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War with Iran would be a godsend for Morrison



January 12 · Issue #25 · View online
Your weekly wrap of national affairs, society, culture and politics, published by UnionsACT.

From the editor
We’re barely a week into the new decade and the US is on the brink of war with Iran, Australia’s bushfire crisis is dragging well into a fifth month, and Barnaby Joyce is still a person we have to look at. I don’t know about you but I already feel like I need another holiday! It’s times like these that it’s important to remember not to let the bastards grind you down, and that strength comes from solidarity.
And speaking of solidarity… As 2020 really starts to get going it would be great if you could spare a few dollars a month to keep SundayFocus ticking along. Please consider subscribing or even buying a Gift Solidarity Subscription for a friend. Click here to find our different subscription offers.
Enjoy the issue!
Guy Mosel, editor

War with Iran would be a godsend for Morrison
by Guy Mosel
Despite escalating tensions it appears that full-blown conflict between the US and Iran has been averted, even if only temporarily.
But the fallout from the reckless assassination of General Qassem Soleimani has taken on a familiar shape. In the US, the parallels with the tub-thumping that preceded the eventual 2003 invasion of Iraq are horrifyingly eerie: lies and concoctions from the administration; mealy-mouthed passivity from leading Democrats; and a compliant and process-obsessed media that manufactures consent in the knowledge that nothing sells like a war.
That this potential conflict is one entirely of the United States’ own making is undeniable. From tearing up Obama’s nuclear deal to Trump’s constant provocations on social media, the administration has been spoiling for a fight since Donald stepped foot in the Oval Office.
The United States’ framing of Iran as public enemy number is politically useful to the Republicans, and to a lesser extent the Democrats, but the murder of Soleimani, a hero to the Iranian people, seems especially unnecessary when you remember that it was only recently that he and the United States worked together to defeat ISIS.
A war with Iran would of course be catastrophic. At best it would drag the US and the West into another costly military mire; at worst it could trigger a global conflict and plunge the world into an economic slump.
Given this you would hope that our prime minister would call for cooler heads to prevail and a deescalation of tensions. But no. Morrison has come out in support of Trump, committing Australia to playing “whatever constructive role we can”, signalling a departure from comments in September last year when he seemed to distance himself from the US president’s aggressive posturing.
It’s actually a fairly predictable response when you think about it. Nothing gets a weak leader more excited than the prospect of going to war.
Morrison is reeling from his disastrous performance during the bushfire crisis, bouncing from one faux pas to the next and looking like a leader on borrowed time – quite a come down for a PM who, barely six months ago, won an unwinnable election and forced Labor into a period of deep mourning and reflection.
Fighting “good wars” against “bad guys” is a great way to rebuild authority and exhibit strength and resolve. Take George W. Bush: before 9/11 he was floundering and directionless; his violent campaign of retribution against Bin Laden, the Middle East and the entire religion of Islam gave him purpose and all but guaranteed his re-election in 2004.
Could Morrison, who has form when it comes to demonising groups of people for political ends, see an opportunity to reestablish his leadership credentials with the Iran crisis?
There’s no recent polling on Australians’ attitudes to a potential military conflict with Iran, although national security fears have certainly waned in recent years. The annual Scanlon Foundation national survey found that in 2019 only two per cent of Australians listed “defence/national security/terrorism” as the most important problem facing the country, down from 10 per cent in 2015.
But with a credulous media doing its bit to position Iran as an existential threat, it might not be too long before the fear begins to kick in and the juices start flowing. Don’t forget that Australians have a tendency to get pretty bullish about wars in the Middle East. In 2003, when the drums were beating for a war against Iraq, Australia was found to be the most pro-war country in an international poll of 39 nations, with more than two-thirds backing military action.
History shows that our involvement in the Iraq war eventually proved to be unpopular with the public, but that certainly didn’t stop Howard leveraging the increase in terrorist activity and refugee numbers triggered by the war for his own successful political ends.
If the US continues to agitate for war against Iran, and Morrison, who has previously sought to harness anti-Muslim sentiment for electoral purposes, remains politically weak, you can expect to hear drumbeats coming from our own shores before too long.
Read more
This piece in Rolling Stone explains what more we can expect from Iran in response to the assassination of General Soleimani, including the country’s asymmetric capabilities, while this analysis by Christopher Warren lays out the likely climate impacts of a US-Iran conflict.
The week in review
Good news… The bushfire crisis has triggered a raft of proposals for immediate action on responding to climate change. Independent MP Zali Steggall is drafting a climate bill based on the UK’s pioneering and wildly successful 2008 Climate Change Act, while the Australia Institute has released a proposal for a National Climate Disaster Fund to be raised by levying $1 for every tonne of carbon pollution emitted by fossil fuel producers.
Bad news… As the bushfires continue to rage experts are turning their attention to the economic cost of the tragedy. Moody’s economist Katrina Ell said the fires would harm Australia’s already-weak consumer confidence with total costs likely to exceed the $4.4 billion in damage caused by 2009’s Black Saturday blazes. AMP Capital chief economist Shane Oliver says the fires could hit economic output by as much as one per cent, which would equate to about $20 billion. Economist John Quiggin is less optimistic, forecasting total losses of close to $100 billion. Whatever the number, the catastrophe could be the catalyst to tip Australia into recession.
Good news… Up to 100,000 protesters demonstrated in cities across the country on Friday, demanding Scott Morrison resign and calling on the government to fund the firies and deliver climate justice. More “Sack ScoMo” rallies are planned for the next two weeks. I went to the Brisbane demonstration and thought I’d take some photos for you. Enjoy!
Bad news… The US ambassador to Israel has delivered another blow to what’s left of any peace process with the Palestinians by saying its Middle East ally has the right to annex at least “some” of the occupied West Bank. In an interview with the New York Times Friedman, Trump’s former bankruptcy lawyer (seriously), said, “Under certain circumstances, I think Israel has the right to retain some, but unlikely all, of the West Bank.” As maddening as the comments are it’s not the first time this vastly unqualified colonialist has floated the idea.
Good news… A new study published in Nature Sustainability has found that not only does decommissioning coal-fired power plants reduce overall emissions, it also saves lives and improves crop yields by reducing the volumes of smog-causing pollutants like aerosols and ozone.
This brings to mind this now-classic cartoon by Joel Pett:
In other words: it’s not like we need any more evidence to support the urgent need to decarbonise, but it’s nevertheless handy to have on hand some supplementary arguments when debating with recalcitrant relatives.
The gene drive dilemma: We can alter entire species, but should we?
The empty promises of Marie Kondo and the craze for minimalism
For your bookshelf
Superpower: Australia's Low-Carbon Opportunity, by Ross Garnaut
Our Very Own Brexit, by Sam Roggeveen
"When injustice is law resistance is duty" t-shirt
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