Iran: Our enemy’s enemy can still be our enemy.

This is my second blog piece in an effort to lay out the basis for an independent Green internationalism. This time it’s prompted by an Owen Jones piece about a looming war between the US and Iran[1].

Owen Jones once again glides across all complications and caveats and questions of international solidarity to present an unflinching defence of the Jeremy. To avoid misunderstanding I’ll start by saying I am opposed to military attacks by the US or UK on Iran.

Now, let’s work through some of Owens glides.

“It happened in Iraq, it happened in Libya too”. This is not the first time Jones has ignored the very significant differences between the US led war on Iraq and the NATO intervention, based on a UN security council resolution, in Libya in 2011. In Libya there was an uprising. In Iraq there was none. In Libya there were civilians and rebels on the ground being bombed by a disintegrating fascist dictatorship. In Iraq there were not. In Libya the final defeat of Gaddafi was brought about by Libyans themselves. In Libya is wasn’t a handful of uppity puppet exiles who provided cover for intervention to stop the bombing, it was those fighting, without planes or anti-aircraft weapons, to overthrow a dictatorship who shouted loud and clear for a ‘no fly zone’ and never asked for boots on the ground (and indeed, never received them). This was not ‘regime change’ intervention. So the rights and wrongs of each situation were entirely different. Human rights watch estimates 72 civilians died as a result of the intervention in Libya. All this is well documented. [2]

For Jones, Corbyn is entirely trustworthy in his call for evidence and for ‘de-escalation and peace’, because, as Owen put’s it ‘War looms’. Tell that to the Syrians. Iran has funded and trained the militias, which, together with Russian air power, saved the Assad regime from defeat at the hands of the Syrian uprising [3] War is not looming, it is happening. Jones concedes this in Yemen, but doesn’t mention Syria. Iran has blood on its hands in both countries (and, no, that isn’t a defence of Saudi Arabia. Get a grip). Corbyn’s calls for evidence have a history of avoiding the issue. He did the same thing in the face of overwhelming proof that Assad has used chemical weapons. Once the evidence became entirely clear there was no follow up; no condemnation or calls for action. Just more bland calls for peace and de-escalation. Imagine if you will a situation where the US bombed Venezuela (it won’t). Would Corbyn ask for more evidence, and then call for ‘de-escalation? And of course, Corbyn spent many years as a paid commentator on Press TV, a state owned Iranian station. [4]

There is no mention in the article of the nature of the Iranian regime. Over the last couple of years there have remarkable scenes of brave protesters taking on the Iranian regime – a regime which, let’s remember, routinely hangs gay men and women who are victims of sexual violence.[5] [6] Yet Owens’ piece makes no mention of the atrocities of the regime, or of the need to look for ways to provide solidarity with those opposing it. And we know that Corbyn has a history of defending it.

The point here is not to provide an excuse for accepting the case for war against Iran by the US or UK. The point is to start from facing up to the reality that my enemy’s enemy can still be my enemy. It is this simple fact that Corbyn struggles with. It is this inability to provide solidarity to those facing supposedly ‘anti-imperialist’ dictatorships that leads to the horror of the British left tolerating the likes of George Galloway, or the Morning Star[7] declaring the fall of Free Aleppo to Assads’ forces as a ‘liberation’. [8] Saying this loud and clear does not undermine our ability to oppose US or UK warmongering. It actually strengthens it. Because it means we are not taking sides with one brutal regime against another, but rather we are standing with those who fight oppression, wherever it comes from.

There is then another discussion to be had about how we can properly support those fighting for their rights. There does need to be an honest discussion about what practical help can be offered. This must include some hard thinking about the legitimacy and possibility of humanitarian intervention. But so far that debate has failed to happen on the left because the ‘anti-imperialist’ voices simply shout ‘Iraq!’.

As a member of the Green Party of England and Wales, I would like to see us get to grips with this, and to stop allowing others to define the debate on peace and solidarity for us.

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/jun/19/us-war-iran-looms-justified-iraq

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011_military_intervention_in_Libya

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iranian_involvement_in_the_Syrian_Civil_War#2019

 

[4] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/jeremy-corbyn-iran-protests-why-overlook-human-rights-issues-regime-press-tv-a8138696.html

[5] https://www.huffpost.com/entry/iran-gay-men-executed-hanging_n_1515207?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZWNvc2lhLm9yZy8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAACMt1XgLBPucRMOPTmBGTS_Mr23Tstb_01RxRFDcWl6gIJ4-hGwXFhIZgCohZxWWG2JD1T51ZjKVfZvLBwRHWu4G5ZrQuMDrkvcpCwa12EmF76DUZpfSTM1XICCaVipgvl0Tk-pcKMSwbwsoCpOdIbJ_rKu87HJmoXC7yHLdIWcL

[6] https://iran-hrm.com/index.php/2018/12/28/iran-hangs-young-woman-another-victim-of-sexual-violence/

[7] https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/media/2016/12/no-aleppo-not-being-liberated-despite-what-morning-star-says

[8] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Aleppo_(2012%E2%80%932016)

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