[Marxism] Ahmadinejad finds it warmer in Latin America

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Thu Oct 4 10:18:48 MDT 2007

Despite the demonizing of the Iranian president, both practical and
strategic political reasons have opened many doors for him in Latin
America. The mixture of Islamophobia and Iranophobia which has now
virtually possessed the editorial office and the political leaders
of the United States, is amazing. If the threatened military strike
against Iran weren't so real, especially in light of Israel's strike'
against Syria a few weeks ago one might look at this differently.

I don't get the impression that the Iranian president has much in
the way of a sense of humor, unfortunately. He or his advisors at
home could learn a few things from his co-religionist Malcolm X,
who understood just how disarming it could be. 

As I read this story today, and was wondering that Ahmadinijad must
have thought at being introduced in this "we know you are beating
your wife" manner. And then it came to me. I began to hear the
words of that song from the fifties by Screamin'n Jay Hawkins:
"I put a spell on you."

Walter Lippmann

>From the Los Angeles Times
Ahmadinejad finds it warmer in Latin America
Hugo Chavez and company are giving the Iranian president 
an entree into the U.S. sphere of influence.
By Daniel P. Erikson

October 3, 2007

If Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was displeased by the
hostile reception he got during his trip to a United Nations summit
in New York last week, the next stage of his journey surely lifted
his spirits. He hopped on a plane to Caracas, where he was warmly
greeted by Hugo Chavez. The Venezuelan president praised
Ahmadinejad's performance at Columbia University, telling him: 
"An imperial spokesman tried to disrespect you, calling you a cruel
little tyrant. You responded with the greatness of a revolutionary."

Ahmadinejad went on to Bolivia, whose president, Evo Morales, had
just days earlier appeared on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,"
imploring the audience, "Please don't consider me part of the 'axis
of evil.' " Back in Bolivia, however, Morales met with Ahmadinejad
for five hours, signed a cooperation agreement worth $1 billion and
established the first-ever diplomatic relations between the two

Iran's strategy is clear. At loggerheads with the Bush administration
over its nuclear program, the Iranian government is making an
ambitious diplomatic effort to create new allies in Latin America,
the traditional U.S. sphere of influence. With any success, Iran will
lock in a few supporters in the U.N. and repair its international
reputation by extending aid for development and anti-poverty

What's worrisome is that the strategy appears to be working, at least
in some countries. Latin America's willingness to embrace Iran
indicates how far U.S. prestige has fallen in the region.

Chavez has emerged as the godfather and relationship manager,
striving to draw in other allies such as Bolivia, Ecuador and
Nicaragua. "When I come to Iran, Washington gets upset," Chavez noted
during an official visit to Tehran last summer. (And surely nothing
pleases him more.) At the end of those meetings, he and Ahmadinejad
proclaimed an "axis of unity" and signed a series of economic deals
involving dairy, oil and other sectors. That was, in fact, Chavez's
third visit to Iran in the last two years, and direct flights from
Caracas to Tehran are being established.

Iran's courtship is moving swiftly. Ahmadinejad has visited the
region three times in the last year or so, starting with the
Non-Aligned Movement summit in Havana in September 2006, followed by
a meeting with Chavez in Caracas. In January 2007, Ahmadinejad was
greeted as an honored guest in three Latin American counties. In
Caracas, Chavez called him a "hero of the struggle against American
imperialism." In Nicaragua, President Daniel Ortega met with him to
discuss "common interests, common enemies and common goals."
Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa also exchanged warm words with the
Iranian leader.

Chavez and Ahmadinejad see political benefits to their alliance. Iran
is becoming increasingly isolated in the U.N. because of the ongoing
dispute over its nuclear ambitions. But when the International Atomic
Energy Agency put forth a resolution condemning Iran two years ago,
Venezuela joined only Cuba and Syria in opposing it. The next year,
Iran supported Venezuela's failed bid to win a seat on the Security

But while their diplomatic relations have intensified, the economic
foundation remains thin. The two leaders have signed agreements of
mutual cooperation in such areas as gas and oil exploration and
petrochemical and agricultural production -- 180 in all since 2001.
Iran claims the deals are worth $20 billion, but their bilateral
trade in the last fiscal year stood at only $16 million, according to
the International Monetary Fund.

If that's any guide, Bolivia and Nicaragua may soon discover that
Ahmadinejad has promised more than he can deliver. Bolivia is eagerly
seeking assistance to tap its huge natural gas reserves, but Iran
appears likely to provide only limited help. In poverty-stricken
Nicaragua, whose president stridently defended Iran's nuclear
ambitions at the U.N., Iran promised to finance a $350-million
deep-water port and build 10,000 houses. Iran and Venezuela also
recently announced a $2-billion development fund for
"anti-imperialist" countries. But the money has been slow to arrive
from Iran. Where is this "axis of unity" most effective? In OPEC,
where the countries coordinate to keep the price of oil high, which
harms poorer nations.

To be sure, Ahmadinejad remains an unwelcome figure in other parts of
Latin America. Because of Iran's involvement in the 1994 bombing of a
Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, Argentine President Nestor
Kirchner skipped the inauguration of Ecuador's Correa to protest the
presence of Ahmadinejad. Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula de
Silva rebuffed a request to meet with the Iranian president last
week, citing scheduling conflicts. Important U.S. allies such as
Colombia and Mexico also remain cool to Iran.

Still, Chavez is providing Iran an entree into Latin America, vowing
to "unite the Persian Gulf and the Caribbean." The Venezuelan leader
recently gave Iran observer status in his leftist trade-pact group
known as the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas. Next month,
Iran plans to open its first-ever embassy in Ecuador. Much to
Washington's chagrin, Ahmadinejad is becoming a familiar face in
Latin America.

Daniel P. Erikson is senior associate for U.S. policy at the
Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington-based think tank.


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