Beware flashpoint Iran: Domesday looms

THE contrast was stark. As the 1st Battalion the Welsh Guards trooped the colour in front of their sovereign on Horse Guards Parade in London, the coffins of five young men from the 2nd Battalion the Parachute Regiment based in Colchester who had died serving Queen and country were about to be loaded on board an RAF Hercules and flown home from Afghanistan to their grieving families.

Graham Dines

People in Politics

THE contrast was stark. As the 1st Battalion the Welsh Guards trooped the colour in front of their sovereign on Horse Guards Parade in London, the coffins of five young men from the 2nd Battalion the Parachute Regiment based in Colchester who had died serving Queen and country were about to be loaded on board an RAF Hercules and flown home from Afghanistan to their grieving families.

The London ceremony, which from 1748 has marked the sovereign's official Queen, celebrated the close relationship between the Queen, as head of state, and her armed forces.


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Trooping the Colour originated from traditional preparations for battle. Colours, or flags, were carried, or trooped, down the ranks so that it could be seen and recognised by the soldiers to avoid attacking each other in what is now known as friendly fire.

The guardsmen who take part in the modern ceremonial are fighting soldiers. Many will have either served in Iraq or Afghanistan or will be deployed to the Middle East countries in the coming months.

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They may be soon putting their lives on the line in the so-called war of terror - sooner than many of them thought because 48 hours later, Gordon Brown was promising President George W. Bush that the UK would be sending extra troops to Afghanistan.

There's a whole world of difference between Iraq and Afghanistan. Tony Blair was right in 2001 to join in Bush's decision to attempt to crush the Taliban as the remains of the twin towers still smoked in New York. British soldiers who have died in Afghanistan did so to make the world a safer place.

But Blair was wrong to join the American-led invasion of Iraq to engineer regime change on the pretext that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction which he intended to launch against British assets. Five years on, the weapons are still nowhere to be found.

Overshadowing the world today is Iran. Nobody knows what the Iranian regime will do if it acquires nuclear weapons as it still insists its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes and not aggression.

And even if western intelligence is right and there is offensive intent in Tehran, it still will be a number of years before the Iranians have the capability to deliver nuclear strikes.

The fear that George Bush would take pre-emptive action against Iran before leaving office is receding.

But make no mistake - if and when the day arrives when Iran attempts to carry out its oft-repeated threat to obliterate Israel from the face of the map, the United States and Britain will retaliate.

The Democratic Party in the US is even more pro-Israeli than the Republicans. Both Labour and the Tories here would not stand by and allow Israel to be destroyed.

During their meeting in Downing Street yesterday, Bush and Gordon Brown urged Iran to choose a “path of confrontation” with the West. Brown's warning was clear: “We will take any necessary action so that Iran is aware of the choice it has to make to start to play its part as a full and respected member of the international community - or face further isolation.”

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