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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Our union backed Brexit, but that doesn't mean scrapping freedom of movement

We can only improve the lives of our members, like those planning stike action at McDonalds, through solidarity.

The campaign to defend and extend free movement – highlighted by the launch of the Labour Campaign for Free Movement this month – is being seen in some circles as a back door strategy to re-run the EU referendum. If that was truly the case, then I don't think Unions like mine (the BFAWU) would be involved, especially as we campaigned to leave the EU ourselves.

In stark contrast to the rhetoric used by many sections of the Leave campaign, our argument wasn’t driven by fear and paranoia about migrant workers. A good number of the BFAWU’s membership is made up of workers not just from the EU, but from all corners of the world. They make a positive contribution to the industry that we represent. These people make a far larger and important contribution to our society and our communities than the wealthy Brexiteers, who sought to do nothing other than de-humanise them, cheered along by a rabid, right-wing press. 

Those who are calling for end to freedom of movement fail to realise that it’s people, rather than land and borders that makes the world we live in. Division works only in the interest of those that want to hold power, control, influence and wealth. Unfortunately, despite a rich history in terms of where division leads us, a good chunk of the UK population still falls for it. We believe that those who live and work here or in other countries should have their skills recognised and enjoy the same rights as those born in that country, including the democratic right to vote. 

Workers born outside of the UK contribute more than £328 million to the UK economy every day. Our NHS depends on their labour in order to keep it running; the leisure and hospitality industries depend on them in order to function; the food industry (including farming to a degree) is often propped up by their work.

The real architects of our misery and hardship reside in Westminster. It is they who introduced legislation designed to allow bosses to act with impunity and pay poverty wages. The only way we can really improve our lives is not as some would have you believe, by blaming other poor workers from other countries, it is through standing together in solidarity. By organising and combining that we become stronger as our fabulous members are showing through their decision to ballot for strike action in McDonalds.

Our members in McDonalds are both born in the UK and outside the UK, and where the bosses have separated groups of workers by pitting certain nationalities against each other, the workers organised have stood together and fought to win change for all, even organising themed social events to welcome each other in the face of the bosses ‘attempts to create divisions in the workplace.

Our union has held the long term view that we should have a planned economy with an ability to own and control the means of production. Our members saw the EU as a gravy train, working in the interests of wealthy elites and industrial scale tax avoidance. They felt that leaving the EU would give the UK the best opportunity to renationalise our key industries and begin a programme of manufacturing on a scale that would allow us to be self-sufficient and independent while enjoying solid trading relationships with other countries. Obviously, a key component in terms of facilitating this is continued freedom of movement.

Many of our members come from communities that voted to leave the EU. They are a reflection of real life that the movers and shakers in both the Leave and Remain campaigns took for granted. We weren’t surprised by the outcome of the EU referendum; after decades of politicians heaping blame on the EU for everything from the shape of fruit to personal hardship, what else could we possibly expect? However, we cannot allow migrant labour to remain as a political football to give succour to the prejudices of the uninformed. Given the same rights and freedoms as UK citizens, foreign workers have the ability to ensure that the UK actually makes a success of Brexit, one that benefits the many, rather than the few.

Ian Hodon is President of the Bakers and Allied Food Workers Union and founding signatory of the Labour Campaign for Free Movement.