In an interview with Muslim Press, Stuart Littlewood said, “Given that all the major parties in the UK are aligned with Israel, relations with Iran are always going to be fraught... until the Israel lobby is somehow broken.”
Read the full text of the interview:
Muslim Press: British Prime Minister Theresa May has said that the UK would work with Arab [Persian] Gulf States to counteract Iran's "aggressive regional actions". What would that tell us about the future of relations between Iran and the UK?
Stuart Littlewood: Theresa May accuses Iran of working with Hezbollah, interfering in Iraq, sending fighters to Syria to help Assad, and supporting the Houthis in the conflict in Yemen. Of course, Britain expects to meddle in the Middle East anytime it wants. And the British government recently concluded another huge arms deal with the Saudis which, according to Mrs May, is for the sake of long-term security in the Gulf. She argues that the same extremists who plot terror in the Gulf states are also targeting the streets of Europe: "Gulf security is our security."
Back home public pressure to end arms sales to Saudi Arabia is so great that the government has adopted a new export licensing scheme that hides the value and scale of weaponry being supplied.
But none of this is the main reason for hostility towards Iran. David Cameron told the Knesset in 2014: "A nuclear armed Iran is a threat to the whole world not just Israel. And with Israel and all our allies, Britain will ensure that it is never allowed to happen." That position carries forward into the present day and beyond.
Given that all the major parties in the UK are aligned with Israel, relations with Iran are always going to be fraught... until the Israel lobby is somehow broken. Growing numbers of activists are working on that, but it will take a long time. I'm sorry to say that the Arab states, the Palestinians themselves and even Iran are not much help. Israeli influence in the corridors of power is still increasing.
MP: What are the motivations behind such anti-Iran rhetoric?
Stuart Littlewood: Obedience to Israel and the neocon plotters in the US. The British political class, along with the Americans, have pledged to maintain Israel as the dominant power in the Middle East and they are happy to inflict regime change on any state that gets in the way. Hamas, Hezbollah, Assad and Iran are all demonised by the political Establishment and the media. We in the UK are told, by our own politicians, that Israel's enemies are our enemies, therefore Iran is our enemy.
We are fed a steady drip-drip of pro-Israel propaganda. New laws are being introduced to stifle questions about Israel's legitimacy and silence criticism of its criminal policies. We have entered an era of censorship and harassment as the gulf between government and public widens.
Theresa May recently told 800 guests at a Friends of Israel lunch that the British government will be marking the centenary of the infamous Balfour Declaration next year "with pride". She said a number of other silly things too. For example, Britain stands "very firmly" for a two-state solution and the two sides must "sit down together, without preconditions, and work towards that lasting solution". She must know by now it's nothing but a ploy to give Israel all the time it needs to establish enough irreversible 'facts on the ground' to guarantee permanent annexation. But like all leaders before her, she goes along with it and is careful not to mention international law or sanctions. There don't seem to comprehend the consequences for the Middle East - and indeed the rest of the world - if the Jewish state is allowed to achieve its ambition to expand Israel's borders to the Nile and the Euphrates.
She praises Israel for being "a thriving democracy, a beacon of tolerance", and says that "it is only when you walk through Jerusalem or Tel Aviv that you see a country where people of all religions and sexualities are free and equal in the eyes of the law. Israel guarantees the rights of people of all religions, races and sexualities, and it wants to enable everyone to flourish."
And here's another gem. She believes our two countries "have common values". That's straight out of Tel Aviv's hasbara instruction manual.
I'm surprised the Foreign Office allows her to spout such nonsense knowing that it will be reported round the world. It would be no surprise to hear that the speech was written by Israel's chief spin-doctor, Mark Regev, who is now installed as ambassador in London. Expect more of the same.
And she foolishly attacked the successful BDS campaign - that's boycott, divestment and sanctions - calling it wrong and unacceptable and warning that her government would "have no truck with those who subscribe to it". 200 legal scholars and practising lawyers from 15 European countries promptly slapped her down in a statement that BDS is a lawful exercise of freedom of expression and outlawing it undermines a basic human right. One expert pointed out that advocating for BDS is part of the fundamental freedoms protected by the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights. Another said BDS is civil society's response to the international community's irresponsible failure to act. Repressing it amounts to support for Israel's violations of international law and a failure to honour the solemn pledge by states to ‘strictly respect the aims and principles of the Charter of the United Nations’.
According to Wiki, Theresa May is the daughter of an Anglican priest and a regular churchgoer. I wonder what the Good Lord, looking down on the endless misery in Gaza and the obscene 8-metre wall with gun towers imprisoning Bethlehem, thinks of her performance this Christmas.
Muslim countries need to understand that some 80 percent of Conservative MPs and MEPs in the UK are signed-up Friends of Israel. Membership is said to be a necessary stepping-stone to higher office. Theresa May boasted in her speech that the CFoI has already taken 34 of the 74 new Conservative MPs elected in 2015 to Israel, so that's another batch on the escalator to becoming Israel flag wavers in our Parliament.
