Tom Gross

The truth about Iran is now of little importance to Jeremy Corbyn

The truth about Iran is now of little importance to Jeremy Corbyn
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If any further evidence was needed about the disingenuousness of Jeremy Corbyn and the dangers a government led by him might pose internationally – not just for Britain but also for Britain’s Nato allies – it is worth watching Corbyn’s interview on Iran with the BBC’s Andrew Marr yesterday.

‘You've been very reluctant to condemn the government of Iran. Can I read you what Amnesty International has said about Iran… ?’ began Marr yesterday, to which Corbyn interrupted him with the extraordinary response:

‘I think that actually, if I may say so, you're spending too much time reading the Daily Mail, do you know that?’

Having failed to read Corbyn passages from Amnesty’s report, Marr then turned to the issue of his generously paid appearances on the Iranian regime’s propaganda channel Press TV.

‘You took money from Iran. You took money from Press TV events,’ said Marr.

Corbyn responded: ‘A very long time ago I did some programmes for... Yes, I did some programmes for Press TV. I ceased to do any programmes when they treated the Green Movement the way that they did.’

Contrary to what Corbyn said (and unfortunately Marr didn’t follow-up on it), this is not true.

Corbyn continued to take money from Iran’s regime through his appearances on Press TV well after the reformist Green movement was ruthlessly put down in 2009 and hundreds of pro-democracy campaigners were killed and thousands imprisoned or driven into exile.

Corbyn was reportedly paid as much as £20,000 for his appearances on Press TV between 2009 and 2012, according to his register of interests, on the House of Commons database. He was even paid to appear on Press TV after the channel had its license revoked and was banned from broadcasting in the UK for its part in airing the forced confession of Newsweek’s Iran correspondent, Maziar Bahari.

Bahari was arrested for reporting on the pro-democracy protests, and held in solidarity confinement in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison for 118 days – where he was kicked, punched, whipped with belts and threatened with execution -- before, under extreme duress, he agreed to read out a scripted confession on Press TV from inside his prison cell.

It was on one of his Press TV appearances that Corbyn made his much-criticised comments that it was a ‘tragedy’ that Osama Bin Laden had been killed rather than being put on trial. And whereas Corbyn told Marr yesterday that he has ‘ceased to do programs’ on Press TV, his friend and Labour party ally Ken Livingstone was on Press TV only last week in a program to mark Holocaust Memorial Day. In a thoroughly obnoxious insult to survivors, the title of the program suggested that the Jews have ‘exploited’ the Holocaust.

While Corbyn did go on to condemn human rights abuses in Iran during the course of his Andrew Marr interview yesterday, they were generalised (for example, he refused to answer Marr’s specific question about the woman who took off her hijab and has now been “disappeared”) and judging by Corbyn’s actual record over many years one must assume they are little more than expedient lip service. On other occasions, when asked about Iran, Corbyn often likes to answer, instead, by criticising the Saudi record on human rights. But unlike Iran’s, that record has very slightly improved, and indeed last week the Saudi-based Muslim World League (previously a very extreme organisation) sent a letter to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, to reject the kind of Holocaust denial that the Iranian regime has promoted.

‘We consider any denial of the Holocaust or minimising of its effect a crime to distort history and an insult to the dignity of those innocent souls who have perished. It is also an affront to us all since we share the same human soul and spiritual bonds,’ wrote Mohammad Al Issa, the secretary general of the Muslim World League, in a letter to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day, with the encouragement of Saudi Arabia’s new crown prince, Muhammad bin Sultan.

Meanwhile, Corbyn continued to defend the Iranian regime both before and after the 2009 Green Revolution was put down.

Corbyn was the only non-Muslim speaker billed on the poster for ‘The All-Encompassing Revolution’ seminar, hosted at the Islamic Centre of England in 2014, ‘to commemorate the auspicious anniversary of the victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran’.

Here is a video from the event:

He was joined by Abdolhossein Moezi, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s personal representative to the UK; anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist Lord Nazir Ahmed; Hassan al-Sadr, the British representative of Iraqi Shia extremist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr; and Mohammad Ali Shomali, of the Imam Khomeini Education and Research Institute in Qom, Iran.

The event was also co-sponsored by Kanoon Towhid which in 2012, hosted, via video, the former Commander-in-Chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard, General Mohsen Rezai, who is on Interpol’s wanted list for his suspected involvement in the bombing of the Buenos Aires Jewish centre that killed 85 people. ‘He inshallah shall be joining us to make the case for Iran,’ said the chair of the 2014 event as he introduced Corbyn. Corbyn replied by employing the traditional Islamic greeting ‘Peace be with you,’ before telling us how tolerant Iran is. And how he deplores war.

So in case anyone needs reminding, because Corbyn certainly won’t remind us: Iran is the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism – it has sponsored bomb attacks in places as far afield as Buenos Aires, Bangkok and Bulgaria, an EU member state. It has formed militias that have brought terror to the streets of Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen. It has released rapists, paedophiles and other criminals from its prisons on condition they join the Shia militia it has sent to Syria, and who have killed more Syrian civilians than Isis did these past seven years. At home, the Iranian regime has tortured and executed political opponents, persecuted minorities including Baha’is, Baluchis and Kurds, and repressed gays and democracy activists.

Corbyn claims to care about human rights. But he doesn’t seem to care much about those brave Iranians now lucky enough to have been exiled to the west, who have, at various human rights conferences, shown me the scars of their torture at the hands of the regime.

One might – just possibly – put to one side Corbyn’s appalling past disregard for human rights if there was some hint that he had changed his thinking from the days when he wrote a chapter in an ‘anti-imperialist’ book defending the North Korean regime. But on the basis of his BBC interview yesterday, and other remarks since he became Labour leader, there’s little to suggest that if he comes to power he is going to become less ideologically rigid or more nuanced in his judgment about the world.