Former Ambassador to Iran

“Western idealism has been disastrous”


May 23, 2024
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With the shocking death of Iran’s president, Sir Richard Dalton, former British Ambassador to Iran, joins UnHerd’s Freddie Sayers for a conversation on the future of the Middle East, Israel and Western interventionism.

Watch the full interview above.


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Moshe Simon
Moshe Simon
28 days ago

Missing from the questions and answers is discussion of the fact that there is widespread support among the Palestinian public for the October 7th anti-Jewish atrocities and a stated wish by their political and religious leaders to repeat them again and again. Israel must maintain military control of the territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean sea in order to prevent the Palestinian nationalists and their Islamist allies from carrying out their threats.
Dalton and Sayers also omit mention of the fact that the sunset clauses of the JCPOA explicitly allowed the Iranians to enrich uranium and develop all the technologies needed to manufacture and deploy nuclear weapons. JCPOA actually set out a timeline for a Western-supported Iranian nuclear weapons programme. And the obvious target of these weapons is going to be Israel. This can only be stopped by military means.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
26 days ago
Reply to  Moshe Simon

The kindest thing I can say in response to your ‘contribution’ is that it is a narrow, selfish, extremely biased non solution. Indeed it is a recipe for further Oct 7th attacks except next time it will be far more vicious..
In its illegal, barbaric, criminal, inhuman murderous revenge attacks on largely defenseless women and children, Israel has forfeited its right to exist. That is the plain fact of the matter. I hope and pray that the terrorist state of Zionist Israel will cease to exist and the sooner the better.

alan bennett
alan bennett
26 days ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

Typical Irish hate, it must be awful for them to spend their entire lives stewing in such bitter bile, a waste of a nation.

Mark Carpenter
Mark Carpenter
23 days ago
Reply to  Moshe Simon

When you kill their children they hate you. That is the formula. I have already read lists of statements by Israeli leaders dehumanizing the Palestinians. Using war rhetoric to justify a slaughter is simple-minded propaganda. The more we get of that the less we listen. It sounds like you want a war with Iran. Which means you want America to be in a war with Iran.
Yeah, from the river to the sea is actually a Jewish slogan. When students say it at protests over here though it gets counted as anti-semitism. We are in “a ferocious surge of antisemitism” says Biden.
We get tons of Israeli propaganda and manipulation in the US. It has basically destroyed the democratic party. Because most democrats want to focus on our problems, like the SW Border. But the power players in the Biden administration, mostly Jewish, ignored the Border and are spending all our political capital on Israel. See this list of Jews in Biden administration. Only in an Israeli newspaper. This list was never published in US. So I think there is probably a good chance that you get your wish and America is manipulated into yet another war to protect Israel, because your country is controlling the politics of mine. Biden and his administration is controlled by Israel.
https://www.timesofisrael.com/all-the-jews-biden-has-tapped-for-top-roles-in-his-new-administration/

D. Gooch
D. Gooch
27 days ago

I’m so tired of this self-deprecating perspective we see from so many western academics, diplomats and politicians. Certainly western policy and activism in the region has often gotten things wrong, but this perspective typically denies equal agency of the people of the region themselves and their leaders.
It’s ultimately bigotry of a different order — the bigotry of low expectations.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
26 days ago
Reply to  D. Gooch

God only knows what facts you can possibly be relying on in support of your ludicrous assertion? Since you prefer none I suspect there are none? The ex ambassador gave a clear, reasoned, fullt factual, honest and e owrt assessment that had zero effect on your blind, biased propaganda ridden, selfish mindset, and you threw your toys out of your pram!

David Jennings
David Jennings
27 days ago

I agree that “Western Idealism has been Disastrous” as the video’s title states, but the idealism is most evident in the former ambassador’s statements. He applies a Westphalian understanding of “nation” on a group of theocrats who call for international jihad and the specific destruction of the one superpower that (unevenly) upholds Western values.He calls for a two state solution in the Middle East when the vast majority of the inhabitants of the to-be-created State explicitly seek the elimination of the other State. These global political issues are perhaps without a solution, but that is not as bad as the solutions offered by the former ambassador.

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
27 days ago
Reply to  David Jennings

I agree. One might cite this interview (and Unherd are right to conduct it, for our information) as an example of self-inflicted Stockholm Syndrome on the part of the erstwhile “ambassador”, i.e. without having been captive as such.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
26 days ago
Reply to  Lancashire Lad

Just shows what you know about Stockholm syndrome.. you seriously to know even less about basic facts and simple realities. How a silly guy like you feels entitled to attack a man of his moral, intellectual and clearly expert opinion is beyond me, unless you are fully woke and believe everyone is entitled to their opinion despite their unbridled ignorance and clear bias with not a jot of evidence to support their mindless drivel.

Roger Teichmann
Roger Teichmann
26 days ago
Reply to  David Jennings

Dalton appears to be an example of that species of diplomat who regard geopolitics as essentially a game between various more or less hostile powers, a game to which issues of ideology and religion are simply not relevant. This results in a blindness to the sincerity and fervour (and barbarity) of the stated aims of Hamas and others, and makes it difficult if not impossible for a person like Dalton to understand what such groups and their Iranian funders are really up to. In the 1930s there were likewise British officials and politicians who thought that Hitler’s stated aims, for example in Mein Kampf, could be disregarded as so much playing to the gallery of his followers. Presumably this blindness arises in part from the blandly unideological psyche of the typical old-school Western diplomat, something which of course has its advantages – but an inability to conceive of fanatical mindsets is a disastrous impediment in politics.
Btw, when Sayers asked Dalton ‘What should Israel have done instead?’ I knew even before he replied that he would not answer the question. This is characteristic.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
26 days ago

He did answer the question! Listen again!

