Iran isn't ready to reform; diplomacy in the Middle East; sanctions in N. Korea; low oil prices; Canada's war on drugs

A roundup of global commentary for the Feb. 1, 2016 weekly magazine.

IRIB News Agency/AP
This image from Tuesday video by the Iranian state-run IRIB News Agency shows the detention of American Navy sailors by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in the Persian Gulf.

Ynet / Jerusalem
America’s confidence in Iran’s reform is misguided
“As far as Israel is concerned, the removal of sanctions from Iran is a ringing diplomatic failure. Israel could not convince the world, mostly the West, that Iran’s potential threat to Israel and the stability of the Middle East consists of more than just its military nuclear program...,” writes Alex Fishman. “The removal of sanctions gives the government in Tehran the power to feed the flames between Shi’ites and Sunnis, between Israelis and Palestinians, and to keep subverting the regimes in Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, and Jordan, as well as strengthening the Assad regime in Syria.... [T]he Revolutionary Guards, which don’t like the Western winds that are blowing through Tehran, haven’t said their last word.... But the Americans think they’re in a Hollywood movie: They see a new Middle East of peace and fraternity.”

The Age / Melbourne, Australia
Learning from America’s diplomatic efforts
“The US might never fully disentangle itself from the Middle East – in the stubborn conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, for example, or the scorching horror of Islamic State – but Obama’s sustained effort with Iran offers the opportunity to build trust...,” writes senior correspondent Daniel Flitton. “The upshot? Less demands from the Middle East will mean more time for the key players in US diplomacy to pay attention to Asia. All this is worth remembering in Australia because the art of problem solving should be the essence of diplomacy.... The hard slog of negotiating on an intractable problem, finding a solution, coping with inevitable setbacks, then finding a way to move towards a broader goal is essential.”

The Chosuniblo / Seoul, South Korea
Why sanctions worked in Iran, but won’t in North Korea
“Beijing is understandably worried that the North Korean regime would collapse if tough sanctions bite, removing a vital buffer against the South Korea-U.S. alliance,” states an editorial. “The U.S. is partly reluctant to lock horns with China over North Korea, but it is chiefly not that interested in the North Korean nuclear threat because the North has no oil. China continues to place higher priority on supporting the North Korean regime, and the U.S. is comfortable blaming Beijing for the ineffectiveness of sanctions. If this continues, any further sanctions against the North will be equally ineffective. That is the reality that must change before the North Korean nuclear threat can be tackled effectively.”

The Times / London
Saudi Arabia’s poor gamble on keeping oil prices low
The Saudi royal family “has preferred to look the other way as the kingdom’s provocative foreign policy and determination to drive down the price of oil threatens a chain reaction that could destabilise much of the world...,” writes Michael Burleigh. “King Salman has also been ramping up Saudi oil output.... The aim was to cripple surging US shale production and to damage the rival economies of Iran and Russia, thereby allowing cheap Saudi oil to gain Asian and European market share.... The Saudis may be congratulating themselves about the havoc they have caused by keeping the oil price so low. But they should reflect that ... the combination of privatisations at home and warlike ventures abroad is not” a recipe for success.

Toronto Star / Toronto
Long prison terms aren’t the answer in war on drugs
“It is tempting to assume that the higher incarceration rates for the black and Aboriginal communities [in Canada] reflect their heightened participation in the drug trade. But nothing could be further from the truth...,” writes Roger Love. “While sweeping drug raids on poor communities appear to bring relief, it’s time we pay attention to the evidence. Prolonged sentences won’t cure addiction, anti-black racism and the social marginalization that contribute to drug-related crimes. Public resources must be directed toward equipping our courts and community based programs with the means to create culturally responsive services that can cure addiction, and not simply punish an offender’s behaviour.”

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