Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

Why is Iran Air still flying to Heathrow?

Barely a week goes past without the Iranian regime’s rogue status making headlines.

President Ahmadinejad is the figurehead of one of the most repressive regimes in the world. Iran under his leadership has:

•    Provided support for the Syrian government in its civil war.
•    Cracked down on anti-government protesters, journalists, human rights activists and lawyers, and students.
•    Carried out a sharply increasing number of executions (for instance, in 2009, 252 people were officially executed, and a further 300 executed without government acknowledgement), including executing children. Human rights groups estimate Iran executes two people every day.
•    Blocked access to information on the internet and from satellite broadcasts.
•    Refused access to the country for UN Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur.
•    Punished homosexuality by death, as well as using internet entrapment, blackmail and torture against gay Iranians.
•    Sponsored international terrorist groups (including its proxies Hamas and Hezbollah) which have caused hundreds of deaths world-wide, particularly targeting émigré Iranian dissidents.
•    Promoted antisemitism, such as in the recent speech by the Iranian vice-president when he blamed the Talmud and ‘Zionists’ for the global drugs trade.
•    Promoted Holocaust-denial, sponsoring conferences which question whether the Holocaust happened, and with President Ahmadinejad himself claiming Jews had ‘fabricated a legend, under the name “Massacre of the Jews”.’


Most significantly of all, Iran has pursued a clandestine military nuclear programme which threatens to trigger an arms race in the Middle East, and if sanctions and talks fail could spark a regional conflict. In the context of President Ahmadinejad’s public threat that Israel should be ‘wiped off the map’ Iran’s potential possession of nuclear weapons is particularly dangerous. The Iranian presidential website states: ‘the Zionist regime of Israel faces a dead end and will under God’s grace be wiped off the map’ and ‘the Zionist regime that is a usurper and illegitimate regime and a cancerous tumour should be wiped off the map.’

This is not just an issue for Israel. Iranian nuclear weapons would present a security threat to historic UK allies in the Gulf States, and UK economic interests in the region, and eventually with longer-range missiles, to Europe and the UK itself. A nuclear-armed Iran would also trigger a nuclear arms race by other states in the Middle East.

Iran’s nuclear programme has been a concern for the international community for many years.

The UK under both Labour and the coalition has rightly been at the forefront of imposing sanctions on Iran as the best hope of stopping Iran’s nuclear programme by forcing it back to the negotiating table. Our own Labour frontbench is robust on this. The alternatives to sanctions are either the use of military force, or meekly accepting that Iran can have nuclear weapons, with all the risks that entails.

But there is a gaping and very public hole in the UK’s sanctions regime.

I was shocked to hear that Iran Air is continuing to regularly operate flights to and from London Heathrow airport. The airline even boasts about its Heathrow route on its website!

This airline is also used to transport military related equipment for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as well as Iran’s Ministry of Defence and Armed Forces Logistics. It is a ‘sanctioned entity’ in the US. It runs very poorly maintained aircraft as it has no official access to spare parts, making its planes highly unsafe.

Given that the UK government’s position is that it ‘does not encourage trade with, or investment in Iran, and has withdrawn all commercial support for trade’, I find it highly objectionable that the Iran’s national airline carrier is allowed to fly here.

Iran has been known to use its commercial entities to further its political aims and avoid sanctions. Iran uses shell corporations to receive illegal payments and 130 of its 144 banned ships continue to call at many major ports. It secretly exports its arms to terrorist organisations by hiding weapons in its ships and planes, for example, mortar shells and anti-ship c-704 missiles were found on the M/V Victoria on route to the Gaza strip on 15 March 2011.

If this link between the UK and Iran continues, then the sanctions that are already in place have a huge loophole in them. Stopping Iran Air flying to and from London will ensure that the sanctions bite harder and tighter, which will help to curtail the ambitions of this rogue state.

In my work capacity as director of the grassroots network We Believe in Israel, I am running a petition to call on the foreign secretary to close this sanctions loophole.

I hope you will sign it here.


Luke Akehurst is  a councillor in the London borough of Hackney, writes regularly for Progress here and blogs here. He tweets @LukeAkehurst


Photo: Matthew Carson

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Luke Akehurst

is director of We Believe in Israel and a former member of Labour's National Executive Committee


  • Crucially its the people in Iran ( older Persian folk?) who will suffer the most ? Please Explain…
    PS: Is the Star of David still painted on top of IRAN AIRs HQ rooftop ? ( cf Googlemaps)

  • A wide variety is distasteful, violent, oppressive regimes, and their airlines have flown and continue to fly to the UK – why choose Iran specifically ? The justification, using the real and existing threat to Israel – is insufficient to justify the hardship it will cause to ordinary Iranians – I imagine were we to ban them Amsterdam, Frankfurt or Paris would welcome them, and what would that achieve ?

