Foreign Policy - on Iran, Afghanistan, dictatorships and Israel-Palestine

See the sub-sections for my foreign policy for my election manifesto.

Afghanistan - Why we should bring our troops home

The war isn’t preventing Al Qa’ida training – the 9-11 hijackers trained at flight schools in the US; and 9 years after the invasion large parts of Afghanistan are still Taliban controlled. US intelligence reports 90% of NATO’s opponents in Afghanistan are not Taliban but local tribes resisting foreign invasion by NATO forces just as they resisted Soviet forces when they invade in the 1980s.

Our troops and Afghan civilians are dying (the latter continuing to die in NATO airstrikes and night raids as well as Taliban suicide bombings and attacks) without stopping Al Qa’ida or terrorism in any way. The war actually provides Al Qa’ida with a recruiting point. Labour, Liberals and Conservatives would keep troops there.

Afghans prepare the bodies of 8 boys, now recognised as civilians, killed in a NATO and Afghan army night raid on the village of Ghazi Khan in December 2009 – similar raids have killed civilians since

Afghans prepare the bodies of 8 boys, now recognised as civilians, killed in a NATO and Afghan army night raid on the village of Ghazi Khan in December 2009 – similar raids have killed civilians since

Seventy percent of Afghans say poverty and unemployment are the main causes of war in Afghanistan, with most people unable to get jobs or an income except by being a policeman, a soldier, a fighter for the Taliban or involved in the heroin trade.

Afghan children, barefoot and hungry

Afghan children, barefoot and hungry

Opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan from 1994 to 2008 increasing hugelyThe best way to end the war would be to create jobs in Afghanistan, one of the poorest countries in the world. One way to do this and reduce heroin production too would be to fund opiate based painkiller factories using poppy crops for medical painkillers rather than for heroin instead, to provide jobs other than in the heroin trade or as Taliban fighters, as suggested by the International Council on Security and Development and backed by the European Parliament.

The war, which is supposedly about reducing heroin production and stopping heroin being smuggled abroad, has actually led to a huge increase in production since the invasion, in both Taliban and Afghan government or NATO held areas. (For more on this see the red UN bar graph in this BBC report, as well as Professor Peter Dale Scott’s article here and this report on heroin smuggling from Afghanistan to Russia rocketing since the invasion in 2001)

Soldiers who have served in Afghanistan but now oppose the war and refuse to go back like Lance Corporal Joe Glenton have been sent to jail for taking a stand for what they believe in, even after they risked their lives for our country and told the truth as they see it, from their personal experience, about the war. This is completely unjust and shows how wrong government policy on Afghanistan and towards our troops has become. Of course prisoners can’t vote, so Joe Glenton, who has committed no crime except to serve his country and his conscience, won’t be able to vote in this election. That makes it more important that others speak out and vote against the war on his behalf.

Lance Corporal Joe Glenton – Jailed for refusing to go back to Afghanistan

Lance Corporal Joe Glenton – Jailed for refusing to go back to Afghanistan

Around 3,000 of the 9,500 British troops in Afghanistan won’t even be able to vote in this election due to logistical problems.

To read more about the war in Afghanistan, civilian casualties in it and it's impact on womens' rights, aid distribution and other issues see this blog post and this one and the sources for both.

To read about the other reasons for the war in Afghanistan - especially the evidence that it's to secure a pipeline route for oil and gas from former Soviet Republics to the Indian Ocean click this link

End support for dictatorships

End British government support for dictatorships - it backfires and increases terrorism

British governments under both the Conservatives and Labour have supported dictatorships with political backing, arms sales, training for their police and militaries, military aid (subsidising their arms purchases) and tacit guarantees that they will use force to stop their own people overthrowing them

They continue to do so to this day, backing everyone from the corrupt, torturing, extreme fundamentalist Saudi monarchy in Saudi Arabia, to President Mubarak in Egypt and Colonel Gadaffi in Libya, to mention just a few.

The theory is that these governments are "moderates" who will prevent extremists getting into power.

