Iran vs Israel: the confrontation no one should ignore

The day that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced to the world that he had conclusive evidence that Iran was non compliant with the conditions of the J.P.C.O.A. plan to ensure Iran cannot develop nuclear weapons, I had two thoughts and two thoughts only: Either Netanyahu really does have evidence or this is a false flag attempt to start a major war.

The moment Mr Netanyahu made this claim, the onus was – and still is – on him to show the evidence. Simply showing the number of C.D. or D.V.D.’s that he had in display cabinets is not enough. Open the files and show us what is in those files.

Why has that evidence not been laid in front of the United Nations Security Council, and in particular the Permanent Five nations (United States, France, Britain, Russia and China)? Is that evidence going to be laid out at all? Will the General Assembly get to see it? If not, why not?

The potential consequences of an Iran vs Israel confrontation are, short of World War 3, almost too depressing to contemplate. I see the following potential outcomes happening:

  • A potential Middle East regional conflict dragging in nations such as Saudi Arabia, Lebanon
  • Israel and Iran reach some sort of uneasy peace that has a long term risk of flaring up again
  • The war remains between the current states due to awareness of the danger of escalation
  • The war escalates, with Russia and U.S. both ratcheting up involvement
  • World War 3

Neither Russia or America will want to be the nation that started World War 3. In the Middle East where life is considered cheap and the values placed on humanity are not the same as the West, there may be restraint. But will Israel and Iran share the same view? I hope that they do, but I fear not.

The old wounds of the colonial era and more recent spats might be tearing asunder, unable to constrain the geopolitical pressures internationally and the domestic pressure within, may begin to tear open along pre-existing lines.

This is a sad indictment on the whole world. Sure there has been much provocation. Sure the east vs west of the Cold War has never really gone away. Sure the world changed on 11 September 2001.

But there have been some huge opportunities for peace that were not taken. And some huge ones that certain nations refuse to take even though, many of their adversaries would cease to exist if those opportunities had been. Lasting peace between Israel and its neighbours is just one example. Palestinian leasderder Yasser Arafat’s inability to accept a peace deal, another. In terms of  post Cold War disarmament, a deal in say 1995 to reduce nuclear weapons right across the permanent five would have vastly undermined the rationale for any one else having them.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is the price we pay for being in the grip of the military-industrial complex that sends our finest off to fight wars and grow the list of servicemen and women lost in the wars. This is the price our allies – I don’t speak for them, but certainly imagine the pain and suffering of their citizenry in war – pay as well. When the dollar trumps the international and moral good. This is also the price we pay for a toxic fear permeating all aspects of life and politics where fear of the unknown becomes an irrationally powerful, toxic, all consuming paranoia that turns neighbours against neighbours and in the context of international geopolitics, country against country; ideology against ideology.

This is the real reason why wars like the one potentially about to start in the Middle East must be uniformly and unflinchingly frowned upon by the most powerful people in the world.

Right now, they are smiling on it.

Iran deal still alive

On Wednesday morning, New Zealand Time, United States President Donald Trump announced that the United States is withdrawing from the multi-lateral agreement struck over Iranian nuclear weapons. Mr Trump said that the deal was bad for the United States and Israel. But was it really?

The Iran deal is still alive. It has the support of the other five signatories plus Iran. The deal is sufficiently robust in that it ensures Iran has no Highly Enriched Uranium, which is essential for nuclear weapons with a uranium core. It ensures that Iran has not got sufficient to allow the manufacture of the H.E.U. The guarantee of the German, French, British, Russian and Chinese Governments that Iran will be held to the terms of this agreement should be sufficient to:

  • Guarantee that Iran still has international obligations to meet
  • Guarantee that in return for meeting those obligations the agree concessions will be enabled in full

I am not convinced that either Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or the President of the United States, Donald Trump want peace. The reactions of both when the Iranian deal was signed was totally negative.

Mr Netanyahu has not supported the agreement from Day 1. He has insisted that Iran will not comply and that it would pose an undue security threat to Israel. Mr Netanyahu has even gone so far as to claim Iran has lied and that a clandestine nuclear weapons programme continues in the background. Yet this same Prime Minister of Israel has yet to present the evidence that he is confident he has of Iranian non-compliance to the United Nations General Assembly. And until he does, Iran must be given the benefit of the doubt in the same way the accused is not guilty until proven so.

Contrary to Mr Trump’s assertion that he supports the Iranian people, he is pushing them towards arms of the Mullahs. The Islamic hardliners no more wanted this deal than Mr Trump did and as a result would be quietly delighted i Iranians started supporting them. Iran is anathema to Mr Netanyahu, whose tone has become openly hostile towards the Persian state. Mr Netanyahu claims that he has no desire for war, but seems to be openly contemptuous of what might be the best chance at a lasting peace in 50 years or more.

Is Iran perfect? Absolutely not, and it has supplied Hezbollah and other Islamic militant groups with rockets of increasing firepower, range and accuracy. Iran has had highly contentious elections such as the 2009 one where former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – who I saw nick named Iwannajihad in one political group during his time in office – was re-(s)elected. The 2009 election was characterized by heavy rigging, stuffed ballots and lethal violence when Iranians realized what was happening.

