Friday, January 11, 2013

Australia strengthening sanctions against Iran


Comment by Paul Barratt

It is ironic that, as announced in this morning’s edition of The Age (see here), the world champion payer of kick-backs to Saddam Hussein now has "key responsibility" for enforcing sanctions against Iran - the "crippling sanctions” which Hillary Clinton in particular has been so keen to see from the moment she became Secretary of State.

This development causes me considerable sadness because during the early years of the Islamic Revolution and into the 1980s I was involved as Deputy Secretary of the Department of Trade, reporting to a very strong Minister (and Deputy Prime Minister) Doug Anthony, in decisions that, unlike most Western countries, we would maintain diplomatic relations with Iran, would keep our Embassy open, and would keep the Trade office therein open. We maintained business as usual throughout the most turbulent years of the revolution, including during the 1979 US Embassy hostage crisis. We managed to maintain the principle that the Australian national interest was separate and distinct from anyone else's national interest, and a matter for us to decide, right up to the George W. Bush era when the Howard Government threw it all away (and in so doing reduced our usefulness to our American ally as well as ourselves).

It causes me pain also because we are participating in sanctions which

(1)  Have no valid basis. Under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran is entitled to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes, and the only legitimate objective for the international community is to get Iran to live up to its obligations under the Treaty (permit effective IAIA inspections), not to force them to abandon enrichment.

(2)  Will produce no useful outcome. Iran simply will not agree, for reasons of history and national interest, and some reasons specific to the history of its nuclear relations with the West – see my November 2009 post on Australia Observer which summarises the reasons why.

(3)  Accordingly, will impose poverty and misery on ordinary Iranians without producing any useful outcomes, even by the standards of those who want to force Iran to abandon the pursuit of an independent nuclear fuel cycle.

It remains the settled view of the US Intelligence Community that Iran has not as yet decided to embark on acquiring a nuclear weapons capability.

These sanctions are about US politics, not international security, and indeed they are more likely to undermine international security by raising the likelihood of conflict breaking out unintentionally.  To take just one scenario, read my April 2009 post Choke point: the Strait of Hormuz.

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