IssueJuly - August 2009
Feature by Milan Rai , Emily Johns

After the turmoil of the post-election protests and repression in Iran, we believe that the most important thing that outsiders can do to help the people of Iran is to push for a new relationship between the west and the Islamic republic. Massive protests flared up after the 12 June Iranian presidential election because of the strong indications of fraud.

While it is possible that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won the election, millions of Iranians do not believe he won 63% of the votes, including over 50% of votes in cities such as Tabriz, capital of Azerbaijan (Ahmadinejad’s main challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi is an Azeri). At the time of going to press, it is impossible to predict the outcome of the Iranian political crisis.

Whatever happens, and whoever becomes president of Iran (subordinate to the “supreme leader” Ali Khamenei, who controls foreign and nuclear policy), western countries must change their policies towards Iran.

Iran has made a serious offer that the British government must take up and champion: to allow uranium enrichment on Iranian soil, but within a facility owned and operated by a consortium of international companies.

First offered by Ahmadinejad in September 2005, this proposal was last publicly made in a letter to the UN secretary-general Ban Ki Moon on 13 May 2008. The proposal has been backed by John Thomson, former permanent resident for Britain at the UN, and former senior US diplomats.

John Thomson observes: “IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] safeguards accompanying an international consortium, together with the daily operational involvement of international managers and technicians, is as effective a deterrent to secret enriching and bomb-making as can be devised.” Both sides of the crisis in Iran agree on Iran’s right to enrich uranium. Resolving the nuclear confrontation and lifting sanctions is the most useful thing we can do to help the grassroots movement.