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The moral inconsistency of Australia’s stance on Iran

Iran is alleged to have an active nuclear weapons program. There is no evidence to prove it has one — and the sanctions that Bob Carr is proposing are unfair, writes political researcher NAJ Taylor.

Within three days of Australia taking the chair of the UN Security Council committees overseeing the “Iran’s weapons of mass destruction proliferation activities”, Foreign Minister Bob Carr announced Australia is to adopt severe economic sanctions against Iran that are “broadly aligned” with those already actioned by the US, Britain and European Union.

It demonstrates a deep moral inconsistency in Australia’s recent nuclear dealings.

Simply put, Iran is alleged to have an active nuclear weapons program, despite it having undertaken a number of international obligations — including the primary instrument of the nuclear regime, the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. By contrast, Israel has never been a state party to the treaty and has possessed a nuclear weapons capability since the late 1960s, yet it receives billions of dollars in funding from the US for its conventional weapons programs every year. India — another liberal democracy — first acquired nuclear weapons in 1998 after it had signed the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test Ban Treaty, yet later scored a nuclear technology transfer deal with the US in 2008, followed by related moves by Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard to open up uranium sales to India only last year.

Put another way: Iran is under a greater level of scrutiny for allegedly pursuing a nuclear weapons capability than either Israel or India have been for having a readily deployable nuclear arsenal. As Australian National University researcher and former assistant secretary-general of the UN Ramesh Thakur pointed out last week, economic sanctions like those outlined by Carr:

… cause death and destruction through structural violence — starvation, malnutrition, the spread of deadly diseases, curtailed access to medicines that can exceed the cleaner alternative of war. John Mueller and Karl Mueller argued in Foreign Affairs that sanctions caused more deaths in the 20th century than all weapons of mass destruction throughout history.”

Carr’s statement would have you believe Iran is acting out of step with “the international community”. The truth is otherwise. Apart from the allowances made to India and Israel, the five recognised nuclear weapons states (US, UK, China, Russia and France) have since 1967 left largely unfulfilled their disarmament promise under Article 6 of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

For all the hope and swagger with which Obama called for “a world without nuclear weapons” when he assumed the presidency, very little has been achieved. The lofty heights of Obama’s words can be seen in fashion designer Issey Miyake’s heartfelt confession in 2009:

In April, President Obama pledged to seek peace and security in a world without nuclear weapons. He called for not simply a reduction, but elimination. His words awakened something buried deeply within me, something about which I have until now been reluctant to discuss …

On August 6, 1945, the first atomic bomb was dropped on my hometown, Hiroshima. I was there, and only 7-years-old. When I close my eyes, I still see things no one should ever experience: a bright red light, the black cloud soon after, people running in every direction trying desperately to escape — I remember it all.”

While much has been done in pursuit of a safer world since the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it is not enough.

The nuclear weapons states of the UK and US have not done enough to justify the continued double-standard which sees them using nuclear weapons as a daily deterrent, as well as permitting agreeable members such as Israel and India within the nuclear club.

A significant many other states — Australia included — are protected under the umbrella of bilateral relations with key nuclear weapon states, or reside in regions where nuclear weapons and other WMD such as biological and chemical weapons are all but absent. Many states capable of “breaking-out” and becoming nuclear weapons possessors in short time, such as Japan and Australia, have historically been recognised leaders in pursuing the disarmament agenda.

… Carr’s recent statements are devoid of any talk of global disarmament, or of a just dialogue between Iran, Israel and the West.”

But the case of Iran is changing all that. Without question, Iran must be able to acquire nuclear energy without undue international pressure. Very few publicly contest that. The issue is that many contend that Iran is in fact seeking a nuclear weapon of their own. We therefore find ourselves in an untenable situation not too dissimilar to that which Iraq faced under Saddam: prove that you don’t have what you say you don’t have.