Tell that to the family of the Lebanese TV psychic sentenced to death for witch-craft in Saudi Arabia recently (and only having his execution postponed because of international media coverage), or the parents of the girls who burned to death when their school went on fire, because the religious police of Saudi Arabia forced them back into the burning building to die in case they were seen "improperly dressed" in the street. Many Saudis and foriegners in Saudi are tortured into confessing to crimes they didn't commit, then executed with their confession as the only evidence.

Apart from being extreme themselves these dictatorships close off any possibility of Muslims and other opponents of the dictatorships (from liberals to socialists, conservatives, environmentalists and feminists) being able to express their views peacefully. This boosts terrorist groups as they can point to it as evidence that they will never be allowed to promote their beliefs through campaigning peaceful, democratic elections - and gain new recruits as a result (which is also why refusing to recognise Hamas' victory in Palestinian parliamentary elections found free and fair by EU election observers in 2006 is a mistake).

President Mubarak of Egypt has banned the main opposition party - the Muslim brotherhood- because it opposes him - and has gained backing from western governments to do so because the Muslim brotherhood are Islamic fundamentalists. However they fail to notice what experts like Professor Fawaz Gerges and investigative journalists like Loretta Napolini have - that Islamic political parties are not always allies of violent jihadists. In fact Gerges has pointed out that the Muslim brotherhoods in Jordan and Egypt are often targets of terrorist attacks by violent jihadists who see anyone involved in the democratic process as a "collaborator".

By preventing Islamic parties taking part in democratic politics the dictatorships backed by the British, French and American governments are not reducing terrorism, but increasing it, by making more Muslims in their countries conclude that the only way they will be allowed any say at all in the government of their countries is by meeting the violence of the dictators with violence of their own.

As Gerges shows in his book "the Far Enemy" our governments' backing for these dictatorships led to September 11th. Bin Laden's second in command Zawahiri was originally joined al Qa'ida to try to get revenge for being tortured by the US, French and British backed dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak in Egypty.

Zarqawi was similarly radicalised by being tortured by the British backed monarchy of Jordan.

Backing dictatorships is both wrong and increases the threat of terrorist attacks on civilians in our own country

The recognition given by the British, US and EU governments to regimes installed by military coups involving the torture and killing of thousands in Thailand and in Honduras is almost as bad.

So is the refusal to allow Jean Bertrand Aristide, the elected President of Haiti, who remains the most popular politician in the country due to his concern for the poor and hungry majority there, to return to his country. Aristide was elected by a large majority in 1991, overthrown by a US and French military coup, restored with many conditions (all of which made the poor of Haiti poorer) in 1994, re-elected again, then overthrown again in another US backed coup in 2004.

These dictatorships are one of the main reasons why so many people in these countries are poor, hungry and oppressed - and why even the minority who aren't poor want to go abroad to a democracy where they're free to express their opinions without being tortured, jailed or executed without fair trial.

They tend to be corrupt as well, taking much of the aid meant for their people for themselves.

They're not even reliable allies either. The British and American governments backed Saddam Hussein's dictatorship for decades - then ended up at war with him; just as the US did with Noriega in Panama. All the Shah's regime did was provoke an Islamic revolution in Iran - if the CIA and MI6 hadn't overthrown the moderate nationalist Mossadeq for trying to nationalise his own country's oil industry in 1953 there would have been no Islamic revolution in 1979 and no hostility between Iranians and the US and Britisih governments. Support for General Musharraf's military dictatorship similarly back-fired. He played a double game - aiding the Taliban in Afghanistan while fighting those in Pakistan (much like his successors). British and American support for Islam Karimov's dictatorship in Uzbekistan resulted in them saying nothing while people were boiled alive and had their fingernails pulled out (with the excellent British Ambassador Craig Murray sacked for criticising this) - yet Karimov returned to the Russian side soon after.

All support for dictatorships should be ended.

