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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Nick Clegg: Theresa May should free "the inner Remainer struggling within her soul"

Former Conservative minister Nicky Morgan argued Cabinet members were onside for a better deal. 

Theresa May should free her “inner Remainer” and turn away from the “Brextremists” to the silent opponents of a hard Brexit, a cross-part y group of MPs have declared.

Conservative MP and former government minister Nicky Morgan said “there are absolutely members of the government who very much want a deal who were staunch Remain campaigners”. Asked if she would stand as a Conservative MP at the next election, she merely answered that the questions for future elections were "several years hence". 

Morgan, who was sacked by May and has emerged as one of her most outspoken Tory critics, was speaking at the launch of Open Britain’s accountability tests for the Brexit negotiations. Article 50 will be triggered on Wednesday 29 March.

Chris Leslie, a Labour MP and former shadow Chancellor, said there were large numbers of parliamentarians “who are willing to be constructive, to go beyond party political lines and do the best deal for the country”.

Former Lib Dem leader and onetime deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg praised a “very good speech” by the Prime Minister before the Brexit vote, in which she reflected on the limits of sovereignty and made the case for remaining in the EU.

He said: “Either she didn’t believe a word she said or there is an inner Remainer struggling within her soul to come out.”

The MPs also warned against the rhetoric of former Tory Chancellor Nigel Lawson, who has repeatedly argued that “no Brexit deal is better than a bad deal”, arguing that this would be chaotic and exploited by ideologues.

Clegg, who was an MEP before he became an MP, said EU negotiators were alert to the threat that the UK would try to turn itself into a “low taxation, low welfare dumping ground”.

He said: “A German leader can’t go to German voters, a Spanish leader can’t go to Spanish voters, and say: ‘We are giving the UK extensive access to our markets to compete with our jobs but at the same time they are going to be like Switzerland on stilts.’”

Referring to Brexit secretary David Davis’ admission that immigration may continue to rise after Brexit, Clegg said the Leave campaign had promised lower immigration and access to the single market. Instead: “The government we know now is going to deliver exactly the opposite.”

 

 

Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.