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Is Iran Still a Pariah State?

23 Apr 2015
AIIA Fellows responding to the burning question of the week

Expert Panel-Fellows of the AIIA

HilaryCharlesworthHilary Charlesworth FAIIA-Professor, ANU; Director of Centre for International Governance and JusticeProfessorJocelynCheyAMJocelyn Chey AM FAIIA-Visiting Professor, University of Sydney; former Consul-General in Hong KongJamesCottonJames Cotton FAIIA-Emeritus Professor at the University of NSWRawdonDalrympleRawdon Dalrymple AO FAIIA-Former Visiting Professor, University of Sydney; Chairman of ASEAN Focus Group LtdGraemeDobellGraeme Dobell FAIIA-Journalist Fellow, Australian Strategic Policy InstituteErikaFellerErika Feller FAIIA-Former UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for ProtectionJanet_HuntJanet Hunt FAIIA-Former Head of the Australian Council for Overseas Aid
JamesIngramAOJames Ingram AO FAIIA-Former Diplomat and Head of the UN World Food ProgramJohnMcCarthyAOJohn McCarthy AO FAIIA-Former Ambassador to Japan, Indonesia, the United States, Thailand, Mexico and VietnamJohnMcCarthyAOGeoffrey Miller AO FAIIA-Former Australian Ambassador to Japan; former Director-General of the Office of National AssessmentsRobertO’NeillRobert O’Neill FAIIA– Former Chichele Professor of the History of War, Oxford UniversityGarryWoodardGarry Woodard FAIIA-Former Diplomat and Senior Fellow, University of MelbourneRichardWoolcottACRichard Woolcott AC FAIIA-Former Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and TradeRichardWoolcottACSamina Yasmeen AM FAIIA-Professor of Political Science and International Relations, University of Western Australia


Question: Is Iran Still a Pariah State?

Richard Woolcott FAIIA
Certainly not. It is becoming the most influential state in the Middle East, as Iraq faces continuing instability and religious and ethnic violence. The current very complex and dangerous situation throughout the Middle East stems largely from the failed policies of the US and the UK since 2002, with which the Howard Government foolishly and unnecessarily associated Australia. The situation is compounded by the intransigent policy of Israel and the reactionary policy of Saudi Arabia – both close US allies – and some of the Gulf monarchies.
GraemeDobellGraeme Dobell FAIIAAustralia seems determined to find roles for itself in a region of collapsing polities and exploding borders. If we are so determined, then obviously we need the fullest possible access to the thinking of one of the key actors. The war between Sunni and Shia is being waged as a geopolitical struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran. So Julie Bishop, the first Australian Foreign Minister to go to Iran in 12 years, is doing her job, talking to a key player that holds important keys.
RawdonDalrympleRawdon Dalrymple AO FAIIANo! When I asked Bibi Netanyahu that question he frothed at the mouth.
RobertO’NeillRobert O’Neill FAIIACurrently I think Iran is not a pariah state. It is foolish to make a pariah of any state on this planet. That method has been tried many times and it has failed. North Korea virtually retreated into self-inflicted pariahdom and it has taken decades to begin to develop a useful relationship with it. Some factions call for making Israel a pariah and that will certainly not help us on the path to peace in the Middle East. Moderate sanctions, applied with flexibility and attention to the sanctioned party’s responses, are one thing. Cutting off communications, negotiations and ministerial visits is more likely to make matters worse than improve them. Paranoia and “bunker-mentality” will displace reason and hope in a pariah government. In the case of Iran, we are dealing with a powerful, tough and determined nation. I shall be very surprised if we get the kind of nuclear weapons agreement with Iran that we want to have, but treating the country as a pariah is only going to make things worse in many other ways.
Erika Feller FAIIA
Heaven knows what a “pariah state” is in this day and age. Admittedly through a narrow optic, my direct experience of Iran has been that it has performed pretty credibly as an asylum state. It has hosted one of the biggest refugee populations for many years. Terms of stay have been reasonable, even generous compared to a number of countries, with refugees by and large not confined to camps and able to access some health, education and even work possibilities. The authorities have, in addition, been experimenting with new approaches, built around alternative stay options, which I believe merit careful consideration by other countries further afield! In short, there are a variety of criteria against which states might be measured and all deserve their place in the overall equation.
JamesIngramAOJames Ingram AO FAIIAThe short answer is ‘to some extent’. However Iran seems likely to enjoy increasingly normal relationships with significant states even if the recent P5+1 understanding with Iran is not translated into a formal agreement. Israel continues to enjoy the uncritical support of the overwhelming majority of Republican and Democrats in Congress and seeks to prevent finalisation of the recent P5+1 understanding with Iran. However, Israel may have overplayed its hand making it easier for Iran to put the blame on the United States if a formal agreement cannot be reached. Though the United States may continue to impose sanctions in that event it seems probable that otherwise the application of sanctions will wither away even if not formally repealed. Certainly, the visit to Tehran by our Foreign Minister suggests that Australia believes that Iran’s pariah status is likely soon to end. Her initiative is to be applauded.The United States and its allies have worked unsuccessfully for nearly 40 years since the revolution to overthrow the Iranian regime, including support for Saddam Hussein’s aggressive war against Iran and later to deepen its relative isolation through the imposition of punitive sanctions in the name of nuclear non-proliferation. Clearly Kerry has developed a strong personal relationship with his Iranian counterpart and doubtless now accepts that the order that the United States sought to create in the Middle East has collapsed. The region is more and more divided by religion. Secular dictatorships have failed. Islamic State is the latest embodiment of the threat to the West arising among Sunnis. It is not Shia Iran or Iranian Shias who promote terrorism in the West but Sunnis, many of whom have been influenced by Wahhabism in support of which the Saudis have spent many billions in the West and around the world. Because of Saudi Arabia’s key role in OPEC and the continuing dependence of the global (and Australian) economies on Middle Eastern oil the United States finds itself allied with Saudi Arabia in promoting a war against Shias in Yemen while tacitly associated with Iran in support of Shia Iraq’s fight against ISIS. What a mess which is likely to continue to worsen.



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October 26, 2014
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September 17, 2014
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September 9, 2014
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July 25, 2014
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July 1, 2014
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June 23, 2014
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June 10, 2014
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May 9, 2014
Is the US a Dangerous Ally for Australia?

April 28, 2014
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April 14, 2014
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April 04, 2014
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