Rod Liddle

Peter Oborne should stop apologising for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

4 May 2013

4 May 2013

There was an extraordinary meeting of the Juche Ideas Study Group (England) in London last week, held to commemorate the 81st anniversary of the foundation of the Korean People’s Army. For various domestic reasons I was unable to be present, but I think it went off quite well. Sandwiches, tea and coffee were served after the various speeches. Juche is the political ideology of North Korea, emphasising a steely self-reliance in the face of Yankee and Jap imperialist aggression. The meeting was taken by a chap called Dermot Hudson, who may or may not have recited the poem he wrote a while back about Kim Il Sung, the founder of the DPRK. I hope he did, because it deserves to be recited whenever three or four people are gathered together. This is how some of it goes:

Ever victorious iron-willed
brilliant commander, heroic patriotic -partisan
the illustrious General Kim Il Sung fired
the shot that tore Jap imperialism into
a million and one pieces.
Oh worthy warrior of Mt Paekdu
leading the stout-hearted partisans of
the mighty KPRA to shatter the chains
of Japanese imperialism, shock brigade of
world fascism, to dispatch
the murderous Japs to their doom.

Anyway, whether he read it out or not, Dermot was there, along with members, or member, of the only British political party to offer North Korea unequivocal support — the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist). I met its leader recently, an absolutely charming and erudite Punjabi man, now well into his seventies, called Harpal Brar. I felt Harpal had allowed his principled support for North Korea to blind him a little to what many people would argue are some of the regime’s minor deficiencies, but he denied this. ‘But it’s a Stalinist state,’ I suggested at one point. He smiled. ‘Yes, Rod. And that, for me, is a badge of honour.’ We’re going out for a curry soon to carry on the debate.

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It is good, in a democracy, to have people prepared to stand up for very unpopular causes, no matter how deranged they might be. So we should be delighted to hear Peter Oborne, once of this parish, standing up for President Ahmadinejad of Iran, who he thinks is a peaceable soul who is desperate to build bridges with the West, has no intention of building a nuclear weapon, has lots of respect for Jews and doesn’t wish Israel to be wiped from the face of the earth — contrary to the popular myth. Perhaps Peter will be moved, like Dermot, to put his admiration into verse:

Oh valiant, peace-loving bearded leader,
Our brave Persian Gandhi in a neatly -buttoned shirt,
Smashing together atoms of enriched uranium
Only to ensure your great people have sufficient electricity
To watch The Vicar of Dibley on their television sets
And definitely not to roast the Jews.

And so on. Oborne and a chap called David Morrison have written a pamphlet entitled ‘A Dangerous Delusion’ which seeks to temper the present hunger for confrontation with Iran. There is much to commend in this position and it is true that we hear such arguments stated too rarely, especially from the British political right. The howling and fury this little billet-doux has occasioned in neocons and the hyperactive My Israel, Right or Wrong lobby merely confirm, for me, the necessity to state the argument in the first place. It seems to me, further, that the aggressive intent of Iran has been serially overstated, the rhetoric from Ahmadinejad notwithstanding, and that we are being shepherded towards a position where military action against the country becomes both desirable and inevitable. The only alternative to war with Iran is to talk to them, as Oborne and Morrison aver, to engage a little. But engagement cannot take place when the mood here is so unvaryingly hawkish.

However, Oborne has been afflicted by Harpal Brar syndrome, to the effect that he has been captured by his argument and thus hugely overstates the case for trusting what is, by current standards, a foul and unpalatably powerful theocracy governed by an avowed anti-Semite. Oborne and Morrison attempt to acquit Ahmadinejad of this last charge but they cannot possibly do so, because even leaving aside his (misunderstood, according to the apologists) quote about wiping Israel from the face of the earth, the Iranian president is also a holocaust denier. It is all there in black and white.

