The uncomfortable truth about Iran, the bomb and the west

Ahmadinejad’s curiously rational address to the nuclear non-proliferation conference.

The international community's boycott of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's speech to the New York nuclear non-proliferation conference this week was a cynical gesture that belied the rationality of what he said.

Here is the Iranian president's analysis of the causes of the NPT's problems (such a review being, after all, the purpose of the conference):

  1. States seeking dominance by suppressing others.
  2. The policy of producing and using nuclear weapons in the past.
  3. Nuclear weapons used as a means of deterrence.
  4. Threatening countries such as Iran with the use of nuclear weapons.
  5. Exploiting the UN Security Council and the International Atomic Energy Agency.
  6. The United States' double standards towards Israel's nuclear stockpile.
  7. Equating nuclear weapons with nuclear energy.
  8. Imbalance in the mandates of the NPT and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Among the responses is this praise for the walkout from Abraham H Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League:

While there may be legal and diplomatic obligations to grant Ahmadinejad the UN podium, there is also a moral obligation to condemn his words, his actions and what he stands for. Ahmadinejad denies the Holocaust, denies there are homosexuals in Iran, and denies the existence of Iran's nuclear weapons programme. To this list of lies he added another -- that the US and Israel pose a nuclear threat to Iran, when in fact the opposite is true.

Despite the usual formula of "the Zionist regime" to refer to Israel, there was no mention of the Holocaust in the president's speech, nor did Ahmadinejad repeat his ridiculous denials of the existence of homosexuality in Iran. His remarks on the double standards and recent belligerence of Washington towards Iran compared to other countries in the Middle East add nothing to criticisms already made frequently in the western media.

And, despite the standard out-of-hand rebuttal that he received, Ahmadinejad has repeated his basic message since the speech: Iran does not fear US sanctions, Iran does not want the bomb, Iran is open to further discussions.

If the US, the UK, France and the other countries that walked out cannot deal with this scripted Ahmadinejad, it is difficult to maintain hope for the increasingly important diplomatic process. The truth is that western leaders' ears are closed.

Naturally, by so firmly disavowing the pursuit of nuclear weapons, Ahmadinejad has left his administration on a collision course with Washington over its nuclear ambitions. If Tehran cannot prove its benign principle, these will be seen as nothing but weasel words.

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After a year of chaos, MPs from all parties are trying to stop an extreme Brexit

The Greens are calling for a cross-party commission on Brexit.

One year ago today, I stood on Westminster Bridge as the sun rose over a changed country. By a narrow margin, on an unexpectedly high turnout, a majority of people in Britain had chosen to leave the EU. It wasn’t easy for those of us on the losing side – especially after such scaremongering from the leaders of the Leave campaign – but 23 June 2016 showed the power of a voting opportunity where every vote counted.

A year on from the vote, and the process is in chaos. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. The Leave campaign deliberately never spelled out any detailed plan for Brexit, and senior figures fought internal battles over which model they preferred. One minute Britain would be like Norway, then we’d be like Canada – and then we’d be unique. After the vote Theresa May promised us a "Red, White and Blue Brexit" – and then her ministers kept threatening the EU with walking away with no deal at all which, in fairness, would be unique(ly) reckless. 

We now have our future being negotiated by a government who have just had their majority wiped out. More than half of voters opted for progressive parties at the last election – yet the people representing us in Brussels are the right-wing hardliners David Davis, Liam Fox and Boris Johnson.

Despite widespread opposition, the government has steadfastly refused to unilaterally guarantee EU citizens their rights. This week it has shown its disregard for the environment as it published a Queen’s Speech with no specific plans for environmental protection in the Brexit process either. 

Amid such chaos there is, however, a glimmer of hope. MPs from all parties are working together to stop an extreme Brexit. Labour’s position seems to be softening, and it looks likely that the Scottish Parliament will have a say on the final deal too. The Democratic Unionist Party is regressive in many ways, but there’s a good chance that the government relying on it will soften Brexit for Northern Ireland, at least because of the DUP's insistence on keeping the border with Ireland open. My amendments to the Queen’s speech to give full rights to EU nationals and create an Environmental Protection Act have cross-party support.

With such political instability here at home – and a growing sense among the public that people deserve a final say on any deal - it seems that everything is up for grabs. The government has no mandate for pushing ahead with an extreme Brexit. As the democratic reformers Unlock Democracy said in a recent report “The failure of any party to gain a majority in the recent election has made the need for an inclusive, consensus based working even more imperative.” The referendum should have been the start of a democratic process, not the end of one.

That’s why Greens are calling for a cross-party commission on Brexit, in order to ensure that voices from across the political spectrum are heard in the process. And it’s why we continue to push for a ratification referendum on the final deal negotiated by the government - we want the whole country to have the last word on this, not just the 650 MPs elected to the Parliament via an extremely unrepresentative electoral system.

No one predicted what would happen over the last year. From the referendum, to Theresa May’s disastrous leadership and a progressive majority at a general election. And no one knows exactly what will happen next. But what’s clear is that people across this country should be at the centre of the coming debate over our future – it can’t be stitched up behind closed doors by ministers without a mandate.

Caroline Lucas is the MP for Brighton Pavilion.

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