Media Microscope: Nuclear Reactions

Allon Lee

 

The recent international focus on Iran’s nuclear ambitions generated a lot of heat and occasionally some light in the Australian media.

A Sydney Morning Herald (February 6) editorial astutely warned “there is simply no precedent for a revolutionary Islamist regime getting its hands on nuclear weapons.” But there was no grasp that sanctions need a credible military option too, with the paper insisting “Israeli air strikes will only strengthen Tehran’s determination to get the bomb”.

An additional SMH editorial (Feb. 20) sensed Iran was holding out “the white flag of negotiation.”

The Feb. 17 Age editorial picked up on former Middle East negotiator Dennis Ross’ NY Times op-ed as proof that “Iran looked to be seeking a way out” and that “Over the decades, as Mr. Ross notes, Iran has relented under pressure”. It ignored Ross’ acknowledgment that Iran “might try to draw out talks while pursuing their nuclear program” and he was unsure if any accommodation could be reached.

US Council on Foreign Relations fellow Matthew Kroenig argued (Australian Financial Review, Feb. 3) “a carefully managed US attack would prove less risky than the prospect of containing a nuclear-armed Islamic Republic – a costly, decades-long proposition that would likely still result in grave national security threats. Indeed, attempting to manage a nuclear-armed Iran is not only a terrible option but the worst.”

Jonathan Freedland argued that the 2003 invasion of Iraq shouldn’t be used as an excuse to preclude future military operations against Iran’s nuclear program, if needed, (Sunday Age, Feb. 12): “…the anti-war camp refuses to recognise there might even be a problem, namely the possibility of an Iranian nuclear weapon. It dismisses all talk of the issue as neoconservative warmongering, assuming it amounts to no more than a rerun of Iraq… it is natural for Israel to feel threatened by the prospect, given Iran’s rejection of Israel’s right to exist”.

SBS’s Brian Thomson (Feb. 16) stated that “to make nuclear weapons, Iran would need to produce 90% enriched nuclear fuel, way above the 20% it has managed so far.” However as AIJAC’s Dr. Colin Rubenstein explained, (Canberra Times, Jan. 20), “20% represents most of the work needed… If Iran decides to turn that uranium into weapons it would take only about a month to achieve the 90% level”.

Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth’s analyst Ronen Bergman (ABC TV “Lateline”, Feb. 16) gave a nuanced account of Israeli political and military thinking on Iran: “… according to [the] latest assessment by the Air Force and… the Israeli Atomic Energy Committee, a successful strike would yield in delay of three to five years in the Iranian nuclear project – not a total destruction, not a total stop, but a delay. And of course there come the important question: …Is it worth the delay, the inevitable day-after effect? The rain of missiles and rockets that is going to hit Israeli cities?”

Alexander Downer stressed (Adelaide Advertiser, Jan. 2) that “…two or three nuclear missile strikes on Israel would finish the place off.”

Eleanor Hall on ABC Radio’s “World Today” (Feb. 14) asked Geneive Abdo, a former Iran correspondent for the Guardian, if there was any truth to Iranian accusations that Israel itself attempted terror attacks on Israeli embassy staff in India and Georgia.

Abdo said: “Well I think that’s entirely possible. I mean, if you consider what the Israelis did for many years in Lebanon and other parts of the Middle East, that theory is not so farfetched”. She also said the attacks could be a “pretext to attack Iran” and warned that war against Iran was more likely in 2012 because “you have an American president trying to be re-elected with a Jewish lobby… that’s extremely powerful.”

Finally, she argued that the “very extremist Israeli government” had not even considered the dangers of a military strike on Iran, and lacks “any voices of reason.”

SBS TV’s “Insight” (Feb. 21) offered up a full spectrum of opinions on this issue. University of Teheran Professor Mohammad Mirandi said Iran’s nuclear program is aimed solely at decreasing “oil consumption in order to export more oil.”

Former Mossad Chief Efraim Halevy tried to move the debate beyond the confines of the US and Israel versus Iran noting that “Moscow joined the US and China five consecutive times in approving… measures to be taken against Iran.”

The Australian Jewish Democratic Society’s Larry Stillman offered perhaps the most bizarre comment suggesting that, regarding Iran, “Palestine has to be a solution and negotiated solution but unfortunately Israel believes the fact this [sic] it still has hegemony in the Middle East and by upping the ante with Iran it will be able to delay a settlement.”