Rishi Sunak: Salman Rushdie attack should be Iran wake-up call

Reaction in Iran strengthens case for banning Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, says UK leadership contender

There has been no official government reaction in Iran to the attack on Salman Rushdie. AFP
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The knife attack on Sir Salman Rushdie should be a wake-up call to the West in its dealings with Iran, the UK’s Rishi Sunak said.

Mr Sunak, one of two candidates seeking to become Britain's next prime minister, said Iran’s response to the stabbing bolstered the case for designating its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organisation, The Daily Telegraph reported.

There has been no official government reaction in Iran to the attack on Rushdie, but several Iranian newspapers praised his assailant.

Rushdie spent nine years in hiding after Iran urged Muslims to kill him over the 1988 publication of his novel, The Satanic Verses.

A joint US and UK citizen who was born in India, he has been trying to live a normal life in recent years, writing and becoming a champion for free speech.

He was stabbed on stage at a lecture theatre on Friday and underwent emergency surgery.

“The brutal stabbing of Salman Rushdie should be a wake-up call for the West, and Iran’s reaction to the attack strengthens the case for proscribing the IRGC,” Mr Sunak said.

The corps controls Iran's elite armed and intelligence forces.

Mr Sunak, referring to stuttering talks between Iran and the West to revive a nuclear deal, said: “We urgently need a new, strengthened deal and much tougher sanctions, and if we can’t get results then we have to start asking whether the JCPOA is at a dead end.”

The JCPOA, or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, is the 2015 agreement under which Iran curbed its nuclear programme in return for relief from US, EU and UN sanctions.

“The situation in Iran is extremely serious and in standing up to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin we can’t take our eye off the ball elsewhere,” Mr Sunak said.

Iran and world powers appeared to be nearing a deal that could revive the 2015 nuclear accord last week.

EU diplomats said last Monday that 16 months of negotiations had ended and that the 25-page draft text for an agreement had been finalised.

All that remained, they said, was for US President Joe Biden and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi to sign off.

On Friday, an Iranian diplomat told the Irna state news agency that Iran was reviewing the EU's “final” proposal.

“Proposals by the EU can be acceptable if they provide Iran with assurance on the issues of safeguards, sanctions and guarantees,” the unnamed diplomat said.

The Satanic Verses has been banned in Iran since it was first published. At least 45 people were killed in riots around the world in protests against its publication.

A year after it was published, Iran's former supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa calling for the author's death.

A bounty of about $3 million was offered for anyone who killed Rushdie.

Iran's government has since distanced itself from the issue, but anger over Rushdie remains.

Updated: August 14, 2022, 4:49 AM