Robert Amsterdam has a new blog post up over on Huffington Post about Obama’s approach to Iran and Venezuela. Here is a short excerpt:
There are two reasons why both the authoritarians of Persia and the Orinoco Belt represent a common foreign policy challenge to the United States. Firstly, they both lean upon a brand of populism that is heavily dependent upon an outdated conception of anti-Americanism. They have woven a narrative, backed only by selective scraps of facts combined with myths, that the United States is a hostile, hateful, and aggressive power which is responsible for nearly every social problem of their country. Oh yes, and they also want to invade us, so we had better arm ourselves to the teeth.
This narrative makes for efficient politics and tosses more fuel to the ever growing fires of nationalism, but becomes a harder story to sell when you have an African-American president of an immigrant father with the middle name “Hussein” who is more popular on the streets on Tehran and Caracas than their own angry leaders.
Secondly, I consider Iran and Venezuela together because of their mutually supportive and burgeoning alliance (this has also been pointed out by Moisés Naím). They are cooperating together along with Russia to build a natural gas cartel, they have unregistered flights allegedly bring scores of Hezbollah members into Latin America, Chávez happily provides Iran with Bolivian and possibly Venezuelan Uranium, while the Venezuelan government even engages in vigorous anti-Semitism to please their friends in Persia and the Middle East (see this interview we recorded with a Jewish student leader who was attacked on state television). Additionally, while Iran maintains a stable of political prisoners such as Behrooz Javid-Tehrani, Chávez is doing his best to copy these tactics with prisoners such as Eligio Cedeño – a case I am directly involved in.
Photo: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gestures as he addresses the annual judiciary summit in Tehran on June 27, 2009. Ahmadinejad again slammed US President Barack Obama for “interfering” in Iran, as debate over the Iranian president’s disputed re-election continued. (Getty Images)