Iran : Why we should rule out British or Scottish involvement in “stronger sanctions”, air strikes or war on Iran

Iran’s leaders have proven they don’t want to commit national suicide

The first reason why we should have nothing to do with plans to use “stronger” sanctions or air strikes to try to prevent Iran getting nuclear weapons is that the current Iranian leadership, while they are extremely brutal in repressing dissent in Iran, have shown that they are against making any move that would result in national suicide for Iran (which is what using nuclear weapons on nuclear armed states like Israel or their allies would be).

In 1988 during the Iran-Iraq war a US warship – the USS Vincennes – shot down an Iranian Airbus passenger plane killing over 200 civilians on board. Iran’s government and military took this as a sign that the US was about to join the war directly on Saddam’s side (rather than backing, arming and funding him as they did from the 1970s till 1991). The man who is now ‘The Leader’ of Iran (almost a theocratic dictator) – Ayatollah Khameini was one of the people who then persuaded Ayatollah Khomeini to make peace with Iraq rather than risk his regime being overthrown. Ayatollah Rafsanjani, now head of more than one of the influential ‘governing councils’ also helped persuade Khameini to back down, as did the officers of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (President Ahmadinejad is a former Revolutionary Guardsman).

Iranian Leader Ayatollah Khameini

Iranian Leader Ayatollah Khameini (above) and , chair of influential ruling councils in Iran (below) both persuaded Khomeini to make peace rather than risk being defeated in 1988

Ayatollah Rafsanjani  

For the same reasons Iran would not provide terrorist groups with nuclear weapons, as this would just be suicide by proxy – just as Saddam, despite all the scare-mongering, never provided terrorist groups he backed with chemical weapons when he had them from the 1980s till 1991 – and would not have in 2003 either, for the same reason.

That means Iranians who want nuclear weapons want them as a deterrent, not to attack other nations with them This means that if Iran is developing a nuclear weapon it’s doing so for the same reason other countries (including Israel) already have – as a deterrent to deter other countries from making conventional, WMD or nuclear attacks on Iran, as experts on Iran like Ray Takeyh of the US Council on Foreign Relations and British former diplomat Michael Axworthy say.

The governments of the US, Britain, France, the Soviet Union and China all armed and funded Saddam while he invaded Iran and used chemical weapons on Iraqi Kurds (most notoriously at Halabja) and on Iranians (US funding for Saddam continuing after Halabja). Chemical weapons were also used by Saddam against Iranians in the Iran-Iraq war. Chemical munitions and the materials to produce them plus delivery systems were provided by the US, British, French , Chinese and German governments among others. Aid from the US and UK to Saddam continued after Halabja.

Iraqi kurds mourning the dead as they prepare to bury them after Saddam's gassing of Halabja in 1988

Iraqi kurds mourning the dead as they prepare to bury them after Saddam's gassing of Halabja in 1988

Iranians have not forgotten this, nor the US and British backed military coup against the elected government of Mohammed Mossadeq in 1953 (when he tried to nationalise his country’s oil industry). Iran is almost alone in having no nuclear deterrent and no powerful, reliable ally that can provide one to cover it from attack by either conventional forces or with WMDs.

Israeli military historian Martin Van Creveld has said that "The world has witnessed how the United States attacked Iraq for, as it turned out, no reason at all. Had the Iranians not tried to build nuclear weapons, they would be crazy."

Offline sources for above two sections:

Takeyh, Ray (2006), ‘Hidden Iran - Paradox and Power in the Islamic Republic, Times Books, New York, 2006 - pages 170-174

Pollack, Kenneth M.(2004), ‘The Persian Puzzle', Random House, New York, 2005 paperback edition - pages 231-233

Ahmadinejad did not say Iran would “wipe Israel off the map” and would have no control of nuclear weapons if Iran developed them

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

President Ahmadinejad of Iran has had demonstrators and striking teachers beaten, tortured,  jailed and killed, but did not say he’d wipe Israel off the map – and would not have control of nuclear weapons if Iran developed them

He made the same speech Khomeini had made every year since the Islamic Revolution against the Shah’s dictatorship in 1979, in which he said that he hoped that the “illegal regime which rules over Quods [in Jerusalem] will be erased from the pages of history” (1).