Given its primary role in steering the UN Security Council’s Iran posture, Australia must not automatically calibrate its domestic position in line with those already enforcing economic sanctions that mostly harm the poor and ordinary Iranian citizen, rather than the political elite whom they are attempting to coerce. China, in particular, has long called for a dialogue among civilisations between Iran and the West, but even the P5+1 talks that are underway are more about tabling set demands than anything that recognises Iran’s particular security concerns. These concerns include threats of military action from both Israel and the US, security fears regional neighbours such as Saudi Arabia, a history of WMD usage by Iraq against Iranian citizens under the watch of the West, as well as concerns over the situation in Pakistan.

Furthermore, the focus on Iran’s support of Hezbollah and the Assad regime in Syria do not fully represent the totality of Iran’s foreign activities, as is commonly suggested in Western media. Indeed, it is too often forgotten that until the US and its allies manufactured the “Iran nuclear issue” as it is so often now called, the people of Iran protested in great numbers in support of America following September 11.

In my view, only dialogue based on a commitment to mutual understanding and the exploration of difference can awaken that deep-felt humanity. Economic sanctions targeted at Iran by “the international community” must cease immediately. Threats of military action against Iranian nuclear facilities by many within Israel and the US must be replaced by an open and consistent call for the resumption of negotiations on a Middle East WMD free zone, as had previously been agreed by states party to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in May 2010. Iran, in turn, must desist from antagonising Israel through the office of president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, or at least when he is succeeded in the June elections.

The people of Israel, Iran and the US in particular must rise up and display their common humanity, rather than leave the dialogue to the political elite which for so many years has variously shown itself — on all sides — to be incapable and unwilling to do so.

And yet despite the window of opportunity that Australia has open to it as chair of a number of relevant committees on the UN Security Council, Carr’s recent statements are devoid of any talk of global disarmament, or of a just dialogue between Iran, Israel and the West. The Australian government instead seems intent on reforging the policy bonds of the “Coalition of the Willing” which proved so morally, politically and economically disastrous in 2003.

Julia Gillard must not continue to take Australia further down the path of moral decay in the area of nonproliferation and disarmament as I’ve elsewhere argued she has done. Now on the Security Council, Australia must use its role to push for what prime minster Gillard herself promised in the candidate brochure:

… a lead role in advancing disarmament and non-proliferation efforts and continuing our longstanding efforts to promote respect for international law.”

And given the role of Australian media — and Rupert Murdoch in particular — in manufacturing the WMD threat posed by Saddam in 2003, reporting on “the Iran nuclear issue” must proactively solicit a range of opinions and expertise before again blindly calling for economic or military harm to be committed against the people of Iran. There’s simply no other peaceful — or moral — way forward.

*NAJ Taylor is a research associate at La Trobe University’s Centre for Dialogue, and a doctoral researcher in the School of Political Science and International Studies at the University of Queensland.

26
  • 1
    mmoore@phaa.net.au
    Posted Tuesday, 15 January 2013 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Naj Taylor for your thoughtfull and insightful comment on the west’s duplicitous attitude to Iran.

    Having visited Iran recently it is apparent that many of the ordinary people are looking forward to a change of government leadership - but as you point out - it is these people, instead of the elite, who are suffering under embargo conditions. Australia should be on the UN Security Council seeking consistency and a fresh approach instead of just playing more of the same to keep our allies happy.

  • 2
    Andybob
    Posted Tuesday, 15 January 2013 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    Except that Iran is enriching uranium 235 to levels that are consistent only with weaponisation and Ahmadinejad keeps saying things about the very existence of the Zionist regime being an insult to humanity. Yes, many of the points you make about inconsistency are good, but they don’t persuade me that Iran’s intentions are peaceful.

  • 3
    Serenatopia
    Posted Tuesday, 15 January 2013 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    Didn’t you know Naj, Anglo-Saxon white fellas and their sympathisers are the only ones who understand how to use nuclear power for the good of all humanity…Those middle eastern scum need to be starved out…Only when they are starving will they learn to communicate better — -Very logical!

