President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad brought his sanction busting Iranathon to Brazil under the green cover of the United Nations Rio+20 sustainability conference recently, stealing the show with accusations that Washington and its pro-embargo allies are “bullying” the Islamic republic.
But the big backstory on the event is how Iran– over the past twenty years– has become the biggest loudspeaker for anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial on the planet, stealing the thunder from Neo Nazis in Germany and Austria and right wing hate groups in Russia and the United States.
Iran’s efforts to shift the balance of power casts a grausamer schatten over the recent dedication of the Memorial to the Red Army Victory over Naziism at Netanya. The Kremlin leader opposes sanctions and like his grandfather, who was a trusted cook for Soviet gulag operator Joseph Stalin, Vladimir Vladimirovich is a Chekist himself. Putin and Ahmadinejad are well aware that Stalin-era pogroms killed millions of Jews before Hitler and Himmler put up their Arbeit Macht Frei gate at Auschwitz.
Ahmadinejad’s advance team front loaded the Iranathon into the newsfeed of Rio+20, attended by enough world leaders and their staffs, government ecology bureaucrats, NGOs and media to fill Yankee Stadium.
Overnight, the image of the secular Iranian leader was transformed from being a Holocaust denier into an energy security player with the clout of a Patton Boggs lobbyist who trumped the “smart power” strategy– implemented by U.S. secretary of state and Rio+20 delegation leader Hillary Clinton– that leans toward global business-style solutions and seeks to do statecraft on the cheap in a crisis facing economy.
For leaders of Brazil’s Jewish community and hundreds who demonstrated in Rio and Sao Paulo– including pro-Israel gay groups– to protest Ahmadinejad’s visit, Rio+20 was a pyrrhic, David and Goliath-style victory.
The protests generated front page coverage by major Brazilian newspapers Folha and Estado and created enough controversy for president Dilma Rousseff’s media team to make it known that she would not be granting Ahmadinejad the official meeting with her that his handlers requested.
“How does the United Nations, which claims to promote world peace, justify inviting a leader who wants Israel wiped off the map,” Mario Fleck, a protest leader, asked, in reporting by Folha.
The Wiesenthal Center also weighed in with a statement asking president Dilma and other world leaders not to meet with Ahmadinejad, who does have a documented history of using public diplomacy platforms to deny the Holocaust.
Plans for Ahmadinejad to visit Brazil were announced by the Iran FARS news agency back in January but were kept quiet for months by Brazil’s foreign minister Antonio Patriota due to objections from Washington and pro-Israel groups. Brasilia’s view that Iran’s dual-use nuclear program is not producing another Islamic bomb, however, remained a factor in the White House downgrading Dilma’s April trip to Washington from a state visit to just bi-lateral talks.
Also part of the tough love payback for being friends with Iran was the cancellation of a $345 million Pentagon contract to buy a fleet of Brazilian-developed Embraer Super Tucano propeller driven support and trainer aircraft that are ideal for counterinsurgency warfare operations against extremist and narcoterrorist groups.
Brazil partnered on that deal with the Sierra Nevada Corporation, a Nevada-based developer of mainly black program security technologies for government and private interests that is controlled by the secretive Fatih Ozmen family. Washington sources indicate that the contract is now out for re-bid.
While the Brazilian media shadowed Ahmadinejad’s every move there was little coverage of his presence at Rio+20 in the United States, where many powerful Jewish influencers reside.
Filling the coverage gap, Debka reports that Iran is now providing units to the military contingency organized by Russia and China inside Syria to support the Assad regime.
The same obtuse media coverage that avoided linking Iran’s nuclear ambitions with their Rio+20 agenda also overlooked the bad environmental record of Tehran’s nuclear and missile ally North Korea, and the economic support the communist government there receives from the Unification Church founded by North Korean-born Reverend Sun Myung Moon.
With ownership in the nation’s second largest automobile maker and other export industries that produce components for Fiat and Mercedes-Benz, interests controlled by Reverend Moon and his family help provide North Korea with the hard currency to buy dual-use technology for its bomb building and guided missile programs.
There was also a Rio+20 media brownout on the environmental impact caused by the Unification Church-owned religious colony in Brazil´s Amazon ecosystem that BBC says is a territory larger in size than England itself, and has been investigated on more than one occasion by Brazil’s Federal Police for improper activity.
The message running in the background after Ahmadinejad’s Rio+20 performance is that the financial plays associated with energy, food security and sanctions — while being extremely profitable for everyone who invests – carry a greater political risk in disrupting the world economic order and provoking a new “October surprise” than does the smaller pool of available capital seeking returns from investing in sustainability issues.
While the UN conferees have projected $30 billion for a green fund to subsidize the sustainability movement over time China is spending $21 billion in a year alone on oil from Iran.
Shift that number to the food security level of this multi dimensional chessboard and that’s more than twice the amount of a $10 billion credit that Beijing provided Brazil recently to acquire ten years worth of soybean production in a Germany-size chunk of land in Goias State.
Forbes reports that India, China and Russia have all been paying for Iranian oil in gold. Recently, however, China has started to pay for Iranian crude in yuan. Brent Crude prices are hovering just under $100 a barrel and could spike up if tensions in the Middle East and South Asia increase before U.S. elections in November, creating new opportunities for anyone involved in speculation and hedge operations.
Ahmadinejad doubled down his cards in Rio, holding trade talks with Latin Americn leaders and delegations from other Islamic world nations with sanction busting in mind. And Iranian delegation talks on the sidelines with Venezuelan counterparts reinforced the Tehran-Caracas axis that provides Ahmadinejad with a media platform in Caracas that pumps anti-Israel propaganda into Latin America.
With Iran, nuclear talks are again at a stalemate, diplomatic efforts by Washington to coax Rio+20 host Brazil into the pro-sanctions camp remain, at best, inconvenient and problematic. Brazil is a major world food security partner to Iran and other Islamic nations and its objection to losing business and economic growth because of the sanctions amps up the difficult dialogue over using food as a political weapon.
Thanks to Washington-Ankara military arrangements the road to Damascus is just 245 miles from the Turkish military airport and naval port at Adana-Incirlik used by U.S. operations, roughly the same strech of distance one travels to get from New York to Boston. And with other bases and electronic intelligence facilities in Turkey, the U.S. presence supports defense secretary Leon Panetta and secretary of state Hillary Clinton as they run Washington’s good cop-bad cop on Israel, parceling out funding for the Iron Dome anti-missile program while ratcheting up the sanctions that triggers new missile attacks on cities and settlements by Iran backed proxy terror groups.
Against this backdrop, both candidates in the U.S. Presidential race are fighting for funds and votes. Mitt Romney, now trailing sanctions fan Barack Obama by fifteen points in the latest Bloomberg tracking poll, has already told the Washington Post that Iran will have a nuclear weapon if Obama wins.
In a world of unstable international institutions the “green” platform the United Nations provided to Ahmadinejad at Rio+ 20 has positioned him– and Iran’s Saudi-friendly theocrats– as influencers in the U.S. presidential race, touching off the most dramatic and risky episode of Cold War-style brinkmanship since the Cuban missile crisis. Smart money might bet that a new “October Surprise” could be part of it.
Eric Ehrmann resides in Brazil and writes occasional columns on sports and politics at The Huffington Post blog. His articles on proliferation issues and Latin America have appeared in The Chicago Tribune, The Christian Science Monitor, Le Monde digital, National Review, The New York Times, and USA Today. He is a voting member of PEN, the international literary organization that promotes press freedom and human rights.