At Leadership Dialogue, former UK Defence Minister warns hope not enough on nuclear Iran

December 10, 2020 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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Australian, British and Israeli past and present politicians have discussed Iran and China during the annual Leadership Dialogue.

Dr Liam Fox, the UK’s former Defence Secretary has warned that “we cannot just hope for the best” to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

Addressing the annual Leadership Dialogue, he advocated a “grand bargain” with Tehran, which would deal with Iran’s use of terror and its regional, geopolitical and military ambitions.

The event, now in its twelfth year, is organized by the International Institute for Strategic Leadership Dialogue, founded by Albert Dadon. It is taking place online due to COVID-19, with speakers and panellists joining from Israel, the UK and Australia, as well as the United Arab Emirates and the United States.

Dr Fox was speaking on a panel titled “Can Biden Stop Iran to the Atom Bomb?” He was joined by former UK MP Dame Louise EllmanAustralian Senator David Fawcett, Israel’s former Deputy National Security Advisor Eran Lerman, academic Behnam Ben Taleblu and journalist Yossi Melman.

Commenting on the JCPOA Iran nuclear agreement, Dr Liam Fox said, “It was a holding exercise, it wasn’t a solution to the problem, it pushed the problem further down the road. I think that hope is not a great basis for foreign policy, and that is ultimately what the JCPOA boils down to.”

He added that if US President-Elect Joe Biden does want to stop Iran, “We need a grand bargain. We cannot just hope for the best. It needs to be a full economic and properly thought out, deliverable deal. It needs to deal with Iran’s use of terror in Europe. It needs to deal with the destabilisation of the Gulf. It needs to deal with political ambitions… and it needs to deal with ballistic missiles program. If all those elements are included… and if we put experience above hope, then maybe it will be possible to move forward.”

Dame Louise Ellman stressed that the problem was not just Iran’s nuclear ambitions but their support for regional terror proxies, noting “These are not just terror proxies, they are proxies with precision missiles.”

Senator David Fawcett noted that Biden had made clear his “unshakeable commitment to prevent Iran from attaining a nuclear weapon” but predicted “If Iran came into compliance, the US would re-enter the deal as a stepping stone to further negotiations.”

Also today, Australia’s former Prime Minister Tony Abbott joined Chair of UK’s Defence Select Committee, Tobias Ellwood MP, academic John Lee and Yossi Melman to discuss “China’s Ambition: How Far Can They Go?”

Abbott termed China an “utterly capricious” economic partner and warned “It seems to me that Xi Jinping, is determined in his period as leader, to not only bring Hong Kong fully within the Chinese system, but to take back Taiwan, if necessary by force. I think there is a whiff of the 1930s about this decade and we need to be ready for very tough times.”

Ellwood gave a similar assessment, saying “I’m afraid that Britain and indeed the West remain in denial about where China geopolitically is going… I would say we have actually slid into a Cold War.”

On a panel titled “Israel 6th Eye: The Case for Israel to Join the Intelligence Alliance”Australia’s former Defence Minister, Christopher Pyne joined Shadow Minister of Defence, Richard Marlesformer Mossad Director Shabtai Shavit and former UK parliamentarian Mike Gapes.

Pyne said that although Israel clearly shares the same values as the Five Eyes nations. He added: “Israel would need to resolve its differences with the Five Eyes around foreign and defence policy” on the likes of Russia and China.

Marles concurred, saying “Having a similar values base is a pre-condition and we have that with Israel. But it’s about whether we have shared strategic circumstances. Israel is just in a different spot to us.”

Shavit argued “I really do believe that it is a win-win situation for everyone” should Israel join the Five Eyes, in particular highlighting Israel’s cyber expertise.

Founded by businessman and philanthropist Albert Dadon, the Leadership Dialogue Institute is a private diplomatic channel fostering closer cultural ties between Australia, the UK, and Israel. Since its inception in 2009, the Leadership Dialogue Institute’s yearly roster has included: Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard, Tony Abbott, Tony Blair, Benjamin Netanyahu, Ehud Olmert, Salam Fayyad.

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