Answering John Rentoul - on Iran, Israel and the never-ending nuclear debate

Iran Watch, part 6.

Iran Watch, part 6.

Ok. This is getting BO-RING. The Sindy's John Rentoul says "the world might have decided it has better things to do" than follow our ongoing blog-and-Twitter row over Iran/Israel/nukes - but, bizarrely, he says this at the end of yet another blogpost - "Calling Mehdi Hasan" - in which he yet again dodges the key issues.

This'll be my last post on Rentoul - I promise! - and I'll try and make it as short as possible because I know he doesn't like having to read long articles. (I can only guess that he prefers to conduct debates on geopolitics via 140-character putdowns on Twitter. Then again, his knowledge of Iran is pretty superficial: he claims, for example, that the Iranian president would be in control of nuclear weapons when of course, if such weapons were to be built by the regime, it would be Ayatullah Khamenei with his finger on the trigger and Ahmadinejad wouldn't be allowed anywhere near them!)

Three quick points:

First, Rentoul wants to misquote people and then pretend he didn't and/or pretend it doesn't matter. It was Rentoul who claimed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had threatened to "wipe Israel off the map", refused to correct himself or the belligerent meaning he ascribed to those comments and who now says that he knew I "would go off into the old debate about the translation of the Iranian president's 2005 words about Israel". This is wonderfully evasive as it leaves the passing reader unaware of the fact that, "old" or not, the debate is over and Rentoul is wrong. Ahmadinejad, for all his flaws, sins and crimes, didn't say that. Rentoul knows he didn't say that. Yet this proud pedant continues to flagrantly misquote the Iranian president in order to beat the drum for war against Iran.

Second, Rentoul again asks "why the warmongering IAEA should allow such a government to develop nuclear weapons". I'm not sure I understand this contorted and rather loaded question - the IAEA isn't a "warmongering" organisation (though its director general does look a little compromised to me) and hasn't said Iran is developing weapons. Has he even bothered to read the IAEA's reports? I'm happy to extend the "Iain Dale challenge" to Rentoul, if he's interested in trying to win the £100 cash prize that's still on offer.

Third, double standards matter. Despite Rentoul's unfortunate smears, my own view is clear and well-documented: I want a nuclear-weapons-free Middle East in accordance with UN resolution 687. I don't want Israel or Iran to have nuclear weapons (and nor does the IAEA!); Rentoul is ok with the former having 'em but not the latter.

That's what this row has been about. The rest is noise.

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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Growth figures are good, but there are choppy waters ahead

The Bank of England is worried about European banks.

The growth figures are out, and they give us some idea of what the immediate impact of the Brexit vote has been. Growth is down 0.2 per cent to 0.5 per cent in the quarter following the leave vote. Not great news but better than the expected 0.3 per cent rate. Britain’s chief statistician, John Grice, says there is little evidence of a Brexit shock on these figures.

But there are choppier waters ahead. Mark Garnier said publicly in an interview with the World at One yesterday what many in the City have been saying privately for sometime: that the passporting rights of British banks are unlikely to make it into the final Brexit deal.

Garnier, who used to work as a fund manager before becoming an MP, is well-liked in the City, and, like Philip Hammond, is one of the Remainers who hasn’t quite turned his sword into a ploughshare, warned that the row over the price of Marmite is the sign of things to come.

But there are storm clouds on the British and European economy that have nothing to do with the Brexit vote. Officials at the Bank of England are asking big British lenders what their exposure to Germany’s Deutsche Bank and Italy’s Monte dei Paschi, both of which are the subject of investor worries about their balance sheets.

Monte dei Paschi, the world’s oldest operating bank, has long been a source of concern. (One argument near the top of government for triggering Article 50 sooner rather than later has been avoiding sucking the United Kingdom into a bailout deal  for Monte dei Paschi).

In some ways, that the European banks are not looking in rude health increases British leverage in exit talks, at least as far as services are concerned. But – and it’s a big but – if the end result is that banks face further increases in their credit requirements, it will reduce still further the willingness of banks to domicile in both London and within the EU after Brexit, as the costs will only increase.

But if a better deal for British banks comes at the expense of another financial crisis, that will come as thin comfort indeed.

This appeared in today's Morning Call, your essential email briefing to what's going on in politics. Subscribe for free here.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.