Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is at the moment the hardest-working man in (geopolitical) show business. He has just stepped into the lion’s den – or goldfish bowl; the World Economic Forum at Davos. And he charmed them all just with his “prudent moderation” strategy, which broadcasts what every Master of The Universe, real or fake, really wants to hear; Iran is open for business.
Rouhani stressed what even BRIC-inventor Jim O’Neill has acknowledged; Iran has the potential to become one of the world’s Top Ten economies before 2040. His strategy to achieve it is extremely sound; a very balanced foreign policy subordinated to boosting economic development. It starts with a definitive deal with the P5+1 – the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany – until the end of 2014; the lifting of all sanctions; and then a steady flow of investment by the West.
Rouhani does not see any “insurmountable hurdles” towards a permanent, comprehensive nuclear deal – “unless other parties don’t show enough serious will”. Sanctions, he said, “merely exacerbate” instability, rather than create peace.
Rouhani could not be more measured in his push to “engage with the world community in a fair basis”. He re-stressed that Iran’s nuclear program is for civilian use only: “We have no ambition to create a nuclear weapon … I strongly declare that nuclear weapons have no place in our security strategy. But Iranian people are not prepared to give up their peaceful technology. We will continue to develop peaceful nuclear use.”
That’s why, when asked about dual-use of nuclear technology, he said, “Forty countries have dual-use of nuclear technology. Iran will not accept being discriminated against.”
Rouhani stressed how Iran is building stronger trade links with its neighbors – the long list includes Russia, Turkey and Pakistan – and wants nothing but to normalize business with the Europeans. So he duly courted Western business leaders. He talked to Western Big Oil in a “framework of mutual interests”. And what a deal is potentially on the table: if you invest in our energy industry – and they are all salivating to do so – we will help your economic growth, and that’s good for world peace.
He said the financial crisis proved nations can’t lock themselves away. He even paid a compliment to the theme of the Davos talkfest this year: successful economies must also be ethical. Tell that to JP Morgan’s Jamie Dimon.
According to Rouhani, “The last six years have taught us that no country can succeed alone … No country can regard its dominance as permanent. And we are all linked through globalization. If we do not choose wise captains then the storm will claim us all.” Tell that to the strident clique who won’t spare any effort to bomb any possibility of an entente with Iran.
His position on Syria was, once again, sound. “Ruthless killers are flooding into Syria, and fight – even fight each other … We should all work together to help Syria, and push these killers out of Syria. Then we must get the opposition around the table, and organize full and fair elections in Syria.” Tell that to the House of Saud and Qatar’s House of Thani.
The 1914 gang
Just because Rouhani declined to include Israel among all the countries Iran is building closer ties with – he talked about peace with “all countries … that we have officially recognized” – the usual Israel lobby shills started throwing a fit. Tehran does not have to recognize a rabid Tel Aviv regime that has been, for years, routinely threatening to attack, with or without the US in the forefront. By the way, those sterling democrats at the House of Saud also do not formally recognize Israel. But they are “our” bastards.
This all necessarily had to merge with one of the key obsessions at Davos this year – the idea that it’s 1914 all over again. Davos, for starters, is not exactly prescient; it took them years to finally admit that wealth inequality and unemployment are mortal threats to the global economy. CEOs with fat bonuses are not exactly egalitarians, only when it’s bad for business.
As wealth inequality goes, this Oxfam report released on Monday tells is like it is: “The bottom half of the world’s population owns the same as the richest 85 people in the world.”
Another report released on Monday by the International Labor Organization (ILO) shows that unemployment, on a global level, has touched no fewer than 202 million people in 2013; and there will be 215 million by 2018. Unemployment is growing in Southeast Asia, South Asia, and on a smaller scale the Middle East, Northern Africa and Central Europe. Not to mention youth unemployment galloping ahead in Southern Europe – Greece, Spain, Italy – as well as Ireland.
And guess who the ILO deems responsible? The Masters of the Universe gathering in Davos; corporations preferred to keep their cash or buy their own stocks rather than invest in production capacity or to create jobs.
It was mostly up to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to stoke the 1914 remix fire – with his China-demonization shtick that “military expansion” in Asia could run out of control. (See Cowbells, or how Davos saves the world, Asia Times Online, January 23, 2014.)
But it’s economist Nouriel Roubini who’s been the 1914 remix point man. OK, just as a century ago, wealth inequality is high (now provoked by the shady dealings of the turbo-capitalism embraced by most Masters of the Universe). We’re at a “gilded age of inequality” (Roubini). And there’s obviously a widespread backlash against globalization – as in unlimited corporate profits out of the marketization of everything.
As for “rising geopolitical tensions”, no one at Davos seems to have the balls to name where they come from; the decline of the American Empire with all is centrifugal and centripetal convulsions; the fear of many in the West and especially Japan in the East of an unstoppable, rising China; and the unholy alliance of Israel and the House of Saud to keep the wider Middle East mired in sectarian conflict. These are the real “geopolitical tensions” that could revamp 1914; not Iran, China or Russia’s foreign policy strategies.