Spin cycle

Spin cycle

The P5+1’s much questioned proposed deal with Iran over the latter’s nuclear program has seen almost as much spinning in the Australian media as in Iran’s thousands of centrifuges.

Unfortunately much of it was comparable to Australian Financial Review international editor Tony Walker’s analysis on April 2, which backed the deal because “anything that limits Iran’s ‘breakout’ ability to construct a bomb within a short time-frame…is surely worth the effort.” Even if it’s a bad deal ripe for cheating?

Walker claimed Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent speech to the US Congress “cast doubt on any deal” and called for “nothing short of a pre-emptive strike”. Netanyahu did not oppose “any deal”, just the proposed one, nor did he call for war.

Walker also decried the speech as “unprecedented – and outrageous” and an “intervention in American domestic politics”. Actually, the leaders of the US Congress invited Netanyahu to speak on a critical international, not domestic, topic.

Walker also endorsed Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s upcoming Teheran trip “given Iran’s surging influence across the Middle East and beyond”. Much of that influence comes courtesy of its patronage of Hamas, Hezbollah and Syria’s Assad regime.

Walker also claimed the November 2013 deal with the P5+1 “led Iran to freeze its nuclear program.” It didn’t – it continues to expand in some respects.

A follow-up from Walker (7/4) ameliorated some of his earlier column, and included Netanyahu’s CNN comments that “‘I’m not trying to kill any deal. I’m trying to kill a bad deal'”.

In contrast, Australian foreign editor Greg Sheridan attacked the deal (11/4) as based on the wishful notion “that this negotiation will ’empower the moderates’ and ‘sideline the extremists’ within Iran’s leadership.”

He said the agreement “guarantees Iran will acquire nuclear weapons eventually” because its infrastructure, which is calibrated to producing nuclear weapons, will remain intact.

The concessions Iran won included no longer needing “to export the vast majority of its stockpile of enriched uranium”, and retaining “its deep underground nuclear facility, which is almost impossible to strike successfully from the air. It gets to undertake massive research into much more advanced enrichment centrifuges.”

Chillingly, Sheridan noted, concurrent with negotiations, Iranian “Revolutionary Guards commander, Reza Naqdi, commented that ‘erasing Israel from the map’ was ‘non-negotiable'” and “Supreme leader Khamenei finished a big public gathering with the declaration: ‘Yes, death to America.'”

Characteristically, ANU academic Amin Saikal saw it differently.

In the Canberra Times (9/4) he wrote that the “Iranian leadership from Ali Khamenei…down has…conclu[ded] that the time has come to reintegrate Iran into the international system…based on a nonconfrontational attitude towards the US”. He implied Iran’s threat to Israel is bogus, writing that it is Netanyahu “who has branded Iran as an existential threat to Israel.”

Elsewhere (12/4), the Age‘s Daniel Flitton cautioned against comparing the deal to British PM Neville Chamberlain’s infamous Munich agreement which allowed Hitler to annex sections of Czechoslovakia in the hope of staving off war.

Yet the proposed deal’s sunset clause arguably makes the comparison reasonable because it effectively tells Iran it can have its Czechoslovakia but just needs to wait 10 to 15 years.

Allon Lee