Oborne and Morrison also argue that Iran is not a highly militarised state. Well, OK, it is not North Korea. But it has the seventh largest navy in the world (larger than Russia’s), the ninth largest armed forces, the fifth largest fleet of submarines, the tenth largest amount of anti-aircraft weaponry (figures from Global Firepower). It is more highly militarised than any country in the region, then. And of course it is trying to build itself a nuclear weapon; to deny this is, I think, a more dangerous delusion than the one which Oborne and Morrison believe afflict their opponents. The reasons for the country wishing to do so may be more defensive than offensive — and it may well be the case that the country has every right to enrich uranium for, uh, peaceful purposes. But it is not enriching uranium for peaceful purposes, otherwise the country would be rather more transparent when it comes to letting the inspectors have a nose around. And it’s a shame the two writers have felt it necessary to swallow this guff, because it diminishes what would be a convincing polemic.


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Show comments
  • Fasdunkle

    “This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated 4 May 2013”

    I write this on 2 May 2013 – is the news of the Iranian time machine not entirely unfounded?

    • Abhay

      It clearly isn’t. And Iran has allowed Spectator and Liddle a free ride on their Time Machine! How was it Liddle?

  • rippon

    Liddle hasn’t analysed a single argument, or even cited a single quote, from the Oborne-Morrison book that he purports to criticise

  • laurence

    Rod, a little too gentle there. Islamo-fascism is the greatest existential threat to the civilised West. Iran and Saudi Arabia fund, support and export this vile ideology and it is trained up in rural Pakistan. Ahmadinnajacket’s Jew-hatred is a matter of record and given that Iran’s government-by-mullah looks unlikely to be superseded anytime soon, I think it safe to assume that peace, love and understanding will not be at the forefront of their foreign policy. Oborne is either credulous or a cretin: pick one.

    • gladiolys

      “Islamo-fascism is the greatest existential threat to the civilised West”. Really? I’d have put rip off crony capitalist corporate thieves at number one. Foreign threats are usually “there” to divert us from internal ones.

      • laurence

        Gladiolys, I wholeheartedly endorse your opprobrium for spivs and spivvery but you clearly do not understand ‘existential’. The actions of irresponsible gamblers in financial centres may bring about severe economic downturn with its concomitant miseries but until these ‘corporate thieves’ start flying into buildings, blowing up buses, firing rockets indiscriminately into populated areas, imposing Sharia ‘law’, not allowing women to vote, drive, or become educated, conducting beheadings, stoning adulterers, bombing marathons, bombing train stations, performing ‘honour’ murders and so on and so forth, I think I’ll maybe hold with my original proposition.

        • http://twitter.com/Johnny_2_Bikes Johnny 2 Bikes

          I wonder how many suicides the spivs have been the root cause of as people go bankrupt, lose their jobs, suffer degrading poverty?

    • Jackthesmilingblack

      “Ahmadinnajacket”
      A witty wordplay on a foreign name: Grow up, Larry.

      • Guest

        So? Are you a foreigner yourself?

        • Jackthesmilingblack

          Everybody’s a foreigner to someone. Even you, Jock. Make that especially you. You’re a foreigner to sane people. Which reminds me, is there any history of sanity in your family?

          • Guest

            It makes no sense in English: the word “foreigner” is defined in terms of a place, usually a Country.

            You are an illiterate, are you not? If only you had received a good and proper Jesuit education!

          • Jackthesmilingblack

            Jesuit education, now that explains why you’re so screwed up.

          • Guest

            No, you had probably received an SSPX education! Personally instructed by Bishop Williamson, no doubt.

      • OldSlaughter

        Armani-Dinnerjacket is funnier.

        • Jackthesmilingblack

          Only to the immature and those with a childish sense of humour.

          • Karla’s Man

            So, you are not only a Troll, but a Killjoy, as well?

          • Jackthesmilingblack

            Shove it, Hamburger.

          • Guest

            More gibberish.

          • OldSlaughter

            That’s most of us then.

        • hellosnackbar

          I invented Ahmajihadidad.

      • Lungfish

        Does it offend your delicate sensibilities?