  • 4
    negativegearmiddleclasswelfarenow.com
    Posted Tuesday, 15 January 2013 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    9/11 was a false flag operation used to justify the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan.
    Watch out for a false flag against Iran - probably similar in scope to the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty.

  • 5
    Matt
    Posted Tuesday, 15 January 2013 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    Given that Iran is run by prescription strength religious loons and anti semetic bigots it is more than appropriate that its nuclear pretensions are addressed individually.

    A nuclear armed Iran is wholly undesirable no matter what is going on in Israel and India.

  • 6
    Andybob
    Posted Tuesday, 15 January 2013 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for prefacing your remarks with an absurd claim about 9/11; makes it so much easier to judge what weight to give your opinion.

  • 7
    negativegearmiddleclasswelfarenow.com
    Posted Tuesday, 15 January 2013 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    @Abob

    I prefer Dr Alan Sabrosky’s reasoning - if, Building 7 collapsed as a result of controlled demolition, then the collapse of Buildings 1 and 2 were also the result of controlled demolitions.

    I don’t find that reasoning absurd at all.

  • 8
    Lady White Peace
    Posted Tuesday, 15 January 2013 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    I had hoped that Carr would bring some of his legendary “common sense” into this situation and hopefully some new and inspiring ideas…instead…he is trotting out the same old same old… JUNK THINKING !
    Embargo’s were great in the 70’ & 80’s but we are in the 21st Century and desperately need new ways and new ideas to solve problems such as these for, as this article so vividly demonstrates, it kills innocent ordinary people, while those who create the problem are not affected.
    Why does the brilliant Carr mind not realise this.? How will we- ADVANCE AUSTRALIA FAIR, if this is the best that we can come up with??

  • 9
    minnamurra
    Posted Tuesday, 15 January 2013 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    The real issue is the need to ban nuclear developments everywhere and to stop mining uranium - too many greedy people on the earth for that to happen - so we move on inexorably toward more and more disasters…..

  • 10
    Kevin Herbert
    Posted Tuesday, 15 January 2013 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    MATT:

    Maybe you could let us all know what data you are relying on the make the claim that Iran are engaged in racism against Jews.

    We’re all waiting…..

  • 11
    CML
    Posted Tuesday, 15 January 2013 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    @ LWP - The “brilliant Carr mind” doesn’t realise much at all really. Mainly because he doesn’t have one!! All his knowledge of foreign affairs comes out of books, not international contacts and on the ground experience. After all, he was a STATE premier, and they have zilch to do with international issues. And he is too fixated on the great USofA!
    There a few others rabbiting-on in Crikey lately who appear to be clones of our current foreign affairs minister. Thank you Naj for a very informative article.

  • 12
    Posted Tuesday, 15 January 2013 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    The state of Israel is always looking for an arch enemy-preferably a Muslim one-to bucket. Whether it feels it needs to encourage the flow of mega-bucks from America, or any other reason, who can say?

    Unfortunately Iran’s president, Amadinejad, is a nasty little man and the unacceptable face of the Iranian people. People whose warmth and hospitality made my visit memorable. People who don’t deserve the Büll shït constantly handed out by the politicians.

    Julia Gillard appears to be very vulnerable to the pro-Israel lobby, and Bob Carr should know a lot better than to go in lock-step with America. We didn’t elect this government to behave like the miserable Coalition.