Roger Teichmann
Roger Teichmann
26 days ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

What did he say Israel should have done instead?

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
26 days ago

Listen and find out..

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
26 days ago
Reply to  David Jennings

The US (and its vassal UK) sought / seek the utter destruction of Iraq, Afghanistan, Lybia and now Russia and Iran. So what’s the difference? The difference is this: USUK has CARRIED OUT its plans with murderous effectiveness! Millions of dead innocent people to show for it.
But Iran merely ‘wishing for the same in relation to its enemies is reprehensible is it? Is there some logic and/or reason in your views or are you just a blind, narrow minded racist thinking its okay for the West but appalling for the East to hold similar views? ..and even Okay for the West to carry out its many genocidal attacks? Are you incapable of simple objectivity?

Richard Ross
Richard Ross
26 days ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

So, you’re not going to answer the question either, are you?

Stephanie Surface
Stephanie Surface
26 days ago
Reply to  Richard Ross

No he won’t answer the question nor did Richard Dolton. All Dolton hinted at was , that Israel should have tried a limited surgical operation. I wish Freddie would have pressured him more on what he meant by that. A surgical strike is utterly useless, if a terrorist group like Hamas, who doesn’t give a damn about civilian life, is hiding like rats in underground tunnels (built with the billions of Western aid money) beneath civilian housing, mosques and hospitals in the knowledge that many innocent people would be killed, if Israel tried to go after them.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
26 days ago

You’re a sucker for the propaganda aren’t you? Hamas, according to international law is a duly elected governing party, initially supported by Netanyahu (if you listened) that also has a military wing.. In international law that wing of Hamas comprises a legitimate freedom fighting force, just like the French and Polish Resistance in Occupied France and Poland – were they terrorists??
SOME elements of Hamas committed war crimes, yes,.. not all. The usual response is to target the guilty, not the innocents. The vicious, revengeful retaliation by Israel was ILLEGAL in every conceivable way according to the highest court on the planet, the ICJ but I guess International law, the Geneva Convention, the UN are not for you.. You’re more into savage, murderous revenge just like the Naz¡s were in France and Poland, wiping out entire communities.

Stephanie Surface
Stephanie Surface
26 days ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

You are pretty aggressive and I usually don’t discuss people, who compare Israel to the Nazis. But you still haven’t answered what a surgical operation would have encompassed. Surgery usually cuts out the cancer or a part in a body which causes disease and inflammation. Hamas caused/causes inflammation and disease for the whole of the Middle East. Many Middle Eastern countries can’t wait till Hamas and the rest of the radical terrorist organisations are eradicated.
Btw. There was no election for 20 years. Hamas has repeatedly prevented free election since it first took power in Gaza in 2004. The Gazan PM announced in 2012 the formation of a second Hamas government without any elections.
Hamas waisted billions of aid for its own people in building tunnels and buying bombs.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
26 days ago
Reply to  Richard Ross

Which question is that? I cannot see where you’ve raised a question? Actually Syrphanie Surface has answered it for you but described the answer as a ‘hint’.. lol!

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
27 days ago

This reminds me of a certain kind of Brit who, in the mid- to late-1930s, droned on about the harmless (or misunderstood) Nazis.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
26 days ago

Wow! What a breath of fresh air! A moral, informed, intelligent expert explaining to ignorant, immoral, warmongering idiots the folly of their ways! Just imagine what countries like the UK and US would be like if giants like this took over from the mad, greedy, intellectual pygmies that we have in power. What a wonderful world this would be!

El Uro
El Uro
26 days ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

You remind me of Talia Perkins. The same ardor, revolutionary uncompromisingness and answers to everyone who is not interested in your opinion
.
All the best!

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
26 days ago
Reply to  El Uro

Nothing substantive to contribute then? ..on the actual issues raised? No? ‘didn’t think so.

Laurence Levin
Laurence Levin
26 days ago

Interesting to see the diplomatic take on the Iran JCPOA. I am not sure his optimistic take is right that it was a very strong agreement but I am in no position to refute it. Would like to get a debate from both sides.
I agree with him on the chaos caused by American’s interventions. Interestingly, he didn’t mention the stupidest one, (Libya) which repeated many of the same mistakes we made in Iraq. Also, I agree that the Saudi war on the Houthis was a mistake. However, the Houthis were taking Iranian money to provoke the Saudis which caused the Saudis to start the war. I am not sure that an American administration could have done much to stop the Saudis and I don’t think that turning on our allies is ever a good move. There is plenty of cruelty in the mideast not all attributable to America.
My main problem with his take though, is that Obama’s movement towards good relations with Iran was not reciprocated. Most of the extra money that the Iranians received was not put into domestic programs or used to help the Iranian economy but was used to finance Iranian proxy terrorist groups (like the Houthis, Hezbollah, Hamas etc.) who increased their bellicosity. Using the money for these proxies caused mass protests in Iran (viciously repressed) when the promised benefits of easing relations with the US were frittered away. Additionally, after the treaty was signed the Iranians increased their provocations against the US including the hijacking of a small US naval ship and its crew.