OpinionIran in the World PressIran mischief-making is a threat to our troops

Iran mischief-making is a threat to our troops

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The Scotsman – Leaders: Alex Salmond has lost no opportunity to promote Scotland and Scottish values round the world. The Scotsman

Leaders

ALEX Salmond has lost no opportunity to promote Scotland and Scottish values round the world.

Indeed, the First Minister’s chutzpah in this area is one of the reasons why he has enjoyed a long political honeymoon. And for its part, the Scottish National Party has made no secret of its ambitions for Scotland to have a foreign and defence policy separate from that of the UK. Mr Salmond as party leader and as an SNP MP has made clear his strong opposition to the Iraq war and his wish for a Middle East policy
stance distinct from and separate to that of the Westminster and US governments.

Now Iranian diplomats have responded by praising Mr Salmond and the SNP administration for their anti-war stance and suggesting that they have more in common with the Iran regime than the UK government. Rasoul Movahedian, the ambassador of the Islamic republic, in a visit to the Scottish Parliament yesterday, told The Scotsman that Scotland and Iran shared “similar views” on many issues such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and nuclear non- proliferation.

Oh, really? However this is taken in Bute House, this is mischief-making on Iran’s part, and pandering to it would put Scottish soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan in a most difficult position. Iran has an obvious interest in driving a wedge, not only between Washington and London, but between the administrations in Edinburgh and Westminster, hoping by so doing to undermine the UK’s critical stance on Iran and its commitment to the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The administration in Edinburgh does not, of course, have a competence in foreign policy matters. These are reserved to the UK parliament and will remain so until voters in Scotland indicate decisively otherwise in a constitutional referendum. Until that is held, forays into global defence and security policy should be avoided, unless legitimately raised by SNP MPs in Westminster. The status quo does not prevent anti- war views from being aired in the Commons, so the present settlement is in no way a gag.

Such subtleties are unlikely to deter the Iranians, who will look at any and every opportunity to weaken the stance taken by the UK government and to open up divisions which could be capable of misrepresentation. It would not be right, for example, for Iran to gain the impression that the administration in Scotland favours the development of Iranian nuclear capability, given the SNP’s staunch opposition to nuclear weapons at home.

Scottish soldiers, as part of a wider deployment of UK troops, deserve particular attention in this context. It would be quite wrong to compromise the missions they are undertaking on our behalf. Debate can legitimately focus on how that mission is best accomplished. But allowing Iran to gain the impression that Scotland can be used for its own purposes should be strongly discouraged.

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