Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Media Microscope: Nuclear Fuel for Commentary Craziness

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Allon Lee


There is more than one reason nuclear technology should be viewed as dangerous. The interim six-month "Joint Action Plan" signed by the P5+1 and Iran in Geneva certainly had a giddying effect on elements of media commentary.

Charles Richardson insisted that Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu opposes the deal because he wants to keep the "issue in the public eye without ever reaching a resolution, both for domestic political purposes and to give Israel a ready-made foreign policy grievance," Crikey (Nov. 25). 

Similarly, Anthony Billingsley alleged that Netanyahu's campaign against Iran "is driven by his desire to maintain his alliance with right-wing elements in Israeli politics, especially pro-settler groups. It also helps to divert international attention from Israeli actions in the occupied Palestinian territories." This completely ignores analysts who see Netanyahu's concessions on the Palestinian issue as a trade-off for continued US support against Iran, ABC "The Drum" (Nov. 27).

Meanwhile, Amin Saikal absurdly asserted that the deal "demonstrate[s] that [Iran's] nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, and that it has no desire to produce nuclear weapons, as its leaders have repeatedly emphasised in the past."

Saikal, who has long asserted that Iran and the US should be allies in stabilising the region, argued that Israel is "threatened by an improvement in US-Iranian relations" fearing that a "rapprochement could only reduce Israel's importance in America's strategic calculations." ABC "Unleashed" (Nov. 25).

Elsewhere, Saikal further relished Israel's dislike of the deal - calling it a "slap in the face for the deal's opponents" and adding, "All the Israeli bellicose diplomacy failed to persuade...the United States, to heed its hyperbolic warnings." Of course, in reality, there would have been no deal without Israel and in particular Netanyahu's campaign to bring Iran under serious pressure. Saikal then bizarrely demanded that Israel "back the interim nuclear deal and capitalise...on the new goodwill shown by the Iranian leadership towards the Jewish people to integrate Israel more into the region and world system." Never mind that the Iranian leadership has recently explicitly and emphatically ruled out any rapprochement with Israel under any circumstances.

Saikal also gleefully asserted Israel "may find it very counterproductive to continue its old policies of the use of force and colonial-settler occupation of the Palestinian lands" and offered the distasteful warning that the "Israel lobby continues to remain alarmingly active around the world," Canberra Times (Nov. 28).

Also hinting darkly at the alleged power of the Israel lobby to scuttle the deal, Adam Quinn wrote that "a majority of Congress, including members with more moderate views in other policy areas, has tended to avoid at all costs divergence with Israel on those issues it identifies as core to its security." Clearly, the idea that members of Congress might genuinely agree with Israel on core issues is inconceivable to Quinn, The Conversation (Nov. 26).

Thankfully there were more sensible voices also featured in the debate over the deal's merits.

The Australian (Nov. 25) pointed out the deal's shortcomings, particularly that "the definitive end to all uranium enrichment, seen as the essential prerequisite to ensuring an end to Tehran's nuclear ambitions, is not included."

AIJAC's Ahron Shapiro also expounded on the centrality of enrichment, explaining how "reactor fuel - which Iran has refused to accept from outside parties - is all that is necessary for peaceful applications but is useless in a nuclear weapon. On the other hand, plutonium or highly enriched uranium is absolutely essential for nuclear weapons production," Age (Nov. 29).

The Canberra Times editorialised (Nov. 27) that Iran "kept its nuclear program hidden for nearly two decades...failed to make full disclosure of its activities when it was uncovered [and] has...enriched uranium beyond what is required for power generation."

Also raising the duplicity card was Peter Hartcher who commented on how "the US and its allies were hoodwinked so often, and so expertly, by another bomb-building nation, North Korea, that the doubters need to be taken seriously," Sydney Morning Herald (Nov. 26).

Thomas Friedman admitted Netanyahu's important role, and encouraged him not to "get too quiet" because the chances of securing a genuine final deal "are improved if Bibi...serves as our loaded pistol on the negotiating table," Age (Dec. 6).

In a hard-hitting critique, Bret Stephens compared the deal to the West's infamous concessions to Hitler in Munich, and damned the Obama Administration for overturning the US' post-WWII "global system of security alliances" by "attempting a fleeting opening with Tehran at the expense of a durable alliance of values with Israel and interests with Saudi Arabia," Australian (Nov. 29).

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