  • 13
    AR
    Posted Wednesday, 16 January 2013 at 6:54 am | Permalink

    The US attacks on Iraq & Afghanistan (and over 30 other sovereign nations in the last century)seem to demonstrate the validity of the Swiss & Israelis Sampson policy, total resistance, retaliation & devastation, yay even unto a scorched earth policy.
    Iran is not Arab, is indeed posited as an antagonist of the West’s good friends (oil suppliers & proxies) and shining democracies in the ME, hence must be ‘dealt with’ though to what end even the crazies in the Eretz lobby refuse to outline.
    As for used Carr’s alleged (mostly by him) brilliant mind, his history as Premier of NSW is as perfect a text book exercise is spin-w/o-policy, power without purpose and corrupt hubris (or possibly hubristic corruption.. or both..)as could imagined. What does it say about the ranks of seat polishing apparatchiks currently whiling away their worthless lives of the ALP benches that a replacement Senator could not be found therein and this Sussex St creature had to be winkled out of his sinecure in the Macquarie Bank (hope he’s made full financial disclosures of ongoing fees & emoluments thence?

  • 14
    Nicholas AJ Taylor
    Posted Wednesday, 16 January 2013 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the positive feedback, folks. Most appreciated.

  • 15
    Diane Atkinson
    Posted Wednesday, 16 January 2013 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

    I particularly liked your reminder about the demonstrations in Iran in sympathy with the victims and condemning the 9/11 attacks, which were reported quite widely. It showed how much empathy people in Iran felt and we should show them similar empathy. Great article.

  • 16
    Kevin Herbert
    Posted Wednesday, 16 January 2013 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

    Andybob:

    once again you’re repeating US & Aussie mainstream media propoganda.

    Iran is fundamentally a peace loving nation. How many wars has it started in the past say century?

    Which country has illegally invaded six foreign countries since 1960, bombed them pieces so as their private MIC contractor stooges can hoover up hundreds of billions of $’s, while murdering nearly 6 million civilians including nearly 2 million kids? It’s our number 1 ally, the good ol USA…and Australia has sent troops to most of these illegal wars…pewkworthy in the extreme I say.

    Wake up to yourself.

  • 17
    Bill Hilliger
    Posted Wednesday, 16 January 2013 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

    @ Kevin Herbert hear, hear.

  • 18
    Posted Thursday, 17 January 2013 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

    ANDYBOB: If you had the state of Israel sitting in your back yard would your intentions be peaceful?

  • 19
    Posted Thursday, 17 January 2013 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    KEVIN HERBERT: Isn’t the word pukeworthy?

  • 20
    Kevin Herbert
    Posted Friday, 18 January 2013 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    MATT:

    we’re still waiting for your data in support of Iranian racism against Jews….I guess if we don’t hear we can consign your calims to the dross basket.

  • 21
    Kevin Herbert
    Posted Friday, 18 January 2013 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    Venise: you’re right.

    I’m sickened by the thought of how many times I’ve spelt it wrongly in the recent years I’ve used it!!!!

    Cheers

  • 22
    Kevin Herbert
    Posted Friday, 18 January 2013 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

    NEWS FLASH (hold that front page): Venise Alstergren:

    we were both half right….it’s spelt pewk worthy (2 words not 1 word as I had written it).

    Your perennially inquisitive mind has led us both to the entymological light…thanx

  • 23
    Posted Saturday, 19 January 2013 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    KEVIN H: :)

  • 24
    Posted Saturday, 19 January 2013 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    KEVIN: The smile I sent you is being ‘moderated’. So I’ll do another one…(S m i l e).

  • 25
    John Smith
    Posted Monday, 21 January 2013 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    Israel is the biggest nuclear rouge state that has committed terrorism against both the British ‘King David Hotel bombing’ and America ‘USS Liberty bombing and Lavon affair’ as well as every neighboring country to them. Australia better stop supporting them because with the internet the tide tide is turning.

  • 26
    Chris Williams
    Posted Sunday, 3 February 2013 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

    negativegearmiddleclasswelfarenow.com (4)

    Mate - you are not alone. Only people who are either
    * lazy,
    * lack integrity
    * have some congenital defect in being able to process information,
    * are dupes,
    * are being threatened
    * want to suck up to corrpution, or
    * are in on it,
    cannot admit that 9/11 is a false flag operation.

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