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The Observer view on averting the west’s collision course with Iran | Observer editorial

The regime’s lawlessness combined with its Russia-leaning policies should prompt an urgent rethink by the UK and allies

A ceremony in Tehran last week marking the third anniversary of the assassination in Iraq by a US drone of Qassem Suleimani, a senior commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), conveyed a defiant message to the west. “We have not and will not forget the blood of martyr Suleimani. The Americans must know that revenge is certain and the murderers will have no easy sleep,” Iran’s hardline president, Ebrahim Raisi, vowed.

Iran has already attempted to avenge Suleimani’s death through what US officials say was an IRGC plot to kill John Bolton, Donald Trump’s former national security adviser. It is demanding the arrest of more than 150 American and British “suspects”, including Trump, who ordered the drone strike. Tehran has also imposed sanctions on western officials and, bizarrely, the RAF base at Menwith Hill, North Yorkshire, which it claims assisted the strike. The UK is expected to follow the US in designating the IRGC a terrorist group.

The evident depth of anger and enmity felt within Iran’s regime over Suleimani’s killing and many other long-festering grievances is not wholly surprising, yet it should give western governments pause. It fuels an evolving, many-fronted threat to western security interests. It also reflects a huge strategic defeat: the failure of a decades-long US and Europe-led policy of engagement and the consequent emergence of the Islamic Republic as an implacable foe.

Bad blood may be traced back to the 1979 toppling of the Shah, a key US ally. Israel, and to a lesser degree Saudi Arabia, views Iran as an existential threat. Its backing for Syria’s dictator and anti-western Shia militias in Lebanon, Yemen and Iraq is seen as all of a piece.

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