Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 July 2019

Labour's Corbyn hit by online backlash over criticism of UK stance on Iran

Leader of opposition party said on Twitter that he doubted government has enough evidence to back claims of Tehran's involvement in Thursday's tanker attacks in Gulf of Oman

Britain's main opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. (Danny Lawson/PA via AP)
Britain's main opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. (Danny Lawson/PA via AP)

The leader of Britain's main opposition party has questioned whether the government had evidence to back up its accusations that Iran was behind attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, and warned against escalating tensions.

Britain on Friday joined the United States in blaming Tehran for the attacks, raising fears of a broader military confrontation in a vital passageway for the world's oil industry.

The US military had released video footage they say shows Iranian special forces removing an unexploded mine from one of the tankers.

Iran has denied any involvement.

"Without credible evidence about the tanker attacks, the government's rhetoric will only increase the threat of war," Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn wrote on Twitter late on Friday.

"Britain should act to ease tensions in the Gulf, not fuel a military escalation that began with US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement," he said, referring to Washington's withdrawal from a 2015 pact to curb Tehran's nuclear plans.

Some replies were supportive of Mr Corbyn's tweet but a number were critical, with several highlighting his past paid appearances on an Iranian government TV channel.

British foreign minister Jeremy Hunt, who is one of the leading candidates to succeed British Prime Minister Theresa May after she announced she would step down, described Mr Corbyn's comments as "pathetic and predictable".

"Why can he never bring himself to back British allies, British intelligence or British interests?," Mr Hunt said, according to Reuters.

Dominic Raab, another candidate to be the next Conservative leader, said Mr Corbyn's comments show he is unfit to lead Britain.

"Corbyn allows his anti-American prejudice to skew his moral compass and political judgment," he said.

Iran's foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had described the timing of the attacks as "suspicious".

Mr Corbyn has in the past - between 2009 and 2012 - been paid for appearances on the country’s state TV channel, Press TV.

Press TV had its licence revoked by media regulator Ofcom in 2012, citing a breach of broadcasting licence rules over editorial control of the channel and failure to pay a £100,000 fine (Dh474,560). The media regulator also concluded that the editorial decisions on the channel were being controlled by the offices in Tehran, instead of the UK.

Rory Stewart, the dark horse contender to be the new UK prime minister, said on Twitter: "Jeremy Corbyn is wrong. The tanker attacks are almost certainly the work of the IRGC Quds Force linked to attacks in Yemen and Syria. No one should minimise the threat to stability in the region and beyond."

Mr Corbyn last year was criticised by opponents and lawmakers in his own party after he questioned the government's decision to blame Russia for a nerve toxin attack on a former double agent in England.

Updated: June 15, 2019 10:23 PM

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