  • Iran is under worse threats than the UK was in 1940-1, and the peaceful roads were cut off by Winston Churchill and Kermit Roosevelt. Western sanctions amount to acts of war, and the hysterical (and calculating) western media, whose headlines Luke laughably cites as if they were evidence, ignore all evidence even from the IAEA, run by the USs faithful puppet Yukiya Amano except where it confirms their propaganda script. Luke’s Zionist paymasters (not the more rational Israeli military and intelligence establishments) are keen to blackmail their confederates (not allies, Israel does not do alliances which imply reciprocal responsibility) into using war to engineer regime change – two of the greatest war crimes in the postNuremberg list. Why not a quick look at a few reflection on a few relevant facts :

    New Iran Nuclear Talks to Begin February 26

    Iranian, Western Officials Confirm Date Has Been Set

    by Jason Ditz, February 05, 2013

    Print This | Share This

    After spending a solid month promising a meeting in January and trading blame over why it never actually happened, Iran and the P5+1 have agreed to a meeting in Almaty, Kazakhstan, on February 26.

    This will be the first meeting with the P5+1, which includes the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany, since a June meeting in Moscow, which ended with an agreement to meet again.

    The date was confirmed by officials from the European Union, who were in charge of negotiating a time and place with Iran. British FM William Hague confirmed the talks and condemned Iran, insisting it was urgent that they’d accept the P5+1 offer.

    Exactly what that offer is remains unclear, and every time a new round of talks takes place the US comes along with a new round of demands to add on to the ones that weren’t accepted the previous time.

    These talks are just one of several negotiation tracks ongoing with Iran regarding their civilian nuclear program, and Iran has continued to meet with the IAEA, which has repeatedly confirmed that the nuclear program is purely civilian, while insisting that they can’t prove that there isn’t some sort of secondary program totally separate from this one that they just don’t know about that might conceivably have military elements. The US has also raised the prospect of bilateral talks with Iran, though whether or not this happens remains to be seen, as Iran has conditioned such talks on the US not threatening to attack them.

  • “In my work capacity as director of the grassroots network We Believe in Israel, I am running a petition to call on the foreign secretary to close this sanctions loophole”.


    “We believe in israel” should be more appropriately named: “We know israel is a fraud but think PR can intimidate people to think otherwise Ltd”. What a joke this clown Luke Akehurst is lol.

  • Mr Akehurst is a rabid statist, as befits a long term lobbyist, as well as a propagandist for Israeli world dominance. Maximum reduction of the relationships within civil society/societies and state monitoring of all that remains, is part of the Blairite drive for total ideological dominance, all freedom and spontaneity being derided as amongst the ‘forces of conservatism’. Weakening Iranian civil society is part of the Zionist (and Euro-American) attack on all Iranians, not merely those who are part of or associated with the (as it so happens deeply divided, no way monolithic) state and regime.

  • Mr Akehurst professes to be appalled at President Ahmedinejad’s alleged – and very dubiously attributed – denunciation of the racist apartheid state of Israel, and horrified that Ahmedinejad allegedly in pursuit of ‘holocaust denial’ even went so far as to sponsor a conference to investigate the Nazi mass murder of Jews. Fortunately this genocide has ceased, and is not of genuine current political interest, toher than for the ulterior motives well noted in Normal Finkelstein’s THE HOLOCAUST INDUSTRY. As a sharp critic of ‘holocaust denial’, perhaps Mr Akehurst would care to comment on the widespread practice of NAKBA denial (the terrorisation, expulsion, looting, plundering and widespread murder of Palestinians in 1948,well covered in Ilan Pappe’s THE ETHNIC CLEANSING OF PALESTINE). Nakba denial is a state policy of Israel, it currently being made a criminal offence to lament the Nakba. Indeed, the long-term ideology of Zionism includes a denial of the very existence of the Palestinian people (“a land without people for a people without a land”).

    In passing, could Progress request its columnists to consider responding to the general tenor if not to their minute – but often well referenced – detail? Asking them to supply references for their often dubious and demagogic factual allegations – an offence of which Mr Akehurst is among the most guilty – would perhaps be too demanding; the Blairite record when there is a chance of a successful imperialist war, labelling any unsupported rumours and any plagiarised online thesis as “extensive, detailed and authoritative” especially once they are sexed-up is enough. But a few words along the line of “I take full respnsibility for what has gone wrong; and to show my good faith I will continue in office” might do for some of us.

  • Come on man, you need a check up from your neck up!!These iranian outside iran done nothing wrong, people in west (politician )screwed every which way other third world citizen of their right,imagine a member of your family is ill and you can not get a basic pain much more do you want these people to suffer.after all they are human,if you have any feeling about others,which i do not think you do.

  • Maybe you should stop using gasoline as it comes from Iran or Saudi Arabia the true enemy of Israel. + Arabs are the true enemies of Israel and jews keep that in your brain Luke and watch less what you watch late evenings on TV and get a real job.

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