IN THE MEDIA
ALP needed to go harder on Iran, Hezbollah
Apr 8, 2021 | Naomi Levin
Australian Jewish News – April 9, 2021
During its 2021 National Conference last week, the Australian Labor Party passed resolutions on a number of significant international matters – among them, Iran and Hezbollah.
This is commendable because concerns about the global security threats posed by Iran and Hezbollah have not been significant priorities of recent Australian governments, which have chosen instead to focus on the neighbouring Indo-Pacific region. Labor’s attempt to draw much needed attention back to the Middle East is welcome.
However, it is unfortunate that Labor did not take the opportunity to make a bolder statement in support of Middle East security.
Looking first at the new ALP resolution on Iran, the party recognised the reality that Iran is indeed moving toward nuclear weapons capacity.
The nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), reached in 2015, was flawed from the start because it failed to do more than temporarily limit Iran’s illegal nuclear program. It also failed to address Iran’s other dangerous behaviour, including development of long-range missiles and support for regional terrorism. Additionally, Iran failed to strictly adhere to its conditions.
In recognition of this, the US withdrew from the JCPOA in 2018 and reimposed crippling financial sanctions. In response, Iran has ramped up its nuclear activity and led nuclear inspectors in a game of cat and mouse.
Today, Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium is believed to be 14 times greater than what is permitted under the JCPOA. When the JCPOA was ratified, experts estimated it would take the Islamic Republic a year to “breakout” and build a nuclear weapon. That timeline has now contracted to less than three months.
So Labor’s call for Iran to “whole-heartedly cooperate” with inspections and verifications is most welcome. It is important the world knows what it is truly dealing with.
Equally important is Labor’s statement that Iran should be prevented from sending “its troops and agents to foment civil war across the region”.
The Ayatollah’s personal military force, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, organises, supplies and trains militias across the Middle East, from Yemen to Syria. Labor’s proposed remedy for the well-known challenge of Iran is “the revival of the nuclear deal” with “robust verification requirements”. However, experts are divided on whether the JCPOA can indeed be revived and whether an improved new deal is achievable. But Labor’s new policy rightly does take the threat posed by a nuclear Iran very seriously.
Unfortunately, Labor’s statement on Hezbollah is less robust.
Firstly, it follows the comprehensively debunked misnomer that the only dangerous faction of Hezbollah is its “External Security Organisation” (ESO). This is a furphy maintained by the Australian Government, which continues to only list Hezbollah’s ESO as a terrorist threat, despite the urging of the Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence and Security to expand that listing at least to the organisation’s so-called military wing.
Australia’s lenient approach to Hezbollah stands in contrast to our Five Eyes allies; the US, UK and Canada have declared all of Hezbollah a terrorist threat, New Zealand proscribes Hezbollah’s military branch.
It is regrettable that in its policy resolution, Labor did not extend its criticism to Hezbollah as a whole, given there is consensus among experts that Hezbollah operates as a singular organisation.
Secondly, but no less important, the ALP’s new Hezbollah policy implies that the Iran-backed Shi’ite militia group’s problematic operations are only in Syria.
Labor is, of course, right to condemn Hezbollah’s military support for brutal Syrian despot Bashar al-Assad
Yet Hezbollah is based in Lebanon, where it exercises effective domination over the dismal failure that is the current Lebanese Government.
And it is a remarkable oversight not to mention Hezbollah’s deadly suppression of opposition voices in Lebanon – such as the alleged recent assassination of Hezbollah critic Lokman Slim. Hezbollah was also allegedly involved in stashing thousands of tonnes of ammonium nitrate at the Beirut port – which exploded last year, killing more than 200 people and devastating much of Beirut.
Not to mention the ongoing threat Hezbollah poses to Israel.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah boasted in December that his soldiers had doubled their cache of precision guided missiles and could now accurately hit any part of Israel. Hezbollah is estimated to have well over 120,000 missiles and rockets pointed at Israel.
Yet the new Labor policy mentions neither Hezbollah’s extensive abuses in Lebanon nor the dangerous threat it poses toward Israel.
Labor’s recognition of these dangerous global security threats at its National Conference showed foreign policy seriousness and responsibility. But the party needed to go a step further to fully address the magnitude of these threats.