23 May 2015

The Iranian regime can’t be trusted

From The Australian, 23 May 2015, by Michael Danby, federal member for Melbourne Ports:

The Lowy Institute’s Rodger Shanahan recently suggested ...that because of the sudden rise of Islamic State, with all its attendant genocide, mass rape and destruction of ancient culture, the West’s interests could be better served by closer engagement with Iran. 

Michael Danby, federal member for Melbourne Ports

I disagree.

This analysis assumes Iran is more moderate than it actually is. Yes, Iran desires commercial ­engagement with the West, but it is wrong to think a conciliatory shift in policy by the West would bring a corresponding softening of Iranian positions.

Iran has shown repeatedly that it will pursue its perceived interests regardless of the conse­quences. As former Obama defence secretary and CIA chief Leon Panetta said,
“the Iranians can’t be trusted”.
Iran’s principal aims are to undermine the Middle East’s US-backed Sunni-led status quo and to replace the US as the regional hegemonic power.

Tehran also persists with the apparently unchanged ideology of its Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, to destroy Israel. As recently as last month it was being reported that General Mohammad Reza Naqdi, head of the Basij militia, said Israel’s destruction was “non-negotiable” (Newsmax website).

These Iranian policies contradict the notion that because Iran has allegedly moderated, Australia can join the cosying up to Iran.

No one should doubt Iran’s commitment to its client, Hezb­ollah (still officially classified as a terrorist organisation in Australia). Iran is increasingly dominant in preserving Bashar al-Assad’s brutal Syria.
Recently, Hezbollah thugs working for one Iranian-aligned Syrian security boss beat to death another who questioned Iran’s near-complete dominance of Syria. (He objected to Hezbollah using his house as an artillery ­position.) It may not be long before an Iranian putsch eliminates Assad and installs an even more subservient client.

Iran’s direct regional aggression continues all the while.

Iran­ian-aligned Houthi rebels captured Yemen’s capital. General Qasem Soleimani, comman­der of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, acts as a Persian viceroy, dominating Iraq’s government and Shi’ite militias. So alarmed is America’s chief Middle East ally, Saudi Arabia, that Prince Turki bin Faisal, the former Saudi intelligence chief, said in February,
“Whatever the Iranians have, we will have, too.”
... “(Obama) did go behind the backs of the trad­itional allies of the US to strike the (Iran nuclear) deal … (Although) the small print of the deal is still unknown”, it “opens the door to nuclear proliferation, not closes it, as was the initial intention.”
According to The New York Times this month, the Saudi prince argued the US was making a “pivot to Iran” that was ill-advised, and the US failed to learn from North Korea’s violations of its ­nuclear deals. “We were America’s best friend in the Arab world for 50 years,” he said.

Now Saudi King Salman has abandoned Obama’s softly-softly approach to Syria by dir­ectly funding and arming the Sunni but non-Da’ish front that is advancing steadily in Syria’s north. Worse (or is it better?), the Saudi kingdom has hinted it will buy nuclear weapons from the Pakistanis.

Of course, Iran’s nuclear program is the focus of international concern. Tehran is negotiating only because international sanctions were crippling its economy. UN sanctions were placed on Iran only after several secret uranium enrichment sites were uncovered (not by inspectors but by a ­dissident group).

The ambitious US plan for Iran’s nuclear infrastructure is what Henry Kissinger calls defeat management.

Graham Allison from the Harvard Kennedy School elaborated in The Atlantic last month: “By eliminating 12,000 centri­fuges and five bombs’ worth of low-enriched uranium, the accord extends the breakout timeline for Iran to produce the highly ­enriched uranium core of a bomb to one year. By requiring the reconfiguration of Iran’s planned plutonium-producing reactor at Arak, the accord essentially closes this door to a bomb.”

Iran’s real leader, Khamenei, has just said: “We will never yield to pressure ... Iran will not give ­access to its (nuclear) scientists … We will not allow the privacy of our nuclear scientists or any other important issue to be violated.”

The Saudis, Turks, Qataris and Israelis, like the French socialist government and Democrats in the US Congress, sense increased Iranian power in the Middle East. Direct Saudi intervention in the region is a function of a perceived decrease of US influence in the Middle East. The Saudis trad­itionally have relied on the US to maintain regional stability.

But a series of US decisions — such as the prospective nuclear deal, military co-operation between US and Iranian ground forces in Iraq, allowing Assad in Syria to cross chemical weapons ‘‘red lines’’, and distancing itself from Israel and Egypt — has convinced Saudi Arabia, Turkey and even Qatar that the US is lessening its involvement in the region.

When Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop visited Iran last month, she was the first high-ranking Western minister to visit the Islamic Republic since the initialling of the Lausanne framework. The significance of Bishop’s visit is that it marks Iran’s continuing passage from pariah to ­accepted member of the inter­national community.

Western countries are hustling to be at the front of the queue when sanctions are officially dropped. Western diplomats (including Bishop) are lauding “a change in Iranian attitudes”, despite no evidence of that.

They’re also lauding Iran’s ­acceptance of nuclear understandings (despite revelations to the contrary) and responsible actions in the region, despite Iran ­actively undermining regional governments from Beirut to Baghdad and beyond, as well as prolonging Syria’s civil war.

This is short termism at its worst and ignores the Khamenei regime’s actual policies and ­nature.

A nuclear-armed Iran in 10 years, free of sanctions, with $180 billion of reserves now freed up and with unchanged policies of regional hegemony and support for terrorist proxies such as Hezbollah, is not in the interests of world peace, regional stability or even faraway Australia.