By Douglas Murray, GateStone Institute
Thursday, 10 March 2016
The Iranian distribution of cash to families of terrorists is an open incitement to an ongoing campaign of murder. It should by now have not only been condemned by the whole world, but have caused a colossal rethink among the P5+1 nations that signed the ill-judged accord with Iran.
It is worth considering another recent Iranian development: the decision -- allegedly by a conglomeration of media outlets, but hardly able to be separated from the government in a country whose press is more "government" than "free" -- to increase the cash-bounty on the head of the British novelist Salman Rushdie.
The British government has been strangely mute on the matter. The "normalised" relations with Iran were meant to lead to business opportunities for Britain and an increase in decent behavior from Tehran. Instead, the first major test of Iranian-British relations in several decades turns out to be precisely the same test that the late Ayatollah Khomeini drew up in 1989.
Last year, when America, Britain and four other countries (the P5+1) signed their joint plan of action with Iran there was no shortage of people who warned of the consequences. They warned that the deal would merely delay rather than prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear-armed power. They warned of the increased grip the mullahs would have on the country they purport to govern. And in particular, those not caught up in the P5+1 jubilation warned of what Iran would do with the tens of billions of dollars' cash bonanza it would receive once the deal was done. Would Iran use this windfall solely to improve the lives of its people? Or might it spend at least a portion of this cash doing what it has been doing for nearly four decades: that is, spreading terror?
There have already been some signs that the ill-judged deal is embedding Iran's worst behaviour rather than elevating the regime to any higher behavioral level.
In recent days we have learned that Iran is already planning to use its windfall to encourage Palestinian terror against the State of Israel. Speaking at the end of last month, the Iranian Ambassador to Lebanon used a press conference with a number of Palestinian factions to announce a new bounty-scheme to be sponsored by Iran. This scheme promises to reward financially those who carry out terror against Israel. The reward includes -- according to the Iranian ambassador -- a payment of $7,000 to the families of suicide bombers and other terrorists who die in the process of attacking any Israeli. And it also includes a promised payment of $30,000 to any terrorists' families whose homes are destroyed by the Israel Defense Forces. The demolition of the home of a terrorist's family house is one of the only disincentives that Israel or any other country could think of to dissuade people intent on suicide attacks. Now the Iranian government is trying to re-incentivise anyone who might wish to commit such an attack.
Speaking in Beirut, Iran's ambassador to Lebanon, Mohammad Mathali, said, "Continuing Iran's support for the oppressed Palestinian people, Iran announces the provision of financial aid to families of Palestinian martyrs who were killed in the 'Jerusalem Intifada.'" He is apparently referring to the lone-wolf knife-attack type of terrorism that has killed and wounded dozens of Israelis in recent months. As such, the Iranian distribution of cash is an open incitement to an ongoing campaign of murder. It should by now have not only been condemned by the whole world, but have caused a colossal rethink among the P5+1 nations that signed the ill-judged accord with Iran. But of course, Israel is always put in a different league in the stakes of international terror. Target Israelis and the "justifications" fly, and explanations deceitfully fill the air of why terrorism against Israelis is not quite the same as other terrorism.
So it is worth considering another Iranian development of recent days. Which is the decision -- allegedly by a conglomeration of media outlets, but hardly able to be separated from the government in a country whose press is more "government" than "free" -- to increase the cash bounty on the head of British novelist Salman Rushdie. The announcement was that an additional $600,000 had been added to the existing cash reward for whoever kills the author of a novel, The Satanic Verses. It is a cash-incentive to murder that was first issued twenty-seven years ago by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
The additional bounty has been condemned by human rights activists and free speech defenders in the West such as Richard Dawkins and PEN.
But the British government has been strangely mute on the matter. It is strange because last summer when, against absolutely no public or political push-back in the UK, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond signed Britain up to the P5+1 agreement, there was only official rejoicing over what our signature would do. Such "normalised" relations with Iran were meant to lead to business opportunities for Britain and an increase in decent behavior from Tehran. Instead, the first major test of Iranian-British relations in several decades turns out to be precisely the same test that the late Ayatollah Khomeini drew up in 1989. Certainly there are politicians of the right and left, including those who have themselves been "incentivised" by Iran, who have predicted a new dawn in relations between the two countries. But does it really it look as though, on the matter of whether or not a British novelist can be sentenced to death by a cleric in Iran, we are going to have to pretend to agree to disagree?
Britain's silence on this matter is a shameful position for the government of any civilised country to find itself in, just as the silence on the terror being spread against Israel is a shameful position for the civilised world to find itself in. But in these twin events we can already see the Iran deal's early results. The deal has done nothing to civilise a barbarian regime. All it has done is to spread that regime's barbarism around what used to be the civilised world.
Douglas Murray, a leading British news analyst and commentator, is based in London.