End of the Golden Weather

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. Continue reading “End of the Golden Weather”

The UN is at the heart of NZ’s foreign policy, our leaders say – so where’s the fuss when Trump gazumps diplomats?

Acting Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters – confirming that no Kiwis had been hurt during Iranian missile attacks on US bases in Iraq on Wednesday –  expressed New Zealand’s deep concern at the escalation in hostilities.

But he made no mention of the role the United Nations might or should play (at least, not in the Newshub report referenced here).

“The Government is working actively with our partners through military and diplomatic channels, and we continue to keep the security situation under close review, including implications for our personnel,” Peters said.

“Now is the time for restraint and de-escalation, and for diplomacy to take over.”

New Zealand troops were sent to Iraq – significantly – as part of a US-led coalition, not as part of a UN presence.

But the government claims to be putting the UN at the heart of its efforts to create a better world.

So why is it silent about Trump’s administration policies and practices which reflect contempt for the UN? Continue reading “The UN is at the heart of NZ’s foreign policy, our leaders say – so where’s the fuss when Trump gazumps diplomats?”

We await official buzz from the Beehive on how NZ will respond after Trump’s killer drone stings the Iranians

Because ministers are still on holiday while tensions mount in the Middle East and Donald Trump threatens to emulate the Teleban by destroying Iranian cultural centres, the question of whether New Zealand will hasten the withdrawal of around 45 troops still in Iraq has yet to be unambiguously answered. 

More critically, how the Ardern government will balance foreign policy interests that have become conflicted is open to conjecture, too. 

Perhaps our leaders think everything will be sorted out by the time they get back to their desks in Wellington.

The Beehive website tells us nothing about the government’s position on the crisis, which suggests our leaders have not met to discuss this country’s policy response.

The most recent official post – on January 5 – records Defence Minister Ron Mark announcing three Royal New Zealand Air Force NH90 helicopters and crew, two NZ Army Combat Engineer Sections and “a command element” are being sent to support the Australian Defence Force efforts in tackling the Australian fires. Continue reading “We await official buzz from the Beehive on how NZ will respond after Trump’s killer drone stings the Iranians”

Ali Khamenei or Donald Trump: who understands the situation better?

Qasem Soleimani, Iran’s key military strategist, killed in a US drone strike, seems to have been a brave man.  He was certainly very confident.

Organising a near act of war against the embassy of the most powerful state in the world, located in the heart of a (nominally) allied capital city, was risky.  Flying into the scene of this triumph was, with hindsight, foolhardy.

The thing with politics – and other forms of conflict – is that while actors can shape events, they can’t wish away the underlying realities of the situation. Continue reading “Ali Khamenei or Donald Trump: who understands the situation better?”

Who made the bigger mistake in Syria: Trump or Putin?

This blog asked whether Donald Trump might have made a serious error – perhaps even a fatal one – when he acquiesced in Turkey’s attack on America’s Syrian-Kurdish allies. He managed to irritate key supporters in the US Senate and early polling suggested a drop in support for his Middle East policies among Republican voters.

Failure to stand up for allies, dislike of Turkish self-assertion, fears of an ISIS resurgence and a sense that the US was being railroaded, all seem to have played some part in this reaction.

But for an explanation of why this might work out splendidly for the US (and Donald Trump), look no further than the piece by Israeli political analyst Zev Chafets on Bloomberg. Continue reading “Who made the bigger mistake in Syria: Trump or Putin?”

The British Navy will get there eventually – a condemnatory statement from NZ will take a bit longer

A British warship sped to help a UK-flagged oil tanker as it was seized by Iran last week – but the frigate was ten minutes too late, according to British media reports.

It took a bit longer for Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters to issue a statement condemning the seizure of two oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz.

The statement, issued yesterday,  said:

“The seizure of commercial ships in this important transit lane is an inexcusable violation of international law, including the freedom of navigation.”

“Iran’s recent actions risk escalating a dangerous situation in the Gulf region.  We call on Iran to release the detained vessels and to engage with the international community in steps that help reduce tensions and the prospect of conflict,” said Mr Peters.

“Officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade have communicated New Zealand’s concerns to the Iranian Embassy in Wellington.” Continue reading “The British Navy will get there eventually – a condemnatory statement from NZ will take a bit longer”