OpinionIran in the World PressIran's nuclear lure waning?

Iran’s nuclear lure waning?

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ImageWashington Times – By Lord Fraser: Even as the U.N. Security Council was implementing its third round of sanctions against Iran over its nuclear weapons activities, the council's five veto-wielding permanent members — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — and Germany met in London Friday to expand a 2006 offer of economic incentives to Iran in return for a freeze on uranium enrichment.

The Washington Times

By Peter Fraser

ImageEven as the U.N. Security Council was implementing its third round of sanctions against Iran over its nuclear weapons activities, the council's five veto-wielding permanent members — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — and Germany met in London Friday to expand a 2006 offer of economic incentives to Iran in return for a freeze on uranium enrichment.

This is a clear indication that the international community's carrot-and-stick policy is still in full flow.

In coming weeks, however, the largest carrot dangled by the European Union and the United Kingdom in years of this policy may well be ripped from their grasp by the British and European Courts. The listing of Iran's largest democratic opposition group, the People's Mujahideen Organization of Iran (PMOI), as terrorist was the most significant incentive ever granted to Tehran.

However, legal proceedings at the European Court of Justice and an upcoming judgment by the British Court of Appeal could see this terror tag lifted in a matter of weeks.

The case of the PMOI has been one which best describes the old adage "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter." However, the PMOI is evidently the freedom fighter of many and the terrorist of very few. Unfortunately, those very few include current U.K. Justice Secretary Jack Straw who first banned the PMOI in 2001 when he was home secretary. He later admitted in a BBC Radio 4 interview that he did so due to a demand from Tehran. The EU followed suit under pressure from the U.K. soon after.

The argument about this opposition group has taken a significant turn. Back in 2001 when the group was first listed, it had conducted a number of attacks against the Iranian regime's military structure. Many argued it was the inalienable right of a people to resort to armed struggle against a regime that was suppressing them in such a brutal manner and had executed more than 120,000 of its opponents. Such an argument may well have significant weight, but British law does not see it this way. The rights and wrongs of such an approach are evidently a point of discussion.

However, the PMOI's tactics and its behavior have dramatically changed since 2001. The group has conducted no acts of violence since then, while its voluntary disarmament and neutrality in the recent Gulf war acted as further significant evidence that this opposition group could no longer legally be labeled as an organization "concerned in terrorism."

This was the finding of the U.K.'s Proscribed Organizations Appeal Commission (POAC), set up specifically to hear such matters. It was before the POAC that the U.K. government laid its case regarding the PMOI on the table in open as well as closed hearings in which all classified material was scrutinized in depth.

The POAC found in November that the continued terror listing of the PMOI was "perverse," "flawed" and "must be set aside." On the back of a favorable decision by the European Court of Justice in December 2006, the PMOI now has two legal victories behind it.

However, the legal proceedings are now at the business end of an appeals process. If the PMOI succeeds at the British Court of Appeal, it will not only be an end to the U.K. terror listing of the PMOI, but in all probability the end of the EU terror tag also.

There are evidently arguments both ways as to whether any EU incentives will ever convince Iran to change the path it is currently following. Whatever the beliefs of the merits of such a policy, one thing must not be lost within such political arguments: The PMOI has taken its case through all legal means open to it and it has succeeded.

Maintaining a terror tag on the PMOI would not only be unjustifiable and illegal but would send all the wrong signals to the Iranian people as they struggle to bring about democratic change in their nation.

Political arguments on this issue have a place of their own and the merits of supporting the PMOI will be discussed long and hard. However, this cannot overlap into our legal system where the rule of law must prevail.

The Rt. Hon. Lord Peter Fraser of Carmyllie, Queen's Counsel, is a former Scottish solicitor general and lord advocate. He has appeared for the United Kingdom in both the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg and the Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

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