With a flourish of Orwellian Newspeak, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told a press conference at Parliament House on Tuesday that Iran and Australia wanted to work together ‘to eliminate violent extremism’. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop didn’t bat an eyelid. Everyone talked about defeating Islamic State, which Zarif assured us, wasn’t Islamic and wasn’t a state.
But in Newspeak what counts is what is not said. What no one said was that Iran recently announced it would provide up to $30,000 to the families of slain Palestinian terrorists. And is channelling tens of millions of dollars to arm the military wing Hamas, a proscribed terrorist organisation in Australia, to attack Israeli civilians. Or that it funds Hezbollah’s security wing, also a proscribed terrorist organisation in Australia.
Australia’s partner in ‘eliminating violent extremism’ is also funding the Badr brigades in Iraq that apparently act as sectarian death squads. Last week Australian naval forces intercepted a large arms cache that our partner in peace apparently intended for the Houthi militiamen in Yemen who apparently conscript child soldiers.
But seemingly none of this matters. Bishop congratulated Zarif on the nuclear deal it has signed with the West but watching the Iranians, who all but invented chess, negotiate with the West, was like watching a grandmaster take on an amateur. The outcome was never in doubt.
While Western countries blunder from one well-intentioned disaster to the next, Iran and Russia – the chess masters – move, despite their wretched economic management, from strength to strength.
It’s no coincidence. Winning chess requires deep strategic thinking and often a sham sacrifice. The West was only too eager to pretend that in signing the deal Iran had made great concessions and Iran played along like a carpet dealer in a Persian bazaar who swears he’ll go broke as he allows himself to be beaten down to a price three times the value of the tatty rag he is passing off as a rare masterpiece.
But as Frederick H. Fleitz, a former CIA expert on nonproliferation observed, the agreement contains only ‘minor concessions by Iran but huge concessions by the US… (indeed) Iran will not only continue to enrich uranium under the agreement, it will continue to develop advanced centrifuges that will reduce the timeline to an Iranian nuclear bomb’.
As Western leaders toasted a deal to bring peace in our time, Iran’s Supreme Leader gloated, ‘After 12 years of struggling with the Islamic republic, the result is that they have to bear the turning of thousands of centrifuges in the country’.Worse, the deal doesn’t even cover nuclear weapons development, which is relegated to a UN resolution calling on Iran to refrain from developing ballistic missiles capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. Its worthlessness was exposed when Iran tested several ballistic missiles recently that it said would be used to ‘wipe Israel off the map’, and which were emblazoned with the message ‘Israel must be wiped out’ in case anyone wasn’t listening.
The US called for sanctions but Russia vetoed them. ‘A call is different from a ban, so legally you can’t violate a call,’ the Russian Ambassador helpfully explained. Check! It’s a Persian word but Russia has its fair share of grandmasters.
Zarif trotted out the same sophistry at Tuesday’s press conference then earnestly told the media that Iran would only use the missiles in self-defence. ‘Everyone forgets’, he said, ‘that Iran was attacked by Saddam Hussein for 8 years and no-one helped Iran, so we need missiles’. True to Newspeak, no-one mentioned that Iran brought its pariah status on itself by taking US citizens hostage for 444 days.
And that’s the real problem with the nuclear deal. There has been no change in Iranian hostility towards the US since the 1979 Iranian revolution. Nor is there likely to be. As Khamenei put it, ‘Our policies toward the arrogant government of the United States will not be changed at all.’
As a result, as Harvard expert William H. Tobey put it, the agreement is little ‘more than a speed bump on the path to Iran’s nuclear ambition’ and not ‘a good trade for at least $150 billion in sanctions relief.’ Yet Obama is undaunted saying, ‘I have a lot of differences with Ronald Reagan, but where I completely admire him was his recognition that (we) were able to verify an agreement that (was negotiated) with the evil empire (the Soviet Union) that was hell bent on our destruction and was a far greater existential threat to us than Iran will ever be.’
The trouble with the analogy is that Reagan forced the Soviet Union into an arms race that bankrupted rather than bankrolled them. And although the Russians were much more heavily armed than the Iranians, they were more rational than the messianic clerical fascists running Iran who believe their 12th Imam is due to appear soon along with Armageddon.
Meanwhile, the Iranian regime continues to unleash ‘acid attacks, flogging, stoning, gouging out of eyes, amputation of limbs, and piling up of students, political and civil activists, intellectuals, lawyers and artists in its medieval prisons’ as the National Committee of Resistance in Iran’s Ali Safavi put it this week.
And for the most trivial of offenses. In 2014, some young people were detained simply for filming themselves dancing to Pharrell Williams’ song Happy. They got off lightly being forced to repent on national TV. According to Safavi there have been 2,300 executions in Iran just since ‘moderate’ President Hassan Rouhani was elected in 2013.
Rolling out the red carpet for Zarif will only encourage Iran ‘to intensify repression at home and to expand its malign interference to the rest of the Middle East’ warned Safavi.
On Tuesday, Bishop said she raised Iran’s human rights record, Israel and ballistic missiles with Zarif. But when Iran does nothing, what then? The word ‘checkmate’ comes from the Persian shah mat. It means your king is powerless.
Rebecca Weisser is a regular contributor
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