That is fairly clearly a call for “regime change” rather than a threat of nuclear Holocaust – and Ahmadinejad in interviews with French television channels compared Israel to the former Soviet Union, pointing out that the people of the Soviet Union had overthrown their government and the country no longer exists as a result. Israel and the US, both of which actually have nuclear weapons and actually plan to use them to attack Iran, are never accused of calling for a “nuclear Holocaust” against Iran when they talk of nuclear air strikes or “regime change” (1).

Nor would Ahmadinejad have control of nuclear weapons if Iran developed them. Iran’s Presidents have very few powers and are not the Commander in Chief of Iran’s military. The ‘Leader’ Ayatollah Khameini, who persuaded Khomeini to back down in 1988, would be (2), (3).

(1) = Takeyh, Ray (2006), ‘Hidden Iran - Paradox and Power in the Islamic Republic, Times Books, New York, 2006, (hardback edition)

(2) = Hauser Global Law School Program (New York University School of Law) Mar 2006, 'A Guide to the Legal System of the Islamic Republic of Iran' by Omar Sial' ,

(3) = Time magazine 20 Apr 2006‘Iran President's Bark May Be Worse than His Bite',,8599,1185293,00.html

Air Strikes would not stop Iran developing nuclear weapons
and might make them do so

Experts, even hawkish ones such as Michael E. O'Hanlon and Bruce Reidel, are against air strikes on Iran because they could not prevent Iran developing nuclear weapons. For instance Hanlon and Reidel say:

even a massive strike would not slow Iran’s progress towards a bomb for long. We cannot be sure we know where all existing Iranian facilities to enrich uranium are located – as the revelation of yet another previously unknown site near Qom last year reminded us. Even if we did strike most or all existing facilities, Iran can rebuild fairly fast and would surely expel inspectors and burrow further underground when building its next facilities. It would be even harder to find, and strike, those assets.”

They don’t mention the other possibility – that if Iran is genuinely only developing nuclear programmes for nuclear energy to supply electricity (as they claim they are) air-strikes might make them decide to build nuclear weapons as a deterrent against further attacks.

Air strikes would kill civilians
and might involve tactical nuclear weapons

A US F117 Nighthawk stealth bomber drops  a 'bunker buster bomb' in military tests in Utah

A US F117 Nighthawk stealth bomber drops a 'bunker buster bomb' in military tests in Utah

The US and Israel both have plans for air-strikes with ‘bunker buster’ bombs, with both planning for the possibility of using ‘tactical nuclear’ weapons dropped from aircraft in the hope of destroying or setting back Iran’s nuclear programme.

According to the renowned American journalist Seymour Hersh, Obama’s Defence Secretary Robert Gates, who served in the same position under Bush, travelled to Europe in 2007 to try to persuade the British government and other NATO allies to back the idea of tactical nuclear air-strikes on Iran, targeting suspected nuclear programme sites.

Former CIA counter-terrorism officer Phillip Giraldi told journalists that British Prime Minister Gordon Brown had opposed the idea, but that the plan included "a large-scale air assault on Iran employing both conventional and tactical nuclear weapons"

Israel has similarly had plans for using tactical nuclear weapons in airstrikes on Iran since at least 2007.

The Obama administration’s new policy on nuclear first strikes has been widely praised, yet it permits nuclear strikes on countries which the US deems to have breached the non-proliferation treaty – like Iran – the exact wording being:

The United States will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states that are party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and in compliance with their nuclear non-proliferation obligations.”

Of course the US alleges that Iran is not in compliance with the Treaty (though Iran was one of the first countries to sign it).

