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The Myth of ‘Isolated’ Iran
Posted on Jan 18, 2012
By Pepe Escobar, TomDispatch
More Connected Than Google
Though few in the U.S. have noticed, Iran is not exactly “isolated,” though Washington might wish it. Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Gilani has become a frequent flyer to Tehran. And he’s a Johnny-come-lately compared to Russia’s national security chief Nikolai Patrushev, who only recently warned the Israelis not to push the U.S. to attack Iran. Add in as well U.S. ally and Afghan President Hamid Karzai. At a Loya Jirga (grand council) in late 2011, in front of 2,000 tribal leaders, he stressed that Kabul was planning to get even closer to Tehran.
On that crucial Eurasian chessboard, Pipelineistan, the Iran-Pakistan (IP) natural gas pipeline—much to Washington’s distress—is now a go. Pakistan badly needs energy and its leadership has clearly decided that it’s unwilling to wait forever and a day for Washington’s eternal pet project—the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline—to traverse Talibanistan.
Even Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu recently visited Tehran, though his country’s relationship with Iran has grown ever edgier. After all, energy overrules threats in the region. NATO member Turkey is already involved in covert ops in Syria, allied with hardcore fundamentalist Sunnis in Iraq, and—in a remarkable volte-face in the wake of the Arab Spring(s)—has traded in an Ankara-Tehran-Damascus axis for an Ankara-Riyadh-Doha one. It is even planning on hosting components of Washington’s long-planned missile defense system, targeted at Iran.
All this from a country with a Davutoglu-coined foreign policy of “zero problems with our neighbors.” Still, the needs of Pipelineistan do set the heart racing. Turkey is desperate for access to Iran’s energy resources, and if Iranian natural gas ever reaches Western Europe—something the Europeans are desperately eager for—Turkey will be the privileged transit country. Turkey’s leaders have already signaled their rejection of further U.S. sanctions against Iranian oil.
And speaking of connections, last week there was that spectacular diplomatic coup de théâtre, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Latin American tour. U.S. right-wingers may harp on a Tehran-Caracas axis of evil—supposedly promoting “terror” across Latin America as a springboard for future attacks on the northern superpower—but back in real life, another kind of truth lurks. All these years later, Washington is still unable to digest the idea that it has lost control over, or even influence in, those two regional powers over which it once exercised unmitigated imperial hegemony.
Add to this the wall of mistrust that has only solidified since the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran. Mix in a new, mostly sovereign Latin America pushing for integration not only via leftwing governments in Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador but through regional powers Brazil and Argentina. Stir and you get photo ops like Ahmadinejad and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez saluting Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega.
Washington continues to push a vision of a world from which Iran has been radically disconnected. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland is typical in saying recently, “Iran can remain in international isolation.” As it happens, though, she needs to get her facts straight.
“Isolated” Iran has $4 billion in joint projects with Venezuela including, crucially, a bank (as with Ecuador, it has dozens of planned projects from building power plants to, once again, banking). That has led the Israel-first crowd in Washington to vociferously demand that sanctions be slapped on Venezuela. Only problem: how would the U.S. pay for its crucial Venezuelan oil imports then?
Much was made in the U.S. press of the fact that Ahmadinejad did not visit Brazil on this jaunt through Latin America, but diplomatically Tehran and Brasilia remain in sync. When it comes to the nuclear dossier in particular, Brazil’s history leaves its leaders sympathetic. After all, that country developed—and then dropped—a nuclear weapons program. In May 2010, Brazil and Turkey brokered a uranium-swap agreement for Iran that might have cleared the decks on the U.S.-Iranian nuclear imbroglio. It was, however, immediately sabotaged by Washington. A key member of the BRICS, the club of top emerging economies, Brasilia is completely opposed to the U.S. sanctions/embargo strategy.
So Iran may be “isolated” from the United States and Western Europe, but from the BRICS to NAM (the 120 member countries of the Non-Aligned Movement), it has the majority of the global South on its side. And then, of course, there are those staunch Washington allies, Japan and South Korea, now pleading for exemptions from the coming boycott/embargo of Iran’s Central Bank.
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