Aijaz Ahmad on the Russian-Iranian handshake (3 of 3)


Story Transcript

VOICE OF ZAA NKWETA: What do growing relations between Russia and Iran mean for US influence in the Middle East? Senior Editor Paul Jay talks with Aijaz Ahmad, Senior News Analyst at the Real News.

(CLIP BEGINS)

October 17, 2007

GEORGE W. BUSH, US PRESIDENT: The whole strategy is that at some point in time leaders or responsible folks inside Iran may get tired of isolation and say, “This isn’t worth it.” And to me it’s worth the effort to keep the pressure on this government.

(CLIP ENDS)

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR: It seems it’s not Iran being increasingly isolated; it seems it’s the Bush administration’s policy that’s getting increasingly isolated.

AIJAZ AHMAD, SENIOR NEWS ANALYST: Yes. In fact what is happening is that Irani strategic position and support from immediate neighboring countries is increasing spectacularly. Iran is much more integrated into the economy of Asia in general than it was five years ago. And I’m not only talking about the strengthening of their strategic position in Iraq and to a certain extent in Afghanistan; I’m actually talking about their relationship with the major Asian powers. You know, Iran is now for all practical purposes a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

JAY: Explain to us what that is.

AHMAD: Shanghai Cooperation Organization was a Chinese initiative and the first meeting of that organization. Took place in Shanghai. This is the great initiative of cooperation between China and Russia across a whole range of issues, ranging from military security to energy security to integration of markets, exchange of technologies, and so on and so forth, bringing into it as many of the countries which were previously a part of the former Soviet Union if possible, particularly the Caspian Sea basin countries, to create a regional bloc.

JAY: So at least at the moment the Bush administration policy, rather than isolating Iran, is actually helping to facilitate a much more powerful bloc.

AHMAD: That’s right. Russia and China would have ideally liked to put India, Iran, and Japan into it. Now, of course, there’s no question of Japan joining anything of the kind. They may have an observer status sometimes [inaudible]. The United States has succeeded in isolating India from some of these very major Asian developments and pulling it to its side. How long that will continue we don’t know. We know that the nuclear deal, which was at the center of Indo-US relations, has now been put in the freezer, and that deal’s dead, because of the domestic pressure, the opinion against this kind of client relationship with the United States. It’s rising in India. All parts of the Indian public opinion, from the top CEOs to the communists, believe that India’s place is in Asia, as it should have.

JAY: Another stunning example of the weakness of US strategic power.

AHMAD: Absolutely. All parts of Indian opinion believe that the great rising powers are our immediate neighbors, which are Russia and China. You need to build that gas and petrol pipeline from Iran coming through India. So the strategic weak position of the United States on the whole in Asia is weakening [inaudible]. Iran, as you quite rightly said, is actually getting very deeply integrated into that whole structure. And that is what Putin is saying, and that is what is making a lot of these people very furious. They start off about World War III. Putin is saying that these are strategic interests. And depending which way you want to play it, we might be willing to actually play it. In that sense, in all these statements, Iran is a foil for US and Russia to contest for position in the region as a whole.

DISCLAIMER:

Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


Story Transcript

VOICE OF ZAA NKWETA: What do growing relations between Russia and Iran mean for US influence in the Middle East? Senior Editor Paul Jay talks with Aijaz Ahmad, Senior News Analyst at the Real News. (CLIP BEGINS) October 17, 2007 GEORGE W. BUSH, US PRESIDENT: The whole strategy is that at some point in time leaders or responsible folks inside Iran may get tired of isolation and say, “This isn’t worth it.” And to me it’s worth the effort to keep the pressure on this government. (CLIP ENDS) PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR: It seems it’s not Iran being increasingly isolated; it seems it’s the Bush administration’s policy that’s getting increasingly isolated. AIJAZ AHMAD, SENIOR