Emily Thornberry has defended Jeremy Corbyn over his silence on the civil unrest in Iran, saying the Labour party takes an approach of “extreme caution” when it comes to the politics of the Islamic republic.
The shadow foreign secretary told the BBC it was impossible to determine what political forces lay behind the protests, which began on 28 December and are said to have led to at least 21 deaths – mostly of protesters but also some security guards, according to officials.
Corbyn has been under increasing pressure to speak out about the protests. Tom Tugendhat, who chairs the Commons foreign affairs committee, said it was “extraordinary” that Labour had not spoken out against the Iranian regime.
Thornberry told the BBC’s Political Thinking podcast: “Our approach now is one of extreme caution when it comes to Iran and a recognition that the society in Iran is an immensely complex one, and seemingly contradictory.
“For example, with these current riots, sometimes they are calling to reinstate the monarchy, sometimes they’re calling out against the [Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei, sometimes they’re calling for Khamenei, sometimes they’re calling for the price of eggs.
“It’s very difficult, in those circumstances, to actually come to a conclusion as to what political forces are behind the current disputes on the streets of Iran. So we take a cautious approach to Iran and we don’t want to leap to judgment and say: ‘Well, we don’t like the regime in Iran, these people are against it, they must be the guys with white hats.’ Because it doesn’t work like that. We’ve seen that in Syria, we’ve seen it in Libya, we see it time and time again.”