Donald Trump COVID-19

This time it’s different, apparently. Another aggressive Republican president, another confected case for military action against an Islamic country, another demand for Australia to be a “good international citizen” and join a military taskforce to preserve international rules. This time the target is Iran.

“Brazen Iranian tanker piracy in the Strait of Hormuz underlines the need for international action to ensure freedom of navigation in the world’s most important oil supply passageway,” The Australian insisted today, oblivious to the News Corp role in cheering on the greatest strategic blunder of the recent decades, the Iraq War.

The Australian Financial Review wants Australia front and centre in any military action against Iran:

An international force to police the Straits — similar to the long-running international anti-piracy scheme off the Horn of Africa — is the right response. Australia, as a good international citizen, should be willing to join in.

It’s only four years since the AFR cheered on Tony Abbott’s dispatch of more troops back to Iraq. There’s no Middle East conflagration that the AFR doesn’t want us in, it seems.

The AFR at least acknowledged there was a wider dimension to the current escalation of tensions with Iran by the Trump administration. The Australian is pretending it is all a matter of Iran and its “aggression”, without bothering to note the UK’s US-instigated seizure of an Iranian oil tanker, let alone the Trump administration’s strategy of punishing Iran for complying with the JCPOA nuclear deal with savage sanctions that have crippled the Iranian economy.

But according to the AFR, “trying to use international waters as leverage in an unrelated row with a third party is on principle not acceptable”. Go looking for an AFR editorial condemning Trump’s breaching of the JCPOA and illegal imposition of sanctions, however, and you’ll find nothing. It’s OK for the US to unilaterally withdraw from agreements, breach international law and engage in economic war, but Iran must be held to a higher standard.

The perspective of The Australian, however, is simply that the Iranian people — already victims of a brutal regime — must be further punished by intensified sanctions. A failure to impose even tougher sanctions “will further embolden the ayatollahs”. Of course, the opposite is true: Iranian regime hardliners have been completely vindicated by Trump’s aggression toward Iran and moderates and pragmatists disgraced and humiliated (source: the raving lefties at the American Enterprise Institute, backed by the pinkoes at the National Review).

But this isn’t the standard sloppy thinking that characterises editorials in Murdochland. The error is quite deliberate: intensifying sanctions will further strengthen the fundamentalist hardliners in Tehran and encourage them to use aggression as a means to strike back at Western interests, increasing the risk of war, which is exactly what fundamentalist hardliners in Washington and other capitals want.

This is the history of the “war on terror” — an endless cycle in which hardliners in both the west and among Islamic fundamentalists have a basic common interest in perpetuating conflict, in which the West attacks Islamic countries, stoking outrage and swelling the ranks of terrorist groups, which in turn attack Western interests and provoke further intervention. And it all provides marvellous fodder for Western media outlets.

What’s different this time compared to Iraq is that there is now intense hostility to the perpetuation of the war on terror — and its current phase targeting Iran — from within conservative ranks in the United States. The foreign policy outlet National Interest, aligned with the Kissinger “realist” school, has attacked Trump for deliberately provoking Iran, which has shown “remarkable patience”. The American Conservative is almost obsessively hostile to the US military state and has been lashing Trump’s Iran policy in the most ferocious terms for more than a year. The idea that the United States has engaged in a deliberate policy of endless war has moved from a fringe conspiracy theory and rhetorical trope of Gore Vidal to the entire basis for a new cooperative project of the unlikely pairing of George Soros and Charles Koch.

As The Australian and the AFR demonstrate, however, in Australia it’s as if we’re still in 2003, with no lessons learnt or wisdom gained from the colossal folly of Iraq, as the media encourages us to plunge into another military adventure in the Middle East. All in the name, of course, of being a “good international citizen”.

Peter Fray

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