Article published in The Daily Telegraph, 7 January 2020. © Richard Kemp
‘Death to America! The great Satan!’ Predictable chants on the streets of Tehran following President Trump’s strike against Iranian General Qassim Soleimani. Comments by many political leaders in Britain suggest their own feelings may not be much different. Jeremy Corbyn’s reaction, in any case now politically irrelevant, was so predictable it can be passed over. The candidates to replace him also lined up to condemn Trump’s action, led by Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry who spoke of ‘Trump’s reckless lurch towards war’. Clive Lewis condemned ‘this cowboy action’.
Is it strategic naïveté that leads these people to side with Tehran over Washington? Ill-judged comments like this can only embolden Ayatollah Khamenei in his plans to retaliate against America. Desperate to split the EU further from the US, he knows the value of such backing, demanding that European leaders condemn President Trump.
These Labour politicians are far from alone, with academics and so-called experts in international law wheeled out in the media to accuse the US of acting illegally and even committing war crimes, despite ignorance of the intelligence that led to the attack order. At one point I expected the BBC to play martial music in the days immediately after Soleimani’s death, so sombre was their coverage of his funeral. Their correspondent in Beirut on Monday came across more like a spokesman for Tehran. Next maybe we should expect to see Soleimani transformed into an anti-imperialist icon, with Left-wing politicians donning t-shirts bearing his image Che Guevara-style.
All of this demonstrates breath-taking moral bankruptcy. Repudiating action to contain long-term lethal Iranian violence against US forces and diplomats ignores the depravity of a regime that kills gays, oppresses women, tortures prisoners and murders demonstrators. Ordinary Iranians know their own theocratic government is the Great Satan, not the US. Many have been privately celebrating Soleimani’s end, in contrast to the throngs of ‘mourners’ eagerly broadcast on Western TV, mostly there at the point of a gun. Hearing about President Trump’s threat to attack 52 targets, a lot have been hoping he will do it sooner rather than later.
They know the cause of much of the economic misery they have been protesting in recent months was Soleimani himself. Eulogised by commentators in the West, his unique influence over the Supreme Leader has led the country into disastrous imperial adventures across the region which have killed tens of thousands of Continue reading