One way forward is for the Iranian Government to prime its potential friends and allies in the West by organising 'fact-finding' trips for writers, journalists, businesspeople and politicians in the same way the Israelis do. They have been alarmingly successful.
MP: How would you evaluate Iran’s influence in the Middle East?
Stuart Littlewood: Well, as I haven't had the pleasure of visiting Iran and know little about her real strengths I can't comment. But considering her defiance of the Western powers and close links to Russia I imagine her influence in the region is enormous.
I was interested to hear the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, say again that Palestine is the number one issue in the Muslim world and the matter of Jerusalem will only be resolved by armed resistance. Sadly he's right, unless the Israel lobby in the West is neutralised. It should also be a priority in the Christian world because many of the West's problems would then vanish. But getting the Arab states and factions to adapt and pull together is a big challenge. The Palestinians, whether in diaspora or the occupied territories, never seem able to get their act together. Hamas, after 10 years in power still hasn't taken necessary steps to change its image, re-write its charter, open channels of communication and build bridges into the West. Consequently the Palestinians are no further forward. As for Abbas's regime, it's backward, it's treacherous, it's a disgrace, and that's obvious from the pathetic performance of its 'embassies', especially the one in London.
From my distant viewpoint in the UK I see Iran as the leader of the Islamic world but she has a steep hill to climb. In the meantime it's important for Christians (in spite of their misguided governments) and their Muslim brothers and sisters to keep faith as best they can inside and outside the Holy Land.
MP: What would you say is the main reason behind such animosities between Iran and certain Western countries?
Stuart Littlewood: I think it goes back to the events of 1953 and the way the Anglo Iranian Oil Company, in which the British government had a controlling interest, had been swindling the Iranian government and mistreating its Iranian workers. I imagine it's one of the most painful chapters in Iran's modern history.
The story is largely forgotten in the West so it's worth reminding ourselves what happened. Very briefly, in 1901 Persia granted William Knox D’Arcy a 60-year oil concession covering half-a-million square miles. When D’Arcy struck oil in 1908 the Anglo-Persian Oil Company was formed. It became a vital asset to Britain in World War One and from it sprang Anglo-Iranian Oil and subsequently the mighty BP. But through greed and diplomatic double-cross the British raked in more profit from Iran's oil than the Iranians themselves.
The terms continued to be disadvantageous to Iran and finally, in 1951, the Iranian Majlis and Senate voted to nationalise Anglo-Iranian Oil. The Arab-American Oil Company (Aramco) meanwhile was sharing profits 50/50 with the Saudis. Britain had been paying Iran only 16%, I think, and treating Iranian oil workers abominably. The company reneged on agreements to train Iranian technicians and engineers, paid its Iranian workers considerably less than foreign workers and forced them to live in a shanty town with no running water or electricity. There was no holiday pay or sick pay. Promises to build schools, hospitals, roads and a telephone system were not kept. It was exploitation of the worst kind. Yet the Aberdan refinery was the largest in the world at that time.
Dr Mohammad Mossadeq, the newly elected prime minister, carried out his government's wish. “The Iranian state prefers to take over the production of petroleum itself," he said. "The company should do nothing else but return its property to the rightful owners. The nationalisation law provides that 25% of the net profits on oil be set aside to meet all the legitimate claims of the company for compensation."
The British government responded by organising an international boycott and imposing crippling sanctions. When Eisenhower was voted into the White House in 1953 America joined in the bullying. Mossadeq was removed in a coup by MI5 and the CIA, imprisoned for 3 years then put under house arrest until his death, and the Shah was reinstated.
The British-American conspiracy backfired spectacularly 25 years later with the Islamic Revolution of 1978-9, the humiliating 444-day hostage crisis in the American embassy and the tragically botched rescue mission. All three sides have never forgotten.
Ayatollah Khamenei was saying only recently that 'Great Satan' America and 'evil' Britain cannot be trusted, and not without reason when you look into the murky past.
However, it would be wrong to equate the actions of the British government with the views of the British people. They are far apart, as demonstrated very recently by the referendum vote to leave the EU. The political Establishment were stunned by the result. Many still can't accept it and are desperately working to overturn the people's decision.
In the meantime, you can be sure that while the British government blunders around the world making enemies most British people wish to make friends.
Stuart Littlewood worked on jet fighters in the RAF then pursued an industrial marketing career in petroleum, manufacturing and electronics, finally becoming a consultant in innovation research and new product development. He has served as a county councillor and police authority member and produced two photo-documentary books including 'Radio Free Palestine' - see www.radiofreepalestine.org.uk . Now retired he has contributed hundreds of articles to internet news and opinion magazines about the Palestinians' struggle for freedom and the Zionist threat to the West.