On Saturday, September 12, British MP Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of the Labour Party. Representing the far left wing of the main liberal party, Corbyn was considered a fringe candidate when he started his campaign in June. His platform of anti-austerity, anti-nuclear weapons, and the renationalization of the railways and major utilities, however, won him almost 60 percent of the vote.
In his new role as the head of the opposition, Corbyn will take on a more prominent and powerful position in British government and be responsible for forming the Shadow Cabinet. Corbyn will also have the power to affect British foreign policy, and will most likely try to turn the United Kingdom away from military intervention and war and toward political negotiations and soft power.
Corbyn has been particularly vocal about the United Kingdom’s role in the Middle East. To understand the changes Corbyn may bring to Britain’s policies toward the Middle East, here’s a list of his positions on a number of issues:
On Israel and Palestine
Corbyn has been an outspoken supporter of Palestine for the entirety of his parliamentary career. He is a leader of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, and has often criticized and opposed UK military and political support of Israel.
In July 2014, Corbyn, along with sixteen other British MPs, two peers, and numerous popular British figures, signed a letter calling on Prime Minister David Cameron to establish an arms embargo against Israel.
According to a press release from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Corbyn made a statement in support of the letter outside the Prime Minister’s residence, 10 Downing Street, saying:
The UK has a very close relationship with Israel, including buying and selling arms, and it’s time that this relationship was brought to an end since Israel is now under investigation for war crimes over the bombing of Gaza. I received an email from Dr. Mads Gilbert, working in Shifa Hospital, and it brought tears to my eyes when he was describing the pools of blood, the electricity cut off, the lack of clean water and the continuous surge of the dead and injured pouring into the hospital. Its people like that who are saving lives, and Israel which is taking lives.
On September 11, 2015, Corbyn told Russia Today (RT) subsidiary Ruptly that he has called for an international conference including the European Union, the United States, Russia, Iran, and other Middle Eastern nations to discuss a solution to the civil war in Syria and rise of ISIS.
With regards to ISIS, he told Ruptly that he would focus on “cutting off the arm supplies and money of ISIL, as well as preventing ISIL selling oil and making money from it.”
He has also expressed opposition to the Assad regime, telling Ruptly: “I’m not a supporter of Assad; I think the human rights record of his regime is dreadful and the methods he’s used against his opponents is quite dreadful.”
Corbyn does not, however, support UK air strikes in Syria, as he believes they will only create more refugees rather than resolving the root problems of the conflict.
For years, Corbyn has called for Iran’s return to the international community and stronger British-Iranian dialogue. In January 2014, he visited Iran as part of a UK delegation and supported Iran’s inclusion in the Geneva II Conference on Syria.
Corbyn has been a vocal opponent of the Bahraini government’s human rights abuses and crackdown on protests, and has criticized the British government for the sale of “crowd control equipment” to Bahrain.
In a Guardian op-ed, published on Sunday, September 13, Corby said Britain “must also oppose … the Bahraini dictatorship murdering its democracy movement, armed by us.”