nuclear deal was presented to the world as a game-changing moment, a new nuclear framework that would restrain Iran’s nuclear programme and lay the ground for a reformed Iran. Far from it: Iran has retreated within itself, terrorism has increased and the dictatorship has continued. Iran appears to be deliberately raising the stakes in a belligerent effort, not only to advance its nuclear capabilitie
The UK Government have previously likened the JCPOA to a hollow shell and recognised that it has failed to curtail Iran’s nuclear violations. The JCPOA also does not address Iran’s repression of internal minorities such as the Kurds, nor does it address the aggressive and expansionist activities of the state. The hope of western signatories is that the nuclear deal would come to discourage that bad behaviour, which has included missile attacks against Iranian Kurdish parties in the Kurdistan region, as well as support for and direction of the proxy Shia militia forces in Iraq. Under the direction of the late al-Quds leader Qasem Soleimani, that included participation in the violent seizure of Kirkuk on 16 October 2017 following the peaceful independence referendum in September. Of course, the Kurdistan Regional Government support diplomatic relations with all their neighbours, but the Iranian regime cannot be trusted by its own people or the neighbouring countries.
Does the Minister think that the return to the JCPOA framework will alter Iran’s behaviour and does he intend to tackle Iran’s egregious human rights abuses and support for terrorism, which was so mistakenly omitted from the JCPOA? The UK has a proud record of placing human rights at the centre of our foreign policy and sanctions. Why not consider introducing Magnitsky-style sanctions against Iran? I have warned before that a nuclear Iran would not just mean a nuclear Iran; it means a nuclear Hezbollah, a nuclear Hamas and so forth. It sickens me to the stomach that we now stand on the edge of that becoming a reality.