It’s probably just as well we are still on holiday and Wellington, aka the NZ Government, remains on the beach until Tuesday, January 22, the day after Wellington Anniversary Day. Even then, the mighty organs of government don’t really stir until the following Tuesday, after Auckland’s anniversary weekend when the great and good disport themselves on the waters of the Waitemata Harbour.
A few ministers mustered the energy to post congratulatory press statements after the New Year honours list was published.
And Winston Peters has been on call- huzzah! – to deal with happenings in the rest of the world.
Among the benefits of the government being on holiday, we’ve missed some fairly high-level dramas, sufficient to otherwise distract us from the Black Caps’ Australian debacle and tinted skies, thanks to the Australian bushfires . Then there’s the risk that the Australians might exercise a reverse deportation process, detaining PM Jacinda Adern and her to-be husband along with Baby Neve to install them in the Lodge, the Canberra residence of the Aussie prime minister.
Enough of the levity. These past days have been trying internationally.
But there are bright spots. After President Donald Trump ordered the killing by drone of Iran’s Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, the Iranians perfected a masterly response by lobbing accurately directed missiles into US bases in Iraq but averting US casualties.
There has been some fascinating detail.
First, US satellites and intelligence aircraft detected the missile launch.
Second, “back channel” diplomatic connections alerted the US to this development – and that this would be Tehran’s only response. Intelligence experts deduce this measured response was directed at domestic consumption in Iran – and an intent to avoid a massive US response.
Third, the missiles landed, as intended, in open ground. This suggests Tehran’s strategic intellectually capacities might be somewhat better than those inside the White House.
Fourth – and more importantly – those around Trump persuaded him not to launch a retaliatory strike which would have prompted catastrophic results.
For the White House this represents major progress. On Wednesday, an uncharacteristically subdued Trump appeared as almost a statesman – and importantly, his advisers won the battle to avert instant strike-back.
Moreover, Trump invited hitherto disparaged NATO to join and help Iran pursue a more peaceful track. Significantly, his UK pal and PM Boris Johnson urged restraint and declared his support for JCPOA, the agreement by which Iran notches back its nuclear ambitions.
At home, the lesser lights have been at play.
Greens MP Golriz Ghahraman reckons we’d do much better to make a point of pulling our troops out of the Middle East and spending the millions of dollars equivalent on humanitarian relief in the region. Late last year she had an unannounced visit to the US and spent time with left-wing Congresswomen in Washington DC.
In a similar vein, Opposition leader Simon Bridges led a trip to Beijing. According to documents provided to NZME, National MP Jian Yang set up the initial itinerary for Bridges’ visit in September which included a meeting with a high-ranking Communist Party figure described as the head of China’s secret police while government officials only became involved in the later part of the planning.
Yang faced questions in 2017 after it was revealed he worked with Chinese military intelligence before moving to New Zealand and had taught English at an elite spy school, the Luoyang Foreign Languages Institute.
In neither case was MFAT involved.