"Come on baby won't you show me what you got, yeah; I want your salvation, whoa." - Rancid, 1994
Wha, wa, wait...what just happened?!?
One second there were faces of smiling, enthusiastic kids in the streets wearing green scarves and Chachi Arcola-style leg bandanas for CNN and the BBC ... next second there's Paris-circa-'68-style rioting in the streets, government crack-downs, thug-police beat downs, and a house arrest issued upon the contending (and conspicuously robbed) opposition candidate?!? What hackneyed non-union government-funded scribe is writing the script over there?
All of a sudden, it can't be ignored in favor of other pressing news like Shia LaBeouf's admitted pot use-cum-parental coitus voyeurism. Or Miss California's tissy fit over being sacked. Or even North Korea's wider fit over being ignored on the world stage despite its bizarre homicidal/suicidal tendencies. Or a domestic economy that's increasingly making the early 1930s look like the commodities rallying scene near the end of the movie Trading Places.
No, all eyes are on Iran, and for good reason, considering that it is the single most important foreign policy challenge facing the Obama administration.
At this point, were anyone to doubt that this most recent presidential election result in Iran was fixed would be tantamount to, well, thinking that the 2000 US presidential election was impartially interceded by the US Supreme Court. A two-thirds margin win in favor of a man that most metropolitan citizens in Iran liken to a national boil implant? Really? Were they counting the rural votes thrice? Or just misplacing certain urban ballot boxes in the backs of sanitation trucks? I'm sure the Diebolds of the world are salivating at the thought of lifted economic sanctions just so they could consult on procedural discretions and other subtleties of running "efficient" elections over there.
There could be a wider geopolitical angle to the reasons for said election results that no one is bothering to discuss. During Ahmadinejad's tenure, a great deal of business had been done with nations that value Iran for its natural resources, anti-Western stance and compliance with non-NATO security imperatives in Central Asia, the Caucasus, Caspian region, Persian Gulf and South Asia. Foremost amongst these powers are, of course, Russia and China, who each carry tens of billions of dollars worth of energy, defense and infrastructure development deals with Teheran. Ahmadinejad has been their happy yes man for many of these deals, and a change in presidential leadership towards someone with any hint of potentially more Western receptivity would be deemed as politically intolerable by these states.
I.E. When the French energy firm Total pulled out of Iran last year due to US pressure, the CEO of Russia's Gazprom met immediately with a gleeful and obliging Ahmadinejad, offering to take over those projects in the South Pars gas fields. Also, in addition to personally being present for state-corporate deals signed by Chinese firms for work in Iran, Ahmadinejad enthusiastically secured further sweeping bilateral cooperation with President Hu Jintao last fall in Beijing. The ruling classes in Iran collectively admire the Russians and Chinese - economically, strategically and militarily -- like Chris Makepeace's character did Adam Baldwin's in the 1980 classic coming-of-age movie, My Bodyguard (with all the intended entendre said movie title is meant to inject into this modern geopolitical charade in Asia).
Ahmadinejad has not only been the face of defiance and rage against the US and her allies, but has also served as the cultural, political and economic ambassador of Iran to nations as seemingly disparate as Russia/China, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the former Soviet states in Central Asia and many of the so-called non-aligned nations that seek a multi-polar alternative to predominant American hegemony. Like Hugo Chavez, he is yet another mobilizing face of a global movement -- however dilapidated -- aimed at shifting further away from the Washington Consensus.
Sure, that's not to say that the ruling theocrats in Iran had a phone in one hand with their vote fixers yesterday, and another phone to Moscow and Beijing, busily jotting down notes. Nor that, were Ahmadinejad's main opponent, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, to have "won," that Iran would all of a sudden run into the arms of the US and UK by changing its state rhetoric and policies overnight.
But economics often tend to dictate politics, and Iran is a critical economic actor on the world stage -- for both its friends and enemies. Plus, Iran's opacity in its internal affairs makes the US Federal Reserve's seem like a local PTA meeting's deliberations over school supply costs. It would be difficult for the informed to exclude the tactical considerations of Teheran's theocrats vis-a-vis vital global actors who a) have had a good run with Ahmadinejad so far and, b) tend to favor continuity with their perceived client states.
Great, so what should Washington do during these uncertain times in Iran? Answer: Proceed full throttle with diplomatic and economic offers towards Tehran, despite the recent election results. Offer to lift trade sanctions within vital industries, discuss security guarantees, promise cultural exchanges, and stand firm on a platform of rapprochement.
Ridiculous sounding? OK. You see what's happening in the streets of Iran's larger cities? Imagine how much more confused the councils of so-called experts and their racketeering commercial interests will become over there after further conciliatory gestures from Washington, which would in turn stoke more anticipatory fervor amongst the fed up, hungry-for-economic-change citizenry (who number in the millions). Also, consider the raised eyebrows in Moscow, Beijing, Islamabad, Kabul, Dushanbe, Ashgabat, Bishkek, Caracas, Sucre/La Paz, Quito and the Levant as the US steps out of a tired, predictably antagonistic character in favor of a mobilized, unprecedented and definitively bold diplomatic effort to strip Iran away from their clique.
There would be no need for clandestine operations, pay-offs to fringe groups in Iran's peripheries (Balochistan, Khuzestan, the Azeri regions, etc.), or continued threats towards Iran. The momentum now is clearly in favor of assisting a beleaguered, sophisticated class of young, educated, ambitious, mobilized and networked Iranian class who are boiling over with a textbook example of an outright rage against the machine.
This is the same wide contingency that a) mostly voted for Ahmadinejad's rivals, b) are now filling the streets, c) adore Barack Obama and have since he entered the public's consciousness, d) also filled the streets right after 9-11 with lit candles and mass sympathies, and e) would jump at the chance to work with US firms, capital and expertise in rebuilding their rusting nation.
They are also the same folks who are now wantonly ignored -- if not held in outright contempt -- by their so-called government.
Let's not just speak from the sidelines. Let's act boldly for the sake of a future that sees mutually beneficial interests between our two nations.