Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Media Microscope: A Farewell to Sanctions

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Allon Lee


The significance of lifting economic sanctions on Iran under the P5+1 nuclear deal was given appropriate media coverage in mid-January.

On ABC Radio National "Breakfast" (Jan. 18), Teheran University's Professor Mohammad Marandi told Fran Kelly Iran has "done everything they were supposed to do and probably a bit more. But unfortunately as soon as the announcement was made... the United States... expanded the sanctions regime."

Kelly said given US President Obama had threatened more sanctions if ballistic missiles were tested, Iran's leadership would not be surprised. Marandi disagreed and said everyone in the region tests ballistic missiles and they are for Iran's defence, especially given threats from Israel and the US. Marandi also blamed the suffering in Syria on the US supporting extremist groups there and its "animosity towards Iran".

Later, Federal MP Michael Danby told "Breakfast" the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report which allowed sanctions to be lifted was based on flawed methodology, noting that Iran was able to collect samples itself from the Parchin nuclear site and pass them on to the IAEA, which leaves "on the basis of past activity [an] obvious basis for cheating." 

ANU Professor Amin Saikal hailed the end of sanctions as proof of "Tehran's good intentions" and confirmation that "its nuclear program was for peaceful purposes." (Nevermind that the IAEA just proved otherwise in a report in December.) According to Saikal, Iran's "success... in building strong leverages... from Afghanistan to Iraq to Syria to Yemen" will enable the US to help "secur[e]... a resolution of some of the regional conflicts, and to arrest the declining US influence in the region." Most thoughtful analysts would argue the Obama Administration consciously pursued a decline in US influence and its re-establishment is not predicated on Iran's say-so, Canberra Times (Jan. 19).

AIJAC's Colin Rubenstein warned that "while the IAEA's report detailing Iran's co-operation in the deal may appear encouraging, now is no time to celebrate. Grave risks lie ahead, not only for businesses and investors, but for world stability." He went on to argue, "The Middle East powder keg looks likely to become more rather than less volatile, but a full-blown conflagration is not inevitable. Hopes of a return to regional stability begin with a clear-headed risk assessment," Canberra Times (Jan. 22).

The Australian (Jan. 19) editorialised its hope "the economic energy unleashed by lifting sanctions will create momentum that will eventually sweep aside the ayatollahs' theocratic regime and see Iran emerge as a stable, peace-loving, democratic nation that really has eschewed nuclear ambitions. But only a fool would bank on it."
By contrast, the Australian Financial Review's (Jan. 18) focus was parochial, welcoming "the lifting of crippling international sanctions... in an area where the news is often grim...but the real significance" is how Iranian oil exports "may affect Australia's exports of LNG [liquified natural gas]."

Fairfax's Nassim Khadem cautioned, "While opportunity awaits, one cannot ignore the dark and depressing reality that the country remains among the world's worst perpetrators of human rights abuses... An October 2015 [UN] report... said Iran... continues to execute more individuals per capita than any other country in the world," Age/Sydney Morning Herald (Jan. 18).

Senior correspondent Daniel Flitton seemed to suggest that the Obama Administration's deal with Iran was prompted by its desire to "pivot" to Asia in 2011 but "for this idea to be taken credibly, the drain on US diplomacy from the Middle East had to be confronted," Age (Jan. 19).

In the Australian (Jan. 19), Bret Stephens slated liberal US commentators who think Iran has changed. "The proof, supposedly, is that the regime has so far kept to its nuclear promises (in exchange for a $US100 billion windfall), that it swiftly released US sailors (after scoring a small propaganda coup), and that it let the other hostages go (though only after very nearly taking the wife and mother of one of those hostages in his turn, and then after an additional $US1.7b reward from the US).

"Are these signs of a new-and-improved regime? Or merely one that is again being given good reasons to believe it can always extract a bribe for its bad behaviour?... Iran will become a ‘normal' country only when it ceases to be an Islamic Republic."

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