British Dithering on Iran Tanker Crisis Confirms Terminal Decline: Tehran Continues to Defy International Rules

It is ‘impossible’ for the Royal Navy to escort every British ship in the Iranian Gulf according to Defence minister Tobias Ellwood. It may be stating the obvious but it is a sentiment that a UK government official would never have contemplated uttering a century or more ago. Indeed, one wonders whether Margaret Thatcher would have allowed her ministers to be so bold in their pessimism?

Following the Iranian seizure of a British-flagged ship London is, without reluctance, confirming its reduced presence and status in global affairs. The slow response to the hijacking is characteristic of a confused and unassertive foreign policy, something that has plagued successive governments for at least the last 15 years.

Of course the halcyon days of British naval supremacy and imperialistic overreach have long receded into the realms of history. With huge domestic challenges relating to managing the Brexit fallout, and a sluggish economy, Downing Street could be forgiven for wanting to take a step back when it comes to global affairs.

Yet the Iranian ‘state piracy’ – as Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt called it – is such an unacceptable act, contravening all international rules and norms, that it really requires a strong national response. As US Secretary of Mike Pompeo has said, responsibility for safeguarding British ships is the UK’s alone.

Iranian state television has released footage of the multinational crew

It seems as if economic sanctions will be levied on Tehran by the British government. This is likely to be little more than a token gesture, with far more extensive American sanctions already in place against the Iranian economy. Whilst Hunt has declared that Tehran must now accept a ‘larger Western military presence’ in the Gulf, he falls short of stating that additional British warships will be deployed there.

Yes the Royal Navy has been drastically reduced in size in recent years, yet it remains a formidable force. Iran takes notice of force. The Israelis have demonstrated this with air strikes against Iranian assets in recent years. Nobody wants a confrontation to accidentally slide into war but a heightened British presence in the Gulf seems the minimum response to such an outrage.

Israel has made a habit of striking Iranian facilities in Syria

In 1982 the Conservative government responded to the Argentine occupation of the Falklands with an unwavering demonstration of force. The scenario today is different, and the Iranians are a far more formidable opponent than the Argentinians were, but that sort of assertiveness that would reassure not just British merchants but also their allies (the seized tanker is Swedish-owned) is sorely lacking.

HMS Hermes’ triumphant return from the Falklands – even at a time of domestic economic crisis, Britain’s foreign policy retained a consistent assertiveness

With a permanent seat and veto on the UN Security Council, coupled with a strong nuclear deterrent and military bases across the world, Britain would do well to remember its power and global projection capabilities.

Iran is a rogue state. It does not respect its neighbours or any other nation. In 2007, 15 British sailors and marines carrying out anti-smuggling operations in the Gulf were arrested by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, who had no authorisation from Tehran for an act that could have led to war and yet their commander was feted as a hero by the clerical government. Even then, the immediate British response was ponderous and overly concerned with legalities.

The Iranians were destined to breach the nuclear accord negotiated in 2015 and is a sponsor of terrorism in the Middle East. As I wrote at the time, the Obama-era accord had the potential to be a historic mistake. Paying lip service to an agreement that would always be difficult to regulate gave Tehran breathing space to continue its nefarious activities in other arenas.

It is time that nations other than the US and Israel show some guts in fighting back against this pariah. The British show so far has been both embarrassing and sorely ineffective.


Corbyn Draws Unwanted Parallel with Hardie: Labour’s Anti-Semitism Crisis

Wherever there is trouble in Europe, wherever rumours of war circulate and men’s minds are distraught with fear of change and calamity, you may be sure that a hooked-nosed Rothschild is at his games somewhere near the region of the disturbances.

No this isn’t Jeremy Corbyn, nor is it one of the Labour Party’s unsubtle Jewish detractors. Rather, it is Keir Hardie, Labour’s first Member of Parliament (MP), writing in his Labour Leader paper of 1891.

James Keir Hardie (1856-1915)

Over a century later, one would think that Labour’s current leader has revived such uncouth sentiment, with Mr Corbyn’s handling of the current anti-semitism debate threatening to tear apart the British Left.

Indeed, the fact that the party’s National Executive Committee has been forced to convene to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s full definition of what anti-semitism actually means, demonstrates the mess Corbyn has made of the situation.

Labour’s National Executive Committee meeting attracted both pro and anti-Corbyn demonstrators

If he had acted more vehemently in response to Naz Shah and Ken Livingstone’s foolish comments, it is unlikely this melodrama would have occurred, and the Conservative Party would not be enjoying a surprise respite amidst its own Brexit troubles.

Much of the early Labour Party antipathy towards the Jews was a result of its members socialist, anti-capitalist worldview. With Jewish people seemingly occupying a disproportionately high number of prominent positions within global political and financial institutions at the end of the 19th century, they were readily associated with the degradation of the proletariat.

“Jew moneylenders now control every Foreign Office in Europe” sniped the Social Democratic Federation’s (SDF) Justice paper in 1884. Labour leaders even saw the Boer War as a conspiracy of the Jews to grab the gold fields of South Africa.

Of course, some of this vitriol was consistent with views prevailing more broadly across society at the time. This does not excuse them, it is simply a reality. Today, with the history of Jewish persecution in the 20th century impossible to escape, one must tread much more carefully.

Corbyn has been clear over who he supports in the Middle East

Anti-semitism undoubtedly still exists among many segments of society, although to what extent is hard to gauge. With Israel linking almost every conceivable issue to religion and race – burnished by a right-wing government intent on destroying the two-state solution – it is easy to gain an impression that anti-semitic fervour is on the rise.

Corbyn has not helped himself with careless past comments in support of militant Palestinian groups – not to mention others around the world – and his unwillingness to draw a line under the anti-semitism row sooner makes any move or remark on his part now seem disingenuous.

At least this latest episode in his checkered political career will allow him to draw a parallel with Hardie, the darling of Labour socialism, however much he may want it to disappear.

Keir Hardie was a formidable champion of workers’ rights