Why New Zealand needs to support Iran deal

The decision by United States President Donald Trump to not certify the Iran deal for the next three month stanza shows a dangerous disregard for the only international agreement that the Iranian Government has agreed to comply with. And with the international community indicating that it will stand by the deal with or without the United States, Mr Trump’s reckless actions are of no help to New Zealand.

New Zealand’s interests in the Middle East are somewhat limited. However we – like the rest of the world – have an interest in the stabilization of the region, which is something that would be threatened by any United States attempt to trash the agreement.

New Zealand has several Middle East airlines flying into N.Z. airports as well as airlines that stop in Middle East airports. Emirates flies twin deck A380 aircraft into Auckland and Christchurch on a daily basis. Qatar Airlines flies into Auckland. Air New Zealand and other airlines fly through Dubai on their way to/from other destinations.

The New Zealand Government – rightfully or wrongfully (depending on ones view)has tried to cultivate trade relations with Middle East nations. This includes Iran and Saudi Arabia

So, what does the Iran deal do that is actually beneficial? A number of things:

  • It prevents the Fordow plant in an underground mountain from enriching uranium.
  • Irans centrifuges would be reduced to 6,000 which is down from the 19,000 Iran was known to have when the agreement was signed
  • 96% of its low enriched uranium would be diluted or transported off shore and the remainder would not be allowed to be enriched – weapons grade uranium is highly enriched uranium
  • The heavy water reactor at Arak would be filled in with concrete; no new heavy water plants would be built and the reactor would be designed to significantly reduce its plutonium capacity
  • Iranian nuclear research would be limited in researching advanced centrifuges and would not be able to immediately ramp up research when the 10 year ban ends

Like everyone else, New Zealand will have no gains from a conflict or worsened international tensions caused by the United States walking away from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action that the Iranian nuclear deal comes under. It would result in a much more unstable international environment with potential Iranian support of proxy wars waged by its Syrian and Hezbollah allies. It would embolden the hawkish Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has effectively stated by way of his actions that Palestine and Palestinians are not legitimate.

Which is why I was relieved to hear that the three Generals of the Trump Administration, Defense Secretary General Jim Mattis (Marine Corps), White House Chief of Staff General John Kelly (Marine Corps), National Security Advisor General H.R. McMaster (Airforce)have sought to contain Mr Trump. Good luck to them. They might be the difference between peace and the next big (potentially catastrophic)war.

In which case, nobody wins, no matter how far one is from it.

Politics of fear continuing to poison freedom

Over the last 4 years I have seen some acts around the world that I have had an increasingly hard time reconciling with the Governments of supposedly democratic nations. Nations that New Zealand has long called great friends or even allies, which the New Zealand Government has many times said we as a nation should look up to, are committing acts against ethnic and religious groups that amounts to abuse.

The rationale for this abuse, knowledge of which the Governments of these nations go to great lengths to avoid being made public, is national security. Or so it goes. The reality is quite different, often irrational and definitely outright xenophobic in nature. Two years ago it was an attempt to silence Australian doctors working at Manus and Nauru Island Detention Centres. More recently – i.e. just last week – the Australian Minister for Immigration Peter Dutton offered to pay Rohingya refugees to go back to face the genocidal ways of the Myanmar army. Even harder though was accepting the rationale for doing so – I simply refuse to, and in the next two paragraphs I tell you exactly why.

These doctors are not political agents. They are simply doing their profession to the best of their ability, and part of that involves sounding the alarm when they sight symptoms of abuse, self harm – evidence that the immediate well being of the people they are caring for is in immediate and potentially lethal danger. So too are the teachers who have taught primary and high school level children at some of these camps, who are openly talking about committing suicide, because they see no future. We are talking about children who see rapes, beatings, and other violence no person should be exposed to.

What have the Rohingya done wrong? They are simply getting away from a campaign that has genocidal overtones, which the Government of Myanmar is backing. The Australian Government – long known for its infantile fear of refugees and asylum seekers – has never had a flash record on these matters, but volunteering to pay them to go home and face almost certain death, takes it to another level altogether.

That infantile irrational fear is clearly worsening. The Minister in charge of the camps, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton thinks it is a colossal hysteria and denies that any wrong doing is going on in the camps, despite overseas newspapers such as The Guardian doing substantial investigative work on the subject.

