UK

Jeremy Corbyn Defends Islamic State Comments After 'Comparing' Group's Actions With US military

20/08/2015 23:05 BST | Updated 21/08/2015 10:59 BST

Labour leadership frontrunner, Jeremy Corbyn, has been forced to defend comments he made in which he appeared to compare the actions of Islamic State militants in Iraq with those of the US military following the 2003 invasion.

The veteran left-wing MP made the comments in an interview with Moscow-funded news channel, Russia Today, which aired in June 2014.

Mr Corbyn was invited to discuss the increasing dominance of IS militants in Iraq.

In the video, which has now surfaced online, the 66-year-old MP was asked: "What could shift the balance of forces here? What would it take for the Iraqi forces to regain control?"

The Islington North MP replied: "It requires a sense of unity among people in Iraq that want to stay part of Iraq and also an acceptance and an understanding why so many people in so many of the cities in the north have been prepared to accept the Isis forces.

"Yes they are brutal, yes some of what they have done is quite appalling, likewise what the Americans did in Fallujah and other places is appalling."

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Mr Corbyn's comments sparked a lot of criticism, with Tony Blair's former adviser, John McTernan, telling Channel 4 News "it's a nauseating, amoral comment".

The Labour MP's spokesman clarified his comments.

Corbyn's camp said: "Jeremy Corbyn believes the violent ideology of Isis is a vicious, repugnant force that has to be stopped - where Jeremy Corbyn talks about the need for a political solution and compromise he means not with Isis but against Isis, working across the region and beyond to choke off supplies that help fund and arm them and working with neighbouring states in the region to come to common solutions."

This is not the first time - even this week - that the Labour leadership frontrunner has been forced to defend contentious comments he's made.

On Wednesday he denied knowing a controversial Muslim activist that he was pictured sat next to in Parliament, and said any suggestion he holds anti-Semitic views are "appalling, disgusting and deeply offensive".

During an interview with the BBC's World At One, the Labour leadership frontrunner was asked about a Daily Mail story claiming he met Dyab Abou Jahjah, a former Hezbollah fighter, in 2009.

Mr Corbyn said he had never heard of the Lebanon-born activist, despite a photograph suggesting otherwise, but a few hours later his team "researched" the issue and told him had met Abou Jahjah.

Meanwhile, Mr Corbyn said he was ready to challenge Labour over a so-called "purge" in which voters in the leadership election are being barred from casting a ballot supposedly because they support another party.

Mr Corbyn has said that if significant numbers are banned "unfairly" then the decision to reject them "must be looked at again and challenged".

He said: "I know there are a number of people that it seems slightly odd have been not allowed but there is a process of looking again at many of these applications. I'm obviously in touch with the Labour party officials on this.

"The staff of the Labour party both in London and Newcastle have worked incredibly hard to try and deal with the massive number of applications.

"I hope these little glitches can be ironed out. But the vast majority of people that registered online or through text messaging have been accepted, are getting ballot papers and are getting a voting opportunity.

"Yes, if there are significant numbers rejected in apparently an unfair way, then of course that must be looked at again and challenged. But the issue really is let's be happy about getting 600,000 people taking part in an election."