On Friday 18 May 2012, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) sent a letter to the Prime Minister, David Cameron, setting out their concerns at recent rhetoric emanating from Israel and the USA about the possibility of pre-emptive military action being taken against Iran. In anticipation of talks with Iranian officials due to take place in Baghdad from 23 May, the letter warns the UK against engaging in, or supporting, illegal military action.
CND, who seek to bring an end to nuclear proliferation and encourage peaceful resolution of international conflict, are concerned by the parallels between the build-up to the Iraq war and the aggressive posturing against Iran now being adopted by many Western powers. CND campaigned tirelessly against the war in Iraq and challenged the legality of the UK’s use of force in reliance on UN Security Council Resolution 1441.
CND have noted with alarm the insistence by many political and legal commentators that pre-emptive military action may be necessary to deal with the alleged threat posed by Iran’s efforts to acquire a nuclear weapons capability. CND seek to remind the Prime Minister that no concrete evidence has been provided to substantiate Western concerns and that military intervention on the basis of such an ill-defined threat would be illegal. The letter draws a comparison with the UK and USA’s pursuit of the illegal war in Iraq based upon the, ultimately illusory, threat allegedly posed by Saddam Hussein’s stockpiling of Weapons of Mass Destruction.
The letter, drafted by Public Interest Lawyers on CND’s instruction, sets out the very limited circumstances prescribed by international law where pre-emptive military action can ever be justified. In short, such military action must always be used as a last resort; must be sanctioned by the UN Security Council; must be multilateral in nature and must be in response to a clearly defined, instant and overwhelming threat. CND suggest that none of these criteria can be said to exist in the current Iranian context.
It is hoped the letter will be a timely reminder to the UK of international legal obligations that should be plain and obvious to the Government in any case. With the P5+1 group of countries due to meet with Iranian officials in Baghdad from 23 May 2012 to discuss the conflict, CND urge peaceful resolution of the current dispute.
Kate Hudson, Chair of The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, stated:
The consequences of a military attack on Iran would be disastrous not only for that country but for the region as a whole. The lessons of both Iraq and Afghanistan show that there cannot be a military solution to complex regional problems – death and destruction is not the answer. Genuine dialogue and diplomacy on the basis of equality and respect is the only way forward.
Phil Shiner of Public Interest Lawyers stated:
The international community requires the peaceful resolution of conflicts by all states at all times. It is accepted by all relevant legal commentators that the invasion of Iraq was unlawful. For the same reasons, the use of force against Iran would be unlawful in present circumstances. The UK must have nothing to do with such illegal aggressive posturing.