It has all the drama of a Melbourne Cup, but it is infinitely more important. The outcome of a horse race can be measured in dollars and cents. We are witnessing a contest between a simmering grassroots yearning for democracy in Iran and an obsessive pursuit of nuclear weapons by the junta of Islamic extremists who rule that nation. The stakes are far too high to let the good guys lose this competition.
These Iranian despots have ruthlessly supported terrorism in pursuit of their primary goal: the dissemination of a radical Islamic revolution throughout the Middle East. And by far the greatest beneficiary of this murderous largesse has been the Lebanese Hezbollah movement.
For years, Iranian Revolutionary Guards have funded, trained and equipped Hezbollah with the means to slaughter the innocent. With Iranian support, Hezbollah engaged in a kidnapping spree against Westerners during the 1980s and blew up an Argentinian Jewish community centre in 1994.
Many observers also believe that Hezbollah was involved in the recent assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. And what was Hariri’s offence? He had lately shifted his position on the Syrian occupation of Lebanon and was pressuring Damascus to withdraw its troops. And of course, any threat to Syria’s hegemony in Beirut and the Beka’a was perceived as a menace by the dictator in Damascus and his allies in Teheran. So Hariri had to go, and a massive car bomb was exploded in the streets of the Lebanese capital to do the job.
Australia currently subscribes to the fiction that it is possible to distinguish between Hezbollah’s ‘illegitimate’ military element and its ‘legitimate’ political department. The Commonwealth government has just renewed its ban on the former, but allows the latter to operate freely in Australia. Yet any such division is completely illusory and constitutes a distinction without a difference.
In reality, Hezbollah’s two branches are inextricably intertwined to create a hideous synergy of terrorism. The organisation’s military units provide muscle and credibility to its political wing, which in turn ensures that Hezbollah gunmen can operate without hindrance from Lebanese authorities. After all, it’s not happenstance that Hezbollah is the only civil-war-era armed militia movement in Lebanon that has been allowed to retain its weapons.
It’s long past time to dispense with this delusional dichotomy. Hezbollah, in its entirety, is an inseparable element of the global Islamist terror network and should be treated as such. From the military and political arms of Hezbollah to its al-Manar television network that specialises in broadcasting classic myths of medieval antisemitism, this Islamic radical organisation should be totally outlawed. The US and Canada have set an example in this regard that Australia should follow.
But if you think that the implacable belligerence of the Iranian regime is a serious problem now, imagine what mischief the mad mullahs could wreak if they were armed with nuclear weapons. Would a nuclear-armed Islamic Republic be subject to the same logic of self-preservation that kept America and the Soviet Union from sliding into the abyss of mutual assured destruction during the Cold War?
The rhetoric emanating from Teheran would seem to indicate otherwise. Amidst a constant diet of official Iranian government proclamations calling for Israel’s annihilation, a statement made by highly influential former President Rafsanjani stands out in stark relief. Rafsanjani commented that he considered a nuclear exchange with Israel to be a reasonable proposition because a majority of Muslims would survive while the Jewish state would be utterly destroyed. To the ex-Iranian president, the deaths of millions throughout the Middle East would simply be the cost of doing business. The important thing would be to wipe the hated Zionist entity off the map.
But even if the ruling mullahs could be induced to abstain from an atomic holocaust, the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran would signify nothing but trouble. The example of North Korea informs us that the acquisition of nuclear weapons by terrorist nations tends to invest the rogue regimes that rule them with a sense of invulnerability. Under the aegis of nuclear weapons, the Iranian regime would feel free to mercilessly suppress its democratic opposition at home, and ceaselessly support its terrorist surrogates abroad. Such a state of affairs would constitute an unmitigated disaster for both the Iranian people and the world at large.
The mullahs are despised by an overwhelming majority of their own people. The regime clings to power on the back of its vile army of thuggish enforcers who impose the government’s will with baton, bullet and bastinado. But the Iranian people appear to be made of sterner stuff than many oppressed populations. Despite the Islamic regime’s repression, grassroots resistance to the mullahs’ tyranny is widespread and growing.
There are those who warn that air strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities would be politically counterproductive. Any such military action, they argue, would set in train a wave of patriotism and a ‘rally around the flag’ syndrome that would lengthen the lifespan of the Islamic regime.
I recently had the opportunity to pose this question to a well-connected Iranian exile academic who enjoys extensive contacts throughout his homeland. But the professor discounted such theories. On the basis of his conversations with the Iranian opposition he reached precisely the opposite conclusion. According to the professor, most Iranians would consider air strikes against the regime’s nuclear facilities to be a welcome expression of support. Thus he is convinced that military action against Iran’s nukes would hasten the fall of the Islamic regime, rather than postpone it.
Our policy makers routinely express their preference for a negotiated solution to the problem of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear ambitions. The EU proceeds with its vacuous diplomatic initiative and the IAEA fiddles while Iran continues to prepare the nuclear weapons that could burn us all.
But if negotiations fail, perhaps we err in our aversion to the consideration of the military option as a solution to this burgeoning mess. By taking out the Islamic republic’s nuclear facilities we might kill two birds with one stone: ending both the mullahs’ heinous nuclear avarice and their odious grip on power.
Yet, in the event that things end up going pear shaped, we will pay a very high price for our willingness to temporise with the evil incarnate that is the current Islamic Republic of Iran. History will judge us harshly for our timidity.
Crime and Punishment
It is nearly twenty years since a wide-ranging, passionate public debate took place in this country on how to deal with evidence that individuals who committed crimes against humanity during the Nazi reign of terror had emigrated to Australia.
With the pioneering research of Mark Aarons, revelations from researchers in the USA and Canada, the collection of material from any and varied Australian sources and, most significantly, the arrest in the US of Konrads Kalejs holding an Australian passport, there was overwhelming support for action which would go some way towards readdressing an intolerable moral situation.
The 1986 review by Andrew Menzies affirmed that many individuals abused Australia’s humanitarianism and escaped prosecution for crimes committed in Europe by settling in Australia.
Hundreds of serious allegations were investigated and, in some cases, prosecutions recommended. At that time, forty years after the defeat of Nazism, many of the criminals had died, moved on or were not able to be traced.
In other cases, prosecutions were difficult due to the murderers’ success in killing witnesses, the difficulty in collecting evidence in predominantly Communist countries and the technicalities of the laws adopted after an extended and complex parliamentary debate. A handful of cases came to trial, without convictions being recorded.
Since the collapse of the Communist empire, extradition treaties have been negotiated, information shared and the prospect of alleged criminals being deported to face trial in the countries in which the crimes were committed has opened up.
At the time of writing, the Australian government was considering a request by Hungary to extradite Charles Zentai, a Perth resident, so he can face trial for a 1944 murder which was part of the Nazis’ persecution and genocide of the Jews of Europe.
One of the most important outcomes of Menzies’ review was to make the recommendation, immediately accepted by the Government, that Australia should never have been and must cease to be a place where individuals who had committed crimes against humanity could “forget their past”. Australia never should have harboured fugitives, let alone individuals escaping prosecution for crimes against humanity.
It is morally incumbent that the request for extradition is dealt with speedily while at the same time our parliamentarians exercise ways of further ensuring no one who committed crimes against humanity can ever feel they are safe and welcome in Australia.