Oborne: “Jeremy Corbyn’s principled silence on Iran protests demands respect”
“One of the best things about Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party has been his challenge to the failed British foreign policy establishment”– Peter Oborne.
For the last week the Labour leader has come under persistent pressure to speak up in support of the protesters in Iran rather than the far larger numbers of Iranian pro-government supporters march during a rally in the city of Mashhad, Iran, on January 4.
On Wednesday, the Times urged Jeremy Corbyn to speak out against Iran’s actions. The Daily Telegraph calls for ‘brave anti-regime protestors’ to be supported by all and singled out Corbyn. Many others have joined in.
Corbyn is no opportunist
Oborne points out that nothing would have been easier for Corbyn than to have given in to his critics and come up with a strongly worded statement condemning Iran’s Supreme Leader – adding “Bear in mind there are no votes for Corbyn in Tehran. A routine denunciation would have earned him praise in parts of the British press where he is normally reviled, and at zero electoral cost”.
The truth is Corbyn’s recent record on foreign policy has been measured and sensible. Corbyn’s principled silence is prudent and sensible. It reflects the fact that at this stage we simply don’t know for certain what is going on inside Iran.
US President Donald Trump praised protesters for taking on a “brutal and corrupt” Iranian government. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also wished protesters “success in their noble quest for freedom”. Trump and Netanyahu each have their reasons for getting involved.
The claim that foreign interference has played its part has been ridiculed, but US and Britain have long meddled in the country’s affairs. Oborne believes that Western policy should be held to account:
- In 1953, they overthrew democratically elected prime minister Mohammed Mossadegh after he nationalised the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, now BP.
- Only 10 years ago it was being widely reported around Whitehall that a Western military attack on Iran was all but inevitable.
- When the neo-cons were banging the drum for an invasion of Iraq, Corbyn wisely advised against. It turned out to be a catastrophe.
- Corbyn was against the invasion of Afghanistan, and proved right.
- Corbyn was one of a handful of MPs who voted against an attack on Libya. Once again, how right he was!
Corbyn’s record suggests that his judgment on foreign affairs demands respect. Corbyn’s critics also accuse him of being selective. But his critics are also extremely selective. They have made the most of recent events in Iran. By contrast the savage crackdown on Shia dissidents in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, or Palestinian protesters in the West Bank, gets far less attention. British military involvement in the atrocities committed by the Saudi-led coalition in the Yemen is routinely ignored in the BBC and elsewhere.
Now Newsweek reports that President Emmanuel Macron has accused the U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia of instigating a war as Iran was rocked by a week of protests. several other world leaders. The French leader called for dialogue with Tehran and criticized three of his international partners for pursuing what he considered bellicose policies toward a country the trio have increasingly sought to isolate and undermine in recent years.“The official line pursued by the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia, who are our allies in many ways, is almost one that would lead us to war,” Macron told reporters, according to Reuters
President Donald Trump decertified President Barack Obama’s 2015 Iran nuclear deal, of which France was also a signatory and an eager supporter, and has subjected Iran to a travel ban and increased sanctions over accusations it backs terrorism across the Middle East.
Trump has most recently weaponized his Twitter account to launch a barrage of insults against Iran’s leadership and voice support for the scores of Iranian citizens trying to “take back their corrupt government.” He offered “great support,” seeking to align himself with those calling to displace, rather than amend, the revolutionary Shiite Muslim government in the country, despite these voices currently being a minority among protesters on the ground. Trump was quickly accused of meddling in international affairs and of mishandling matters of diplomacy on Twitter.
As Oborne ends:
“One of the best things about Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party has been his challenge to the failed British foreign policy establishment. Long may he continue! The time may come when we are in a position to make sober judgments about recent events in Iran. In the meantime Britain is fortunate to have an opposition leader who knows when to stay silent”.