An early tactical nuclear weapon designed to be dropped as a bomb from a plane in the 1960s

An early tactical nuclear weapon designed to be dropped as a bomb from a plane in the 1960s

In March this year President Obama ordered large quantities of bunker buster bombs delivered to the US air base at Diego Garcia in the Chagos Islands (8). The Chagos Islands are British dependencies (former colonies) in the Indian Ocean, previously inhabited by the Chagos Islanders, but the US and British militaries forcibly deported them from their homes in the 1950s to make way for the US military, navy and air-force bases.

If the ‘bunker busters’ are anything like the ones the US supplied to Israel during the 2006 Lebanon war they’ll also include Depleted Uranium, dust from which causes high rates of cancers for decades afterwards – and so effectively ‘weapons of mass destruction’ (9) (more on this later).

Diego Garcia was one of the staging posts for the 1991 Gulf War against Iraq.

Some see this as preparation for US airstrikes on Iran, others claim the original destination for the bombs was Israel, with Obama sending them to Diego Garcia a sign that he wouldn’t back Israeli airstrikes on Iran (10), (11).

It could mean that Obama plans to make the operation an American one though.

Dan Plesch, the Director of the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy at London University, told reporters
They are gearing up totally for the destruction of Iran...US bombers are ready today to destroy 10,000 targets in Iran in a few hours” (12).

If air strikes targeting suspected nuclear facilities go ahead civilian ‘collateral damage’ is guaranteed, both due to missing targets – and more commonly due to wrongly identifying civilian targets as military or nuclear programme facilities. In the 1991 Gulf War the US dropped ‘bunker buster’ bombs like the ones Obama is storing at Diego Garcia. One took out what US commanders believed to be a ‘command and control centre’ that might contain Saddam Hussein. In fact the Al Ameriyeh bunker in Baghdad contained hundreds of civilians, using it as an air raid shelter – and 408 were killed.

A modern 'bunker buster'

A modern 'bunker buster'

Hundreds more cases of civilian deaths due to wrongly identified targets (and even targeting of civilian targets) took place in the Gulf war and continued in ‘patrolling the No-Fly Zones’ between 1991 and 2003, resulting in hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths caused directly and indirectly by bombing (22) – (24). They continued in Kosovo and Serbia in 1999, in the Iraq war and in airstrikes in Afghanistan from October 2001 to present.

 If tactical nuclear weapons are used then a legacy of radiation sickness, still births, illnesses, high rates of fatal cancers among infants and deformities may result for decades, as for decades after the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings and in the years since US and British forces used depleted uranium (DU), napalm and compounds with similar effects and white phosphorus in Iraq from 1991 on.

A girl in Fallujah , Iraq , who was born without a left hand - one of the less distressing of the huge number of birth defects among children born there since the 2004 Coalition assaults

The most recent examples have come from Fallujah where the rates of birth defects among newborn babies have increased massively since the April and November 2004 assaults by coalition forces employing DU and white phosphorus.

Obama’s Policy on Iran has more similarities than differences from Bush’s

Barack Obama

President Obama

During the 2008 Presidential election Obama made a campaign pledge in a speech to AIPAC (the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee):

I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. That starts with aggressive, principled diplomacy without self-defeating preconditions

He went on to say that, like Bush, he would use initial diplomacy as a means of getting other governments to support sanctions or military action

Our willingness to pursue diplomacy will make it easier to mobilize others to join our cause. If Iran fails to change course when presented with this choice by the United States

Obama’s description of Iran in his speech could have come from Bush or Cheney :

The Iranian regime supports violent extremists and challenges us across the region. It pursues a nuclear capability that could spark a dangerous arms race and raise the prospect of a transfer of nuclear know-how to terrorists. Its president denies the Holocaust and threatens to wipe Israel off the map. The danger from Iran is grave, it is real, and my goal will be to eliminate this threat.

The false claims are identical to the ones made by the Bush administration. First that there is definitive proof that Iran is trying to build a nuclear weapon. There isn’t any. Second that if Iran got nuclear weapons it would give them to terrorist groups, which is as ludicrous as Bush administration claims that Saddam would give nuclear weapons to Al Qa’ida or Palestinian terrorist groups if he had them. In fact when Saddam did have WMDs in the form of chemical warheads for his Scud missiles - and was at war with the US in 1991 - he neither used them on other countries nor gave them to terrorist groups, because the first would have been personal and national suicide and the second would have been national suicide by proxy. His only attacks on Israel and Kuwait with scuds used conventional warheads. (1).

