Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Media Week - Burns' lukewarm analysis; Some get it, others don’t; Justice denied

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Burns' lukewarm analysis

Former US diplomat Nicholas Burns argued that a diplomatic solution will only arise when America "create[s] a direct channel between Washington and Tehran and begin[s] an extended one-on-one negotiation with all issues on the table...To be successful, however, the US must be ready to compromise by offering imaginative proposals that would permit Iran civil nuclear power but deny it a nuclear weapon."

A Brazilian-Turkish deal in May 2011 offering Iran medium-enriched uranium for medical research came unstuck when Iran started putting impossible conditions on any such deal, Sydney Morning Herald (Aug. 17).

By contrast, on the same day, David Blair of the UK Daily Telegraph explained how there is no Iranian desire for direct talks with the US, noting that at the last multilateral meeting in June: "Seven countries were represented in Moscow...Wendy Sherman, No. 3 in the US State Department, sat opposite Saeed Jalili, head of Iran's Supreme National Security Council... But the two never met one-on-one. The Americans had offered a bilateral meeting, but Jalili declined. This was quite understandable, for a public meeting with the Great Satan's emissaries would have exposed Jalili to attack in the viper's nest of Iranian domestic politics, quite possibly ending his career," Age (Aug. 17).

Some get it, others don't

An Associated Press report by Ali Akbar Dareini succinctly summarised the nature of the Iranian threat to Israel: "Israel considers Iran an existential threat because of its nuclear and missile programs, support for radical anti-Israel groups on its borders and repeated references by Iranian leaders to Israel's destruction. Ahmadinejad himself has repeatedly made such calls, as has Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei," Canberra Times (Aug. 18).

A warped analysis by US political theorist Kenneth Waltz' originally published in Foreign Affairs magazine claimed Iran's nuclear program was both a direct response to Israel‘s own suspected nuclear capabilities and overall a good thing: "Israel's regional nuclear monopoly, which has proved remarkably durable for more than four decades, has long fuelled instability in the Middle East. In no other region of the world does a lone, unchecked nuclear state exist. It is Israel's nuclear arsenal, not Iran's desire for one, that has contributed most to the crisis."

Yet the Iranian nuclear weapons initiative was kick-started in 1989 after the conclusion of the eight-year Iran-Iraq war. And as Wikileaks showed, most of the Middle East's Arab leaders are frantically worried about Iran's nuclear weapons prospects and thinking about developing their own nuclear deterrent. They never sought this deterrent earlier, despite Israel's supposed nuclear capability, because they understood it did not threaten them, Australian Financial Review (Aug. 17).

Justice denied

Legal reporter Chris Merritt blasted the Australian High Court rejection of the Hungarian Government's extradition request for alleged Nazi war criminal Charles Zentai: "If he is innocent, he has cause to complain. But what if those allegations are right? The High Court majority has found that the proceedings brought against him were based on an offence - ‘war crime' - that was created retrospectively. With respect, that really is a bit cute. The same could be said of the crimes against peace that resulted in a number of successful prosecutions at the post-war trials at Nuremburg," Australian (Aug. 16).

David Weber outlined how "the High Court said he couldn't be extradited because the request related to a ‘war crime', which was not an offence under Hungarian law in 1944." Efraim Zuroff of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre told Weber that "the technicality which allowed Zentai to elude justice is a sad commentary on the Australian legal system," ABC Radio "PM" (Aug. 15).

Frustratingly, Jane Norman did not explain why the High Court rejected the Hungarian Government's extradition request, ABC TV "7pm News".

One newspaper editorial pointed out "that Australian prosecutors could have initiated their own case against Mr Zentai under domestic war crimes legislation that confers jurisdiction on local courts to hear allegations arising from World War II," Age (Aug. 17).

Another editorial regretted Australia's unsuccessful efforts on war crimes, noting that "Australia is alone among western nations, in having failed to convict, denaturalise, deport, expel or extradite a single Nazi war criminal, and our record with Nazi collaborators from subject nations is hardly better... so savage and beyond human power to forgive were Nazi atrocities that the door will be closed only by death or impossibility," Canberra Times (Aug. 20).

Allon Lee