Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Venezuela: A Model for Iran

Venezuela ought to be a model for Iran, both in its domestic and foreign policy. After all, both are oil producer nations and price hawks ("Venezuela's Minister of Energy and Petroleum Rafael Ramirez said on Monday that Venezuela supports the idea of an oil production cut at the next meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)" ["Venezuela Supports OPEC Production Cut: Minister," Xinhua, 23 May 2006]), both have relatively well educated populations, both have managed to industrialize, and their per capita incomes are in the same league: Venezuela's GDP Per Capita: $5,800; and Iran's GDP Per Capita: $7,700. Both wish to lead masses of the other nations in their respective regions under their respective leaderships. No doubt Chavez and Ahmadinejad have thought about these similarities, beyond the fact that they are both under pressures from Washington, though incomparably more so in the case of Iran than that of Venezuela.

Tariq Ali noted: "The mullah–bazaari nexus behind Rafsanjani has already thwarted Ahmadinejad's efforts to clean up the Oil Ministry, and remains entrenched in the Expediency Council" ("Mid-point in the Middle East?" New Left Review 38, March-April 2006). Ahmadinejad doesn't have to lose on this and other fights against the ruling class and clerical gerontocrats, if he could cultivate the sort of mass following in Iran, including its military and militias, in the fashion that Chavez has. I'm sure both men have thought about that, too.

The Chavez and Ahmadinejad administrations also have the same shortcoming: fondness for grandstanding. Washington just slapped a ban on weapons sales to Venezuela, and what does Caracas say? It might sell F-16s to Iran. That's more a gesture than anything else: after all, Iran doesn't need hard-to-maintain F-16s; but such a statement allows the Chavez government to assert its defiance of Washington to the max and plays well in the international gallery in Latin America and the Middle East. This shortcoming probably won't go away -- it's ingrained in the temperament of both leaders.


John Brown said...

I agree with your analysis that Iran should try to emulate the Venezuelan approach. Their announcement to give $50m to Palestine is a step in that direction, though their support for the puppet regime in Iraq - reported on Uruknet - is movement in the wrong direction.

I don't see a big problem with the grandstanding by either leader, though. Whenever they stand up and defend themselves, it's usually in response to the rhetorical attacks levied by Uncle Sam or the Apartheid government of Israel.

For too long, Sam's perceived power on the world state has found a correlate in its ability to intimidate and threaten other nations into submission. Insofar as their 'grandstanding' exposes Uncle Sam for what it is - ruthless, criminal, and broke - I think it's actually an asset.

Yoshie said...

It's true that grandstanding can raise the morale of some, and in that sense, it may have its place in political rhetoric.

But it can raise the temperature of a conflict much more than you might want.