Keith Locke: NZ’s response to Soleimani assassination is shamefully timid
Opinion – How can New Zealand claim to have an independent foreign policy when it won’t even criticise America’s assassination of Qasem Soleimani, a top Iranian leader? The furthest foreign minister Winston
Peters went was to express “strong concern” at the “heightening tensions in Iraq and the region”.
Peters’ statement could also be read as a justification for the drone killing when he acknowledged “strong US concerns about Iran” and said “the US took action on the basis of information they had”.
In fact, the assassination took place against a background of falsehoods, reminding us of the lies previously peddled to justify the 2003 US invasion of Iraq. President Donald Trump even blamed Soleimani for “terror plots as far away as New Delhi and London” while Vice President Mike Pence fancifully claimed Soleimani “assisted in the clandestine travel” of those involved in the 11 September, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center.
All we have from the United States are vague assertions that Soleimani was planning imminent attacks on US interests. More credible is the assertion of the Iraqi prime minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi that Soleimani was in Bagdad at the invitation of the Iraqi government – for negotiations. His visit was apparently not a secret and he was at Baghdad airport in the presence of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a pro-government Iraqi militia leader, who was also assassinated.
Considering New Zealand has soldiers in Iraq, you would think Peters might have shown some interest in what his counterparts in the Iraqi Foreign Ministry thought about the assassination. They said it was “a flagrant breach of Iraq’s sovereignty and of all international laws and norms that regulate relations between countries and prohibit the use of their lands to carry out attacks on neighbouring countries”.
The Iraqi Parliament followed this up with a resolution calling for an end to “the presence of any foreign troops on Iraqi soil”, a resolution targeted particularly at the US military presence.
If he respects Iraqi sovereignty, our foreign minister should set in motion the quick withdrawal of New Zealand soldiers from Iraq. Or will he be supporting Donald Trump, who says that if US troops are forced out he’ll slap sanctions on Iraq, which will “make the Iranian sanctions somewhat tame”?
Add to that Trump’s repeated threat to destroy Iranian cultural sites, which is a clear war crime. How can New Zealand withhold criticism of such madness?
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