Iran and Chilcot

Will we learn the lessons of Iraq?

I find it ironic, if not frustrating, to see Gordon Brown, in Trinidad, pontificating on Iran's alleged breach of its international obligations and repeating insinuations, if not outright claims, from leaders in the west that Iran is developing nuclear weapons, in the very same week that the Chilcot inquiry is reminding us of the lies, distortions and exaggerations fed to us by those same leaders about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

Will we never learn the lessons of the Iraq debacle? Why are the media repeating these mistakes, misrepresenting and hyping an imagined threat?

Here are the facts: in September 2009, the outgoing IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei -- who got Iraq right, not wrong, unlike Blair, Brown et al -- said in an interview that there was "no credible evidence" of an Iranian weapons attempt. He said: "I do not think based on what we see that Iran has an ongoing nuclear weapons programme."

There is one country in the Middle East that does have nuclear weapons and it does begin with the letter "I", but it's not Iran, or Iraq. It is, of course, Israel. When are we going to have an inquiry about that?

 

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Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader. He was the New Statesman's senior editor (politics) from 2009-12.

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How Theresa May laid a trap for herself on the immigration target

When Home Secretary, she insisted on keeping foreign students in the figures – causing a headache for herself today.

When Home Secretary, Theresa May insisted that foreign students should continue to be counted in the overall immigration figures. Some cabinet colleagues, including then Business Secretary Vince Cable and Chancellor George Osborne wanted to reverse this. It was economically illiterate. Current ministers, like the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Chancellor Philip Hammond and Home Secretary Amber Rudd, also want foreign students exempted from the total.

David Cameron’s government aimed to cut immigration figures – including overseas students in that aim meant trying to limit one of the UK’s crucial financial resources. They are worth £25bn to the UK economy, and their fees make up 14 per cent of total university income. And the impact is not just financial – welcoming foreign students is diplomatically and culturally key to Britain’s reputation and its relationship with the rest of the world too. Even more important now Brexit is on its way.

But they stayed in the figures – a situation that, along with counterproductive visa restrictions also introduced by May’s old department, put a lot of foreign students off studying here. For example, there has been a 44 per cent decrease in the number of Indian students coming to Britain to study in the last five years.

Now May’s stubbornness on the migration figures appears to have caught up with her. The Times has revealed that the Prime Minister is ready to “soften her longstanding opposition to taking foreign students out of immigration totals”. It reports that she will offer to change the way the numbers are calculated.

Why the u-turn? No 10 says the concession is to ensure the Higher and Research Bill, key university legislation, can pass due to a Lords amendment urging the government not to count students as “long-term migrants” for “public policy purposes”.

But it will also be a factor in May’s manifesto pledge (and continuation of Cameron’s promise) to cut immigration to the “tens of thousands”. Until today, ministers had been unclear about whether this would be in the manifesto.

Now her u-turn on student figures is being seized upon by opposition parties as “massaging” the migration figures to meet her target. An accusation for which May only has herself, and her steadfast politicising of immigration, to blame.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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