A deal for the good of the world, but in Vienna rather than Brussels

As an occasional lecturer on the abstruse topic of the efficacy of sanctions in conflict resolution, I find myself much more excited about the emergence in Vienna of a settlement of the Iranian nuclear stand-off than I am about a third Greek bailout — which left-wingers of the Syriza party regard as a vindictive form of sanctions regime designed to humiliate the government in Athens and remove its fiscal autonomy. The only thing that’s clear about the Greek crisis is that it’s not over: impossible to see how it could be ‘over’ without the debt relief Prime Minister Tspiras asked for but the Germans adamantly refused. Even if the €68

Gambling on Iran

Iran is, beyond doubt, a sponsor of terrorism and this week it has been made much stronger. It has (again) agreed not to make a nuclear bomb and in return trade sanctions are being dropped — so money will start to flow in once more. We can be sure that the cash will soon find its way to Hezbollah in Syria, and to what remains of Bashar al-Assad’s regime. A stronger Iran means a longer and bloodier Syrian civil war, a more vulnerable Israel and a further injection of money and arms into the world’s deadliest war zones. None of this is in doubt. The question is whether, after this

An historic day for Iran and a horrifying one for Israel

When the Shah of Iran gave the order to create the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran (AEOI) in 1974 it is unlikely that he had any idea of just how controversial his move would ultimately prove. The AEOI brought order to what had hitherto been a disorganised programme and set the country on the path to an eventual clash with the world’s leading western powers. That clash began in 2002, when at a public press conference in Washington DC, an Iranian opposition group, the Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MKO) exposed details of undeclared Iranian nuclear activities, which had progressed much further than anyone had suspected. At least, almost anyone. While it was the

Remember when Britain could build stuff?

Heathrow. The whole British story is there. Reading up around that debacle last week, I came across the eye-watering — and I think true — claim that, over the course of the second world war, Britain built 444 airfields. Four hundred and forty four. Although not all in the United Kingdom, probably. Some will have been in far-off lands, where Johnny Foreigner could be bought off in exchange for a pretty goat, or just shouted at, at gunpoint, until he went away. Hundreds, though, will have been here, on British soil — where it has now taken us over half an actual century to not quite build a new runway

Military inspections must be a non-negotiable part of Iran’s nuclear deal

It is probably safe to say that the negotiations with Iran aren’t going very well. As the 30 June deadline for a final agreement looms America’s top negotiator Wendy Sherman has just announced that she will resign shortly after, telling the New York Times that it has been ‘two long years’ in that position. Meanwhile the Iranians are now saying that they want the deadline for reaching an agreement extended, with the Obama administration insisting that’s not an option. To make matters worse unconfirmed reports have recently emerged claiming that a delegation of North Korean nuclear weapons experts have been paying regular visits to Iranian military facilities. These being the same

The Iran deal heralds a new era for US policy across the Middle East

What is it about a nuclear deal with Iran that induces hysteria in certain quarters of the West?  In recent weeks, editors at both the New York Times and the Washington Post have seen fit to run op-eds calling for preemptively bombing Iran, apparently under the impression that preventive war has not yet received a fair shake.  Sure, Iraq didn’t work out, but why quit now?  By ensuring that the American people and their leaders do not overlook the possibility of giving war one more chance in Iran, these newspapers are presumably performing a public service.    In the Times, John Bolton, Dr. Strangelove with an unkempt moustache, describes a situation on ‘the brink of

How Italy failed the stress test (and Emilio Botín didn’t)

Continuing last week’s theme, it was the Italian banks — with nine fails, four still requiring capital injections — that bagged the booby prize in the great EU stress-testing exercise, followed predictably by Greece and Cyprus, while Germany and Austria (with one fail each) fared better than some of us had feared. The most delinquent European bank turned out to be the most ancient, Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena, which was judged to have a capital shortfall of €2.1 billion as a result of a very modern set of problems. Founded in 1472 as a kind of charitable pawnbroker, the bank which eventually became Italy’s third largest had a

Spectator letters: EDF answers Peter Atherton, Christopher Booker on wildlife

Nuclear reaction Sir: Peter Atherton questions whether a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point is a fair deal for the UK (‘Nuclear fallout’, 22 February). However, his conclusion is based on some unvalidated assumptions. In May 2012, he wrote that EDF would need £166 for each megawatt hour of electricity produced to get a ‘realistic return’. Now he says that an agreed price of £92.50 offers rewards which are ‘eyewateringly attractive’. Neither claim is justified. It is a balanced deal which will unlock £16 billion of investment at the lowest possible cost for consumers. He claims returns to investors of up to 35 per cent. As reported last October,

Why has Britain signed up for the world’s most expensive power station?

‘As part of our plan to help Britain succeed, after months of negotiation, today we have a deal for the first nuclear power station in a generation to be built in Britain.’ That was David Cameron in October, announcing that his government had reached an agreement with the French power giant EDF over the construction of two reactors at Hinkley Point in Somerset. The Prime Minister must have a funny idea of success, because the more we learn about the Hinkley deal, the more we can see that it is one of the worst ever signed by a British government. Even the European Union can smell a rat. Last month,

Vive la France! Everyone else, led by Obama, is capitulating to Iran

President Obama’s flagship foreign policy of ‘leading from behind’ has had some surprising consequences. Not least among them is that France now appears to be leading the free world. During the current set of negotiations in Geneva between Iran and the P5+1 countries, America, Russia, Britain, China and Germany seem eager to declare a breakthrough. Iran is seeking an alleviation of the tough international sanctions against it and the right to continue what it calls its ‘peaceful’ nuclear programme. The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has warned of Iran benefiting from ‘the deal of the century’. Last weekend it took the government of François Hollande to call time on this.

As an Anglican ex-bishop, I can tell you: Iran’s new president could be our best hope for peace

The installation of Hassan Rouhani as President of Iran next month heralds a new chapter for the country. It is clear that he was elected not only because it was felt — both at the highest levels and by the people — that he was best placed to negotiate with the West on Iran’s nuclear programme but also because he was the candidate most likely to appeal to reform-hungry Iranians. Rouhani is a protégé of the former president Muhammed Khatami, with whom I have had the chance to work. When he was President, I spent a whole day with him meeting political, civil society and religious leaders. Visiting him in

In Cyprus as in Britain, the prudent must pay for others’ folly – but not like this

The Cypriots are the authors of their own misfortune, having turned their banking system into a rackety offshore haven for Russian loot and lent most of the proceeds to Greece. But it was madness on the part of bailout negotiators to shake confidence in banks across the eurozone by trying to impose a levy on deposits held by even the smallest Cypriot savers, in what was presumably an attempt to cream off a layer of ill-gotten foreign cash. And even if the proposal has been radically watered down by the end of the week, we now know the European powers-that-be are prepared to pull this device out of their toolbox

Little Britain

The foreign news pages read increasingly like some terrible satire on western military decline. Two years ago French and British forces, with the help of the US Navy, managed to help Libyan rebels topple Colonel Gaddafi. This year, the French needed British support to go to war against some tribesmen in Mali. It was a successful operation, but the ‘Timbuktu Freed’ headline rather summed up the extent of European military power today. The French have only two drone aircraft (the Americans have hundreds) and had to drop concrete bombs on Tripoli when they ran low on real ones. As the foreign policy rhetoric of our media and political leadership grows,