Today’s Australian published my letter calling for the Turnbull government to support the US initiative opposing Islamic regimes in Iran as it did with the caliphate in Iraq (see below). At the same time, however, it published what can only be described as a strange Op-Ed by Clive Williams, who is a visiting professor at the Australian National University’s Centre for Military & Security Law and an adjunct professor at the Australian Defence Force Academy.
My interpretation of the analysis by Williams is that he sees merit in a situation where terrorist groups fight each other and that, as such, they do not necessarily pose a threat to Australia or Western countries generally. He refers, for example, to Hezbollah, which is heavily supported by Iran both militarily and financially and which is treated as a terrorist organisation by the US (and some other countries) but whose military segment is the only part so treated by Australia (and some other countries). He claims that, “from a counter-terrorism perspective, Hezbollah is a useful contact, as it is violently opposed to Islamic State”. This may be the case but the fact is that it is an active Islamic group whose objectives are contrary to Western values and, whatever segment, it should be treated as a potential threat and as a disruptive force in the Middle East in particular. It is certainly surprising that Williams is employed at the Defence Force Academy.
Analysis by the Gatestone Institute provides a more realistic picture. The analyst there argues that “Without Iranian money, Hezbollah would not exist. At least, not exist as an Iranian foreign legion, militarily engaged against Israel and in other Middle East regional conflicts. Without Iranian subsidies, Hezbollah would be just a narco-mafia”. He also argues that “Hezbollah has developed deep connections to Mexican and Colombian drug cartels, directly to facilitate the distribution of drugs throughout the Middle East and the US”.
As to the present situation in Iran, it appears that, while the government has succeeded is stopping or significantly reducing protests, the protest movement is by no means over and one report suggests that there is a leader of some of the protesters particularly in regional areas (see this article by an Irainian-American) and that there is more than one group of protesters. The fact that, after five days of protests, the government felt that is had to arrange a large number of counter-protesters to take to the streets suggests that it remains in an uncertain position (see AFP article). Similarly, it took five days for the head of the Revolutionary Guard (the supposed protective force for the Supreme Leader) to be claiming publicly that the “sedition” is over when it doesn’t seem to be.