    • William Reid Boyd

      Credulous possibly. I haven’t read Oborne’s piece, finding Iran tedious and pointless to discuss. Our lamentable representative Tony Blair in the ‘Quartet’ is at least right about this single thing when he brands Iran as the erm… semite in the vestry. Rod’s response to Oborne strikes me as balanced as sensible. LIke so many of these regimes, it’s a straightforward dictatorship. I doubt it can long survive the emerging Arab Spring and will no doubt collapse soon after Syria goes the way all these dictatorships do eventually go, or so I optimistically think and possibly I’m being credulous there as well. Meanwhile I side with Jeremy Greenstock, formerly our man in the vestry and an excellent arabist, in countenancing caution in getting involved with any of this in a military way.

      You on the other hand would seem misinformed in lumping Iran and Saudi together. They are bitter enemies right from the start of the sunni/shiite schism quite a long time before either Dibley or Yom Kippur, a massacre at Kerbala around the time of Aethelbert of Kent’s regency this corner of the closet and repeated by the Saudis (off the top of my head) about 1801 (Mad King George ditto). Iran seeks hegemony in the region by military means, as does Saudi by cultural means. Neither, and certainly not Iran, export jihadism, which is ultimately an export of the Muslim Brotherhood persecuted first in Egypt and then (hideously) in Syria and everywhere else in the region. It is true, rather as the Americans did with the Mujahideen a generation earlier, that Saudi originally championed the Taliban, and there is the vexing issue of ‘charitable’ donations flowing from the region but that is the sum total of their jihadi exports – they do know which wing to pull off the fly in the ointment okay, habibi.

      As for the anti-semite thing, they’re all like that out there. A nuke accidentally let off on top of the Grand Mosque in Mecca definitely not inspiring a lament for the fall of (Harold Godwin and all that) from me is probably the only thing that will ever put a stop to it, but I wouldn’t depend on it and rather not quote me if it it’s all the same to you.

      May I venture two simple observations for your thoughtful attention? 1 there’s a shit load of history out there 2 quite a plausible working proposition would be that the indigenous folk of the region are simply fundamentally flawed in some way or other, or if not that just anglo-saxoned all the way up and then all the way down again until they can’t tell white matter from grey matter if you follow my drift. I would like to think the latter, but I’m not all sure. On the other hand an equally tiresome folk a little closer to the left of here (think Oliver Cromwell) appear in the end to conform to the second i.e. deep down fundamentally human after all, a discovery apparently not of the blessed Maggie pbuh but rather the ghastly Tony sod him, so perhaps there’s a candle shining out there on the pulpit (whatever).

      • laurence

        William, I am aware that Iran and Saudi Arabia represent different sects of this most peaceable religion. Perhaps I should have spelt this out. I do disagree, though, when you state that these fine countries do not export their wonderful ideologies. Hamas, for instance, are funded and armed by Iran and are simply an Iranian proxy. As for Saudi Arabia, I presume you are familiar with the events of the 11th September 2001? Have a look at the nationalities of those involved. 15 were from Saudi Arabia. Oh, and a certain tall, bearded chappy that was recently apprehended by an American special forces unit in Pakistan; I think you’ll find he was born, brought up and ‘educated’ in the same place.

        • William Reid Boyd

          I’ll do you the courtesy of accepting that you’re being ironic about ‘peacable’! One of the more ridiculous lapses in Huntingdon’s absurd ‘clash of civiilisations’ thesis was his glossing over the centuries (milleniums) of internal sectarian strife in the region.

          Well of course you’re right about those terrorists beiong mainly Saudi along with that spoilt desert brat himself now feeding fishes in the deep blue sea, but he and his lot had long been declared persons non gratis by the Saudis, I think even before events such as the Khobar bombing and the American embassy in Nairobi attibuted to them.

      • lobotomisedjournalist

        “Neither, and certainly not Iran, export jihadism”

        What Saudi Arabia does is to fund Madrassas in Pakistan which turn out demented radicals. Wahabism, another Saudi mental affliction is being exported all over the Sunni world, indeed it is playing out among the Syrian opposition today among the most extreme jihadist groups. Salafism and Deobandism are Wahabism’s offshoots. Deobandi Sunnis are regularly, every month, butchering Shiite Sufis in Pakistan. Which means Saudi ideology is wiping out one of the few actually peaceful examples Islam.

