Labour outsider Jeremy Corbyn could become the ultimate insider

Friday 07/08/2015
Outsider. Jeremy Corbyn takes part in a Labour Party leadership hustings event in Warrington, north-west England, on July 25, 2015.

London - As Britain’s Labour Party, reeling from a crushing election defeat, looks set to pivot towards the leadership of left-wing candidate Jeremy Corbyn, ques­tions are being asked about the for­eign policy outlook of a man who famously described Hezbollah and Hamas as “friends”.
Corbyn is leading the Labour leadership race, with some polls putting him comfortably in front of challengers Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall.
Corbyn, an old school leftist, rep­resents a break with the New Labour leaders — Tony Blair and Gordon Brown — of the past two decades and their acolytes. He is the only Labour leadership candidate run­ning on an anti-austerity platform and has collected the backing of unions such as Unite and Unison, the two largest unions in the United Kingdom and major backers of the Labour Party.
The outsider, now tipped for lead­ership, follows a radically different foreign policy than his predeces­sors. Labour under Corbyn would likely seek to block the major­ity Conservative government’s re­newed presence in the Middle East. Although Labour’s seats in parlia­ment have been greatly reduced, a voting bloc including the left-wing Scottish National Party (SNP) and centrist Liberal Democrats, among others, would be almost strong enough to challenge the Conserva­tive Party.
Corbyn has consistently voted in opposition to military intervention abroad and supports the abolition of the United Kingdom’s Trident nuclear weapons programme and withdrawal from NATO.
In a statement carried by his web­site, Corbyn says: “I have always campaigned against neo-colonial wars that are fought for resources on the pretence of fighting for human rights. We need an understanding of our past and our role in the mak­ing of the conflicts today, whether it be the Sykes-Picot Agreement or our interventions in the Middle East post 9/11.”
“I argue for a different type of for­eign policy based on political and not military solutions,” he added.
Explaining his “no” vote against British air strikes in Iraq, which came in opposition to Labour’s own voting platform, Corbyn told CNN: “I couldn’t see how [bombing ISIS in Iraq] is going to solve the prob­lem. I could see it extending into a war in Syria. I could see it extending to ground forces. And I could see it creating a sense of martyrdom with ISIS and increasing their strength, not weakening them.”
“The issue has to be solved politi­cally in the whole region, it’s not go­ing to be solved by a war,” he added, saying previous British intervention in the Middle East had “created” huge jihadist forces.
Corbyn came under intense pres­sure in the British media for re­ferring to Hamas and Hezbollah, groups with ties to proscribed ter­rorist organisations in the United Kingdom, as “friends” but has largely been able to weather the storm.
In an interview with Channel 4 news, he explained: “I spoke at a meeting about the Middle East cri­sis in parliament and there were people there from Hezbollah. And I said I welcomed our friends from Hezbollah to have a discussion and a debate and I said I wanted Hamas to be part of that debate. I have met Hamas in Lebanon and I’ve met Hezbollah in this country and Leba­non.”
“I use it in a collective way, saying our friends are prepared to talk… Does it mean I agree with Hamas and what it does? No. Does it mean I agree with Hezbollah and what they do? No. What it means is that I think to bring about a peace process, you have to talk to people with whom you may profoundly disagree,” he added.
Many in the left have come out in support of Corbyn, who dismissed the furore surrounding his use of the term “friends” for Hamas and Hezbollah as “tabloid journal­ism”.
“Jeremy Corbyn gets at­tacked for saying we should talk to Hamas and Hezbollah but Tony Blair met Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal three times in Doha, with David Cameron’s consent. One rule for warmongers another for peace activists?” asked po­litical analyst Charles B. Anthony.
Corbyn is a well-known member of the Stop the War Coalition and was elected national chairman of the group in 2001 to help mobilise opposition to the Afghanistan war. He was also a fierce opponent of the Iraq war, speaking at anti-war rallies in Brit­ain and overseas and played a major role in organising the largest politi­cal protest in modern British histo­ry, when more than 1 million people marched in the streets of London against the Iraq war.
Labour’s new leader is to be an­nounced during a special confer­ence September 12th.