Of course in the case of Iraq no amount of evidence from UN weapons inspections teams, the CIA or the Iraq Weapons Survey Group that Saddam had no significant WMD capability was good enough. It may well be that the same lobby groups – the Israeli government, AIPAC, the oil and arms companies and hawks on the right of the Republican and Democratic parties - want a US war on Iran no matter what.

It also ignores the fact that the US, the UK and its allies can’t be in danger from Iran even if it did develop nuclear weapons, as Iran, like Saddam would be deterred from making nuclear attacks on us by the certainty of a massively larger nuclear counter-strike that would wipe Iran off the map.

(1) = Nye , Joseph S. & Smith , Robert K. (1992), ‘After the Storm' , Madison Books , London , 1992 , - pages 211-216 (Nye is a former CIA officer)

(see my blog post here for full sources on the above)

Air Strikes would make Iranian politics more extreme
and cause revenge terrorist attacks

The London bombings

Any air strikes on Iran and the resulting ‘collateral damage’ civilian casualties would lead to widespread anger in Iran and the Muslim world. Iranian politics would become more hostile to any countries involved.

This would also create the risk of more revenge terrorist attacks on civilians in the countries whose governments ordered the attacks – just as the US and British invasion of Iraq in 2003 led to the London bombings and the presence of Spanish troops in Iraq led to the Madrid bombings.

Israel and it’s US ally’s military power and nuclear arsenals dwarfs Iran’s

US supplied Israeli F-16 fighter jets

US supplied Israeli F-16 fighter jets

Even if Iran did develop nuclear weapons they would not allow it to attack Israel or other countries, whose militaries are massively better armed, with far more advanced warplanes, tanks and artillery. Israel is estimated to have at least 80 nuclear warheads, some missile mounted, others to be dropped from aircraft.

Israeli military historian Martin Van Creveld says thatWe Israelis have what it takes to deter an Iranian attack. We are in no danger at all of having an Iranian nuclear weapon dropped on us....”.

The Dimona nuclear plant in the Negev – the centre of Israel’s nuclear weapons programme

The Dimona nuclear plant in the Negev – the centre of Israel’s nuclear weapons programme

On top of this Israel has the US as an ally – and even after the reductions in the recent nuclear treaty with Russia, the US will still have over 1,500 deployed nuclear warheads and many thousands of advanced aircraft.

Wider sanctions could kill huge numbers of civilians,
as they did in Iraq from 1991 to 2003

An Iraqi mother with her child in 2000 during the sanctions which lasted from the end of the 1991 war till the 2003 invasion

Obama used the US-Russian nuclear treaty, which reduced US and Russian deployed nuclear warheads by 30% to around 1,550 each (plus undeployed warheads), to talk of progress to a world free of nuclear weapons.

There is no prospect of the major powers giving up all their nuclear weapons though – and the dark side of Obama’s policy is that he is using the token reductions in the treaty to push for “stronger sanctions” or airstrikes on Iran, either of which could kill large numbers of civilians.

While the sanctions so far applied to Iran have been limited ones targeting certain individuals’ foreign bank accounts and travel and banning exports of nuclear material to Iran, extending sanctions to make them more general could result in Iran not being able to afford to import enough food and medicines for it’s population, like US sanctions on Iraq from 1991 to 2003, which killed around 5,000 children a month plus thousands of adults according to two UN officials who resigned as heads of the sanctions programme – Dennis Halliday and Hans Von Sponeck.

War on Iran would put British troops in Afghanistan at further risk

War on Iran would also result in Iran stepping up arms and training to opponents of NATO in Afghanistan, resulting in more deaths among British troops there (though they should be brought home in any case – see my policy page on Afghanistan for the reasons why)