  • jjjj

    Rod, while I generally agree with what you write in this article (no surprise as my posts show), I do feel that you lack some information. You write:

    ‘The only alternative to war with Iran is to talk to them, as Oborne and Morrison aver, to engage a little. But engagement cannot take place when the mood here is so unvaryingly hawkish.’

    Where have you been? For the past few years there have been talks and negotiations in various fora and formats: Great Powers, UN, EU (Cathy Ashton). So there has been engagement and not as you write. What we know is what is released to the public but by all accounts the Iranians are not backing down. Regarding the ‘hawkish mood’. Where? In the Spectator? Joe and Jane Public are not hawkish, they couldn’t care less. There are no demonstrations against Iran’s nukes or its Human Rights abuses, no mass protests at the Holocaust Denial, just as there are no mass protests against Assad. Also, you need to keep up a credible military threat otherwise you will not influence the other side’s behaviour.

    Another thing, why are people focussing on Ahmadinejad as the font of all evil? He will be gone soon. It’s the Supreme Leader and Ahmadinejad’s successor who are/will be more important.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Peter Oborne should stop apologising for Iran
    Peter Oborne should stop apologising for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
    Whatever…

    • Guest

      If you have nothing to write, then kindly write nothing.

      • Jackthesmilingblack

        My I suggest you apply this advice to yourself.
        I make an on-topic comment to move on the debate, you respond with trivial, mindless, illogical criticism. You only disagree to be disagreeable and object in order to be objectionable. So why don’t you just shut up?

        • Karla’s Man

          “My I suggest”? No, you are a stupid witless illiterate and kindly shut up!

    • jjjj

      Did PressTV recruit you at the local Jobcentre Plus?

      • Guest

        Not unless there was a Jobcentre inside the British Embassy in Tokyo!

      • Jackthesmilingblack

        Let me help you, than perhaps in future you won’t make quite such an idiot of yourself. I’m Caucasian British, born in Britain, lived half my life in Japan. I only hint I’m Black to make myself more popular.
        Jack, the Japan Alps Brit

        • jjjj

          You bufoon. Did I write anything about your skin colour or ethnicity? Did I? So why the whole CV? I couldn’t give a toss where you live or about your background.

          • Guest

            “Caucasian British” is of itself a bit of an American-sounding nonsense for a true Britisher. He is an attention-seeking old Troll from the Telegraph who is always extremely eager to advertise that he is from Japan, as he just did.

          • Jackthesmilingblack

            Only a ultra-nationalist, xenophobic racist bigot would be so hung up on race and nationality. Another all-night session for you Jock denouncing the evil foreigners. I even warm towards multiculturalism knowing how it must negatively impact BNP members like you.

          • Guest

            A load of gibberish.

          • Jackthesmilingblack

            But you have to admit the Job Centre recruitment does sound just a tad pejorative. You still banging on the keyboard at this time of night? Presupposing you’re on UTC.

          • Guest

            UTC? Are you a Troll in Wikipedia as well?

  • http://twitter.com/Johnny_2_Bikes Johnny 2 Bikes

    I think Iran is entitled to be reasonably well-armed since its democratic government was overthrown by the USA and UK and a fascist dictator installed. It is also surrounded by nuclear states – China, India, Pakistan, Russia, the US, Israel so it’s pefectly entitled to develop its own nuclear weapons and won’t be having any lectures from the fucking USA on the subject, who twice used nukes on civilians.

  • andy_gill

    Remember that Ahmedinejad also hosted a Holocaust cartoon competition in Iran. That shows a level of disgusting depravity hard to comprehend.

    One wonders what exactly one has to do to be considered an anti-Semite in Peter Oborne’s world. Especially as he never stops whining about Islamophobia in Britain. I’d give Peter Oborne a wide berth, it sounds like he’s engaged in a not-so-subtle campaign to make anti-Semitism respectable again.

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