Iran has been all but absent from the campaign for the UK general election due on Thursday Dec. 12, despite the nationwide protests and bloodshed in Iran over rising fuel prices. One exception is a recent London event held by the Stop the War coalition and the Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran (CASMII) aimed at persuading British-Iranians to vote for the opposition Labour Party.
The meeting was held in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Of the 75,000 Iranians who live in the UK, 40,000 live in London with Kensington and Chelsea having the highest number of Iranian-born residents of any boroughts in the UK according to the 2011 UK census.
Kensington is also home to the Iranian embassy, which has been witnessing weeks of demonstrations on its doorstep in support of the protests in the country.
Mourad Qureshi, current Chair of the Stop the War coalition, started the meeting by asking for a moment of silence in memory of the 72 lives, including Iranian ones, that were lost in the devastating 2017 fire that consumed the 24-story Grenfell Tower block of flats in North Kensington.
Emma Dent Coad, who until recently was the borough’s Member of Parliament, described Kensington as a beautiful tapestry of colors where white British people were a minority. The constituency is also the tightest marginal in the country — Ms. Dent Coad won by only 20 votes in the last election in 2017 — hence the appeal of trying to attract Iranian votes.
Ms. Dent Coad paid touching tribute to the Iranians who migrated to the UK due to political and economic hardships since 1979. “With Jeremy Corbyn, a lifetime committed peace monger as am I, and anti-war activist, as am I, we have the best possible chance in a generation of having a truly internationalist government,” she said, referring to the leader of the opposition Labour Party, who is vying to take the place of Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Her speech was consistent with past Stop the War events, which have attacked the US and UK for their interventionist foreign policy. Their campaign against the Iraq War in 2003 gathered nearly 2 million people on London’s streets. More recently, they led a campaign against intervention in Syria, drawing criticism from Syrian-born activists.
Also speaking at the event was Professor Abbas Edalat, founder of the Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran (CASMI). He began his presentation by blaming the United States for pulling out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal — the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) signed by Iran, China, France, Germany, Russia, UK and the US.
“The U.S.-Iran standoff was instigated by the Trump administration,” he said, referring to U.S. President Donald Trump. “Whatever comes as a consequence of this provocative action should be blamed wholeheartedly 100 percent on the US administration. Even if irrefutably it was found that Iran was behind the tanker incidents in the Persian Gulf, for example, the blame for that has to be put on the US administration and no one else.”
Mr. Edalat added, “Being detained in Iran for 8 months last year by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps is testament that I am not an apologist for the policies of the Iranian government.” In April 2018, he was arrested on alleged security charges in Iran where he was attending an academic workshop. CASMII welcomed him back eight months later describing his detention as “a case of misinformation and misunderstanding by the Iranian security apparatus.”
Turning to the EU, Mr. Edalat argued that it “must not be bullied by the US” and that “the main slogan should be not just to stick to JCPOA” but that the European Union should buy Iranian oil.
He continued: “There are some rumours by EU politicians that at some stage the EU will take Iran to the United Nations Security Council because the EU has the guts to claim that Iran is scaling back!”
Were this to happen, he warned, “Iran will withdraw from JCPOA and Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). The stakes are very high!” The NPT is considered a pillar of the global nuclear non-proliferation regime.
Addressing the November protests in Iran, Mr. Edalat cast doubt on Amnesty International’s report of the number of protesters killed by Iranian security forces. Noting that he was unaware of what sources Amnesty had, he said the Iranian government identified most of the casualties as being government forces.
“The US has a multi-pronged strategy for regime change in Iran,” he added, “which includes a multimillion-dollar misinformation campaign to manipulate news from Iran. In this climate, reports from Iran cannot be trusted.”
Mr. Edalat also warned that the standoff between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran will continue as long as US forces remained in the Middle East and the Iranian regime opposed the state of Israel and “characterizes it as an apostate state, and rightly so.”
Under the leadership of Mr. Corbyn, the Labour Party has been accused of institutional anti-Semitism, and a number of Labour MPs have quit the party as a result.
Mr. Corbyn has long shown an interest in the Islamic Republic of Iran — even as a backbencher — through his membership of the Iran All Parliamentary Party Group (APPG).
A longstanding criticism of Mr. Corbyn focuses on his former association with the Iranian state owned Press TV. Analysis of his register of interests by Business Insider showed that he was paid up to £20,000 in total by the broadcaster between 2009 and 2012.
In January 2012, Press TV was fined by Ofcom and removed from Sky satellite network after showing a forced confession by Maziar Bahari, a Newsweek journalist at the time. Mr Bahari claimed he was tortured while detained by Iranian.
The Kensington and Chelsea event is not the Labour Party’s only connection with Iran. Running against Prime Minister Boris Johnson in his Uxbridge constituency is 25-year-old British-Iranian Ali Milani. His odds of winning are set at four to one.
With a majority of roughly 5,000 votes in his constituency, Mr. Johnson has one of the smallest majorities of any British Prime Minister since 1924. Milani may produce the greatest upset in British political history when the British go to the polls next week.