The free world’s dependence on trade with China gave the communist regime the financial power it brings to an “authoritarian axis” with Russia and Iran, a prominent British politician said during a Heritage Foundation event.  

“The financial power China now wields comes from the free world’s astonishing and continuing dependence on China trade,” said Sir Iain Duncan Smith, former leader of the United Kingdom’s Conservative Party, adding later: “Nothing China does is left to chance.” 

And despite Iran’s denials, that Islamist regime was behind Hamas terrorists’ “brutal … attack on innocent Israeli citizens” Oct. 7, said Smith, who represents the Chingford and Woodford Green areas of London in Parliament. 

“Importantly, though,” he said Tuesday of Iran’s ruling mullahs, “they’re also close allies of China and Russia, part of an axis, a new axis of totalitarian states, which poses the greatest threat to our principles of democracy [and] human rights.” 

As this “authoritarian axis” grows, the free world must actively defend itself, Smith said. “We need to recognize the threat of this new axis and face up to it before it is too late.” 

Smith sat down with Nile Gardiner, director of the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom at The Heritage Foundation, to discuss the threats posed by the three authoritarian nations during an event at the think tank’s Capitol Hill headquarters titled “The New Authoritarian Axis: The Growing Threat to the Free World from China, Russia, and Iran.” (The Daily Signal is Heritage’s news outlet.) 

In her introduction of the conservative British lawmaker, Victoria Coates, vice president of Heritage’s Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy, said China is bankrolling the activities of Russia in Ukraine and Iran throughout the Middle East. 

“The future of the Ango-American alliance … has never been more important than it will be in these coming years as we battle this threat together,” Coates, a national security official during the Trump administration, said. 

Smith explicitly tied China, Russia, and Iran together. 

“The war in Ukraine, the war in Gaza against Hamas, and China’s overt threat to invade Taiwan are all of a piece,” Smith said. “They are linked inexorably through this axis. To ignore one of these threats is to multiply the danger in the others.” 

Israel has a right to defend itself, Smith insisted. “And those terrorists that carried out that attack, they do have to be hunted down and stopped because [otherwise] this will just repeat itself all over again,” he said. 

The free world must support the cause of freedom for other nations, Smith said. If Ukraine were to fall to Russia, the cost would be far greater than the cost of helping it, he said. 

The U.S., the U.K., and other allies need to make the case that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Iran’s backing of Hamas’ terrorist attacks on Israel must be stopped, Smith said, adding that he has hope for a new U.S.-U.K. trade deal in coming years.  

“The world is a safer place when the U.S. and the U.K. are together, working for freedom,” Smith said.  

On Iran, Smith said the U.K. government should proscribe the regime’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which the U.S. State Department designated as a foreign terrorist organization in 2019.

Under British law, proscription defines an organization as a terrorist threat, making it subject to the U.K. government’s freezing of assets and seizure of resources.  

“We should seize the assets while we’re at it, until the West unites together on these threats,” Smith said of Iran.  

He said the U.K. should walk away from the Iran nuclear deal of 2015 negotiated largely by the Obama administration and officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. In the U.S., the Trump administration decided to pull out of that international agreement, crafted to put off Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons.

While the threat of the authoritarian axis of China, Russia, and Iran grows, the U.S. and other Western nations are distracted on their domestic fronts by the ongoing culture war, the British conservative leader added. 

“At home, the West is engaged in a damaging culture war where one group is pitted against the other, smashing tolerance and responsibility in the pursuit of absolute rights,” Smith said. “This is tearing Western societies apart, much to the delight of the axis. Often fomented by them as their, quote, useful idiots scream and shout at Western governments, the axis sees the benefits from a divided West.” 

Watch the entire Heritage program on the “authoritarian axis”:

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