New Zealand is still viewed as welcoming to refugees. However it has slipped in recent years with the Government of John Key showing a degree of indifference to those fleeing from Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria despite supporting the nations whose bombs are responsible for many of their homes being destroyed. It will continue to slip as human rights appear to be a low priority for a Bill English led Government as well, should one be elected.

Not so lucky are nations that normally espouse democracy, such as Canada, the United States, Britain and Australia. Following the World Trade Center attacks in 2001 all of these nations passed law to strengthen the hand of the State in dealing with terrorism. Whilst New Zealand did as well, a combination of geographical factors and a cool public reaction to the “war on terrorism”, meant that the drums beating of the call to arms was not answered with the same enthusiasm.

These nations are also perhaps more deeply in the grip of the Rupert Murdoch-influenced news media, which constantly runs a xenophobic theme of black lawlessness, Muslim terrorists that contrasts starkly with a white law abiding, God respecting hard working society. Fox News in the United States is particularly bad at doing this. Mr Murdochs media interests however exist also in Britain, where he runs News Corp, New Zealand where Fairfax Media used to be owned by Mr Murdoch and Australia where he has been associated with Sky News. The Murdoch media are often quite virulent in their attack on the political opposition as evidenced by their support for Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott at the last Australian election.

To me, the politics of fear is as damaging to the well being of a nation as an actual attack on it. To pass an agenda that permits wars to be fought, enables suppression of human rights to occur, one needs a population that is scared. To make the population scared, one needs an enemy – the question is whether it is a potentially fake enemy, or one that exists but is grossly exaggerated. It needs to have a national security apparatus that is on a constant state of alert with regular threats – fake or otherwise – being reported. To show his Government’s support for defeating the enemy, about which he is not very exact, Mr Abbott is constantly shown on television by sympathetic media beating the drum of national security and Australians are falling for it.

This is what Tony Abbott did when he was Prime Minister in Australia with refugees being imprisoned at detention centres. His successor Malcolm Turnbull has continued with Mr Dutton remaining in charge of immigration.. Mr Abbott claimed – as Mr Turnbull does now – that they are a threat to Australian society and security. He claims that the best way to stop the boat people is to turn them around on the high seas, whilst ignoring and even trying to silence the numerous critics that are springing up and who are as diverse as human rights activists, medical professionals, social workers and Opposition Members of Parliament.

This is not the work of Governments that genuinely want a more socially stable society, but that of those Governments which have a deep and abiding distrust of anyone with a different agenda. We should be scared.

Why the North Korea crisis should scare you

Picture this – it actually did happen: 27 October 1962. A U.S. destroyer enforcing the blockade during the Cuban Missile Crisis detects a Soviet submarine and challenges it by deliberately dropping depth charges in the vicinity of the submarine to make it surface. Unbeknownst to the U.S. the submarine is armed with torpedoes that have nuclear warheads on them. If fired on, assuming the Commanding Officer and the next two most senior officers agreed, they would have fired one.

Had Vasiliy Arkhipov not disagreed, this would have instantly started World War 3.

The Cuban Missile Crisis fortunately ended the following day. But most people do not realise the U.S. was going to invade Cuba and that the operation for this would start on 29 October 1962. The Soviets had short range nuclear missileson Cuba pointed at the invasion beaches….

Fast forward to 1983: Cold War tensions are at dangerously high levels. The President of the United States has started a missile defence programme nicknamed “Star Wars”. The President of the U.S.S.R. is a paranoid death bed ridden man convinced America is going to start World War 3. Yuri Andropov had never been to the U.S. and knew nothing about America or Americans. But in these dangerously paranoid days he was convinced Ronald Reagan would give the order.

On 26 1983 Stanislaw Petrov was in his command bunker controlling the U.S.S.R.’s vast intercontinental ballastic missile arsenal when the most terrifying thing happened. The warning alarm for an incoming attack started to howl. He had 30 minutes to determine whether or not W.W.3. was starting and whether he needed to authorize a response. If he had to, there was a chain of command that had to be follow.

But there was something odd about this. Common logic dictated that if a nuclear attack is launched, you launch enough warheads so as to ensure no response is possible. But the satellite responsible for the warning had only picked up five. And ground based radar had detected none at all.

Common sense won the day. Petrov decided nothing was happening and ignored the alert.

On 1 November 1983 the N.A.T.O. alliance started Exercise Able Archer. This was a war on paper that would result in a mock nuclear attack. Unfortunately the U.S.S.R. picked up the transmission of signals regarding the exercise. Over the next ten days the mock war that existed only on paper gradually ratcheted up.

And so did the danger. Convinced war was coming the Soviet military machine began to mobilize. I.C.B.M. launchers began to be removed from their hiding places. Submarines and surface ships began to disperse. Bomber squadrons were put on rapid reaction alert.

And then, suddenly as it started, it ended. The communications went quiet. The officers involved went back to their regular day time roles. It was as if nothing had happened.

Go forward to 2017 and here we are again. Teetering of the abyss of nuclear war. This time on the Korean Peninsula. Dealing with a rogue maniac totally uncowed by America. Just like 1962 and 1983, only one shot fired in anger away from W.W.3.

Will we never learn?

The H-Bomb test that should not have been

The world should have seen this one coming. North Korea’s nuclear testing was always going to eventually result in a hydrogen bomb.

After seeing and reading what I did about the nature of an American thermonuclear weapon, it is what Kim has a achieved is a major advance in North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme. To be clear, a hydrogen bomb test has a many fold increase in the release of energy over a non-hydrogen bomb. We are no long talking about a device that can wipe out any New Zealand’s largest city. We are talking about a quantum leap in the increase in productive power.

When Kim Jong-il first achieved the ability to test a nuclear weapon at all in 2006, this was a major step backwards. It meant a nation that openly criticizes the world order and even its own Chinese allies now had a weapon capable of wiping out a small city. The devices being tested then were not big – at 12.5 kilotons they were a bit smaller than the device dropped on Hiroshima. Successive tests up to the one just over a week ago, only yielded relatively minor increases in destructive power – a 12.5 might have become an 20kt device. Destructive test, yes, but compared with the huge Tsar Bomba test by the U.S.S.R. in 1960, absolutely tiny.

Kim Jong Un has gone one better. In conducting Friday’s test, North  Korea conducted a test about 20x bigger than the largest of the previous North Korean tests. At 250kt, we are taking about a nuclear warhead that could destroy Christchurch many fold over. Despite the worlds many attempts to curtail Kim, China continues to fund North Korea. The thing only propping up the regime is China.

Now that Mr Jong Un has such a powerful device, we need to play very carefully. around this issue. China could invade North Korea to prop up the country, except that this would likely start WW3 or some sort of larger conflict at risk of spiralling into WW3.

Kim Jong Un will keep testing nuclear weapons and making refinements. The fact that he has made the ones he said he would in 2017 without regard to increasing U.N. sanctions or the international community, tells me we have reached a dangerous cross roads.

Where we go from here puts millions of lives on the line as well as the global economy, human rights for millions and millions of people. Kim Jong Un does not care, but the West – for obvious reasons – do not have that luxury.

Jian Yang: Chinese spook trainer in the National Party

Over the years, I have seen various allegations levelled at the National Party. Some have been accurate, but not enough to tarnish the party. Others have been a productive of excessively active minds.

But the latest one might be different. And if so, it could not have arrived at a worse time. It alleges that Jian Yang, who moved to New Zealand from the Peoples Republic of China trained Chinese spies at an establishment in Luoyang. Past allegations about the extent to which China is embedded in New Zealand have been dismissed in part because they are paranoia, but also in part because the opposition parties who made the allegations were not in a position to back them up.

I would have had more respect for Mr Jian Yang if he had just said so from Day 1 that he has trained Chinese spies. I was always taught to be 100% honest on applications for anything with potential legal consequences. It did not matter whether we were talking about job applications, passports or an E.S.T.A. to the United States. If he had said on his citizenship application – which apparently he did not – that he trained spies when still living in China, I would have respected him because to to go after him for that, when there are others who have murky pasts would have been to justify them being chased up as well.

The message is simple. Be honest and I will have respect. Lie, and you can forget about it. A shame, since his C.V. is truly impressive.