There are big lessons to be learnt from the Iran deal

John Kerry & Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Sharif

The US-Iran agreement, albeit temporary, may well be the diplomatic coup of the decade, or indeed the biggest peaceful shifting of the tectonic plates since the last World War in the most dangerous area on the planet. But it is as well, for future reference, to identify the specific mechanisms which allowed this breakthrough to proceed.

First, it came about because sanctions were applied to Iran which seriously threatened the political and economic stability of the country. These pressures had caused Iran’s currency to halve in value against the US dollar in the last 2 years, its foreign exchange holdings in excess of $50bn to be frozen, and crucially its oil revenues to be cut by more than half. Restrictions had been placed on Iran’s trade in gold, petrochemicals, car and plane parts which cumulatively took their toll. Continue reading

Has Ed Miliband given the world a chance for peace?

NewYork-Daily-NewsIt is worth recalling the words of Ed Miliband about Syria in his recent conference speech

The other week I faced [a] decision about whether the country should go to war. The biggest decision any leader faces, the biggest decision any Parliament faces, the biggest decision any party faces. All of us were horrified by the appalling chemical weapons attacks in Syria, but when I stood on the stage three years ago, when I became your leader, I said we would learn the lessons of Iraq. It would have been a rush to war, it wasn’t the right thing for our country. So I said no. It was the right thing to do.

Had Ed Miliband not shown the leadership he did, and importantly had he not been able to take his party with him, and to skillfully calibrate his parliamentary tactics to defeat the government, then within hours the American, French and British cruise missiles would have flown. Continue reading

Assange: no superhero

Julian Assange. I won’t say that I don’t think the work he did with WikiLeaks was totally awesome and incredibly important, yet as I’ve argued before, I have many reservations towards Assange the person – or rather the persona he projects to the world.

Possibly this is because I was slightly underwhelmed when I saw him speak at a curious debate on whistle blowers organized by the New Statesman in Kensington Town Hall back in April 2011.

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The case against a US strike on Iran

As John McCain’s painfully unfunny rewrite of the lyrics to Beach Boys’ hit Barbara Ann demonstrates, at least the former Republican presidential contender can see the lighter side of mounting a US airstrike on Iranian nuclear facilities.

Fortunately for the rest of the world, Barack Obama has not only shown no inclination to ‘bomb bomb Iran’, but has so far actively restrained Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu from following Mr McCain’s advice. Had he not done so, the likelihood is that Israel would already have acted. Continue reading

Iran and the bomb: containment is an option

Benjamin Netanyahu is not much given to obfuscation. His speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on Monday night made it quite clear to Tehran – and anyone else listening in – that he will do whatever it takes to prevent Iran acquiring nuclear weapons.

Despite the carefully inserted disclaimers, numerous passages can only be read as overtly threatening a military strike. The Israeli prime minister would presumably prefer US sanction beforehand, but will act on its own account if it is not forthcoming. Continue reading