Editorial roundup

By Melody Vallieu

January 23, 2014

China Daily on cultivating Iran progress:

The nuclear deal with Iran reached last November in Geneva was eight years in the making, so carrying it out will require maintaining sincerity and trust, says a Xinhua News Agency commentary.

The ice-breaking deal, requiring that Iran halts the enrichment of uranium beyond 5 percent and dilutes its near-20 percent stockpile beginning on Monday, has given Iran and the whole world a long overdue hope of peace and stability. A cautious sense of optimism prevails in the international community.

For Iran, implementing the deal will ease the formidable grip of Western sanctions that have squeezed the country for so long, as the United States and its allies have pledged to relax them.

For the Western allies, a more cooperative Iran can help rebuild the balance of power in the Middle East, which will enable them to relax their diplomatic and military muscles to some extent.

There can be no doubt that it took courage for Iran and the P5+1 countries - the permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany - to reach their agreement.

However, the decades-long mutual mistrust and suspicion between Iran and the Western countries will not vanish automatically.

Although US President Barack Obama had said his government will refrain from imposing new sanctions on Iran, some hawks and hardliners in Congress have called for harsh sanctions if they see any inobservance in the implementation of the deal.

Such comments, driven by political interests, are unnecessary, and they are potentially harmful to the positive momentum that has been established, as this positive development is both fragile and unstable.

Western countries should be patient with Iran, fully recognize its right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy and let Iran carry out the agreement deal step by step.

At the same time, Iran should strictly fulfill the obligations it has agreed to and cooperate with all the concerned parties, so as to ease any doubts that exist and lay a solid foundation for further dialogue.

All the parties involved should demonstrate real political wisdom and address the concerns and interests of each side with complete sincerity and mutual trust. Only in this way can we give peace a chance.

The Australian on how President Obama is smart on intelligence:

Barack Obama has been wise to largely ignore the lunar Left’s clamor for what would amount to the crippling of America’s intelligence-gathering capabilities following the allegations made by the National Security Agency defector Edward Snowden from his sanctuary in Moscow.

The US President deserves credit for the way in which, in his keynote Washington address on the issue, he emphasized the crucial importance of intelligence gathering in the post-9/11 world and pointed out that the NSA, with which our intelligence agencies enjoy a close relationship, has not abused its powers, violated the law or been cavalier about civil liberties. He said nothing that comes even close to vindicating Snowden’s contemptible actions or those of his campaigners, led by London’s The Guardian newspaper.

He has, however, given ground on some issues — declaring an end, for example, to NSA eavesdropping on the heads of government of friendly countries, a move that has potential ramifications for Australia and our issues with Indonesia. How smart Obama was to effectively admit to the spying without reciprocal assurances from those leaders over their own intelligence gathering remains to be seen. His intention to impose fresh controls over the bulk collection of metadata by the US government, placing it in the hands of a non-profit consortium or even private phone companies and allowing searches only after a court approval process, also suggests unnecessary meddling in a system vital to the security of the US and its allies. With the metadata in private hands it might lead to Chinese hackers having quicker access than the NSA. It is the comprehensive collection of all records in one database and the ability to search rapidly that enables terrorist links to be uncovered. So, too, is it hardly reassuring that Obama has instructed the NSA to abandon its practice of following suspicious phone call patterns across three “hops” and now limiting it to just two “hops” although common sense demands terrorist data is followed wherever it goes. The rationale behind Obama’s determination to give foreigners the same privacy rights as Americans is also hard to fathom.

Balancing national security and the right to privacy is always challenging, especially in a world confronted by jihadist terrorism, with no country immune to its evil. Washington’s interests and those of its allies will be best served if Obama stands firm and does not give in to those who hypocritically see the US as a threat yet laud Snowden’s perfidy when he works hand in glove with Moscow’s intelligence agencies in disseminating what the Pentagon now believes are the 1.7 million intelligence files he stole, many concerning and potentially compromising current operations against terrorists across the globe. The 9/11 Commission’s report devastatingly detailed how Washington’s inability to track terrorist communications allowed the hijackers to go undetected. There is always a legitimate case for control over agencies involved in surveillance. But crippling them would be a sure-fire way of allowing more 9/11s. Obama must be extremely cautious about changing a system that has proved effective. He must ignore the absurd narrative that Snowden is a hero. He is not. He is hell-bent on doing as much damage as possible to the US and allies like Australia. No changes should be made that could help him in that objective.