But nor is Israel. It is a country with an estimated 100-200 nuclear warheads, yet is the first to grumble if anyone in the Middle East favours so much as a nuclear reactor not capable of converting low grade uranium to weapons grade material. There are separate articles about how Palestine has been poorly treated and that is beyond the scope of this article. What is not beyond the scope is the effort of the Israeli military gearing up for war. It has taken delivery of bunker busting bombs that can penetrate deep bunkers

Their proxy super powers have their own problems, ongoing and increasingly capable of accidentally causing W.W.3. before anyone actually realizes that on that particular day, it is for real. Neither Russia or the United States are squeaky clean around human rights abuses, but human rights abuses seem  to be going unchecked. So, when will they be?

Why New Zealand must stand behind Iran nuclear deal

Yesterday the Prime Minister of Israel made a massive claim: Iran is lying. It is not compliant with the terms of its nuclear agreement with the United Nations Security Council P5 nations plus Germany. The claim, which is one that now brings huge pressure on Mr Netanyahu to deliver is also one he cannot afford to be wrong on if he wishes to retain any credbility.

It is also one New Zealand must make its position very clear on.

Mr Netanyahu has never supported the Iranian nuclear deal and insists that Iran is lying about its commitment to it. He points to 55,000 pages and 183 CDs worth of evidence that the Israeli Mossad allegedly stole

Mr Netanyahu is a proponent of fear. His Government makes Iran out to be an enemy capable of destroying Israel and willing to try. If that were true, it would have done so by now. Except there is one huge problem with Mr Netayahu’s thinking. Actually, two:

  1. The United States would not hesitate to use military force against Iran or any other country that attacks Israel militarily
  2. Iran knows in conventional military combat it cannot beat the United States, and – for fear of W.W.3. – Russia would think long and hard before it came to Iran’s support

But still the fearmongering goes on, both in Tel Aviv and in the United States with willing support from Fox News and Republican hawks.

The regime of the Supreme Ayatollah Khamenei might have also been lost in translation. Whilst there are definitely anti-Israeli forces in Iranian politics and no doubt supported by the Ayatollahs, there have been verified incidents in which Persian dialects have been badly translated by the Western media, leading to the perception Iran wishes to nuke Israel. One such case involving former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad led to mass walkouts at the United Nations when he addressed the General Assembly.

The overwhelming expectation I imagine of the rest of the world is on Mr Netanyahu and that is simple: put up the evidence of Iran not being compliant or shut up.

New Zealand must stand firmly in support of the Iranian nuclear deal. Neither the United States or Israel have come up with a better plan that has the support of the rest of the United Nations Security Council or Germany, much less Iran. I sincerely doubt there is any plan to put a better proposal up.

There is a second reason for supporting the Iran deal. This is more important than ever now. There needs to be a deal that North Korea could potentially aspire to if the political situation on the Korean Peninsula ever gets to the stage where North Korea can be trusted not to use a reactor to make weapons grade material. The type of deal necessary is there – it just needs to be modified to suit the situation with the Korea’s.

But it will not be any use if the key players, the ones with the influence who can show North Korea right from wrong, walk away from it. This is why New Zealand needs to stand its ground, tell the world why we support it and not give an inch to anyone. Because walking away from this deal potentially pitches both parts of the world into a degree of uncertainty and fear that no one benefits from.

No one except the military industrial complex.


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.

The crisis New Zealand should pay attention to

Whilst the world focuses on United States President Donald Trump and his strange tweets, there is a crisis simmering away in the Middle East that many people should be paying attention to, but are not. It is between Saudi Arabia, a host of other Arab nations and its much smaller neighbour Qatar. The crisis, which pertains to Saudi Arabian accusations that Qatar is sympathetic to terrorist groups has been followed by a cessation of Saudi-Qatari relations, a list of demands and the cutting of travel links with the outside world.

Whilst it is true that in the past I have said New Zealand should cut and run from Middle East politics, because New Zealand has been seeking to improve ties with Saudi Arabia and other M.E. countries, this is a crisis that we would do well to pay more attention to. Saudi Arabia is the ring leader. It is the regional power that challenges the perceived encroachment of Persia into the Middle East.

We should pay attention because there are several troubling aspects to this crisis that have the potential to affect New Zealand:

  1. There is a possibility that the United States would ask for more New Zealand involvement and New Zealanders should know the arguments for and against
  2. Whilst we should not have military involvement in Middle East wars without a United Nations directive, it is quite okay to raise concerns about human rights, breaches of international law and humanitarian issues should they arise
  3. Another crisis in a region already beset by wars and civil wars will just further complicate an already problematic situation in terms of trying to restore some semblance of stability
  4. The list of demands is bullying type behaviour from a country that has no respect for human rights, dissenters and has been accused of committing war crimes in Yemen

But if one were to ask the average New Zealander on the street what they think of the Qatar crisis, the respondent – assuming they even know where Qatar is – would most likely say “I don’t know” or “I don’t care”. Fort them there are bigger problems in life than a geopolitical crisis in the Middle East, such as paying rent, having enough money to put food on the table and so forth.

The media seem pretty content paying no attention whatsoever. Stuff, the main website for New Zealand newspapers may be the exception rather than the norm to this. Newshub, 1 News, Radio New Zealand and other outlets have shown little interest.

Whilst there is no immediate signs of a potential clash between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the stakes are very high if one does occur. Iran, like Syria is a major Russian ally in the Middle East; Saudi Arabia, like Israel is an equally major ally of the United States, to the point that a massive arms deal was concluded when United States President Donald Trump visited there last month. And there is a question that only Saudi Arabia and Iran could answer: would both sides refrain from directly attacking each other and risk dragging in their world power allies? Given the relative lack of regard for international law shown by Saudi Arabia and Iran this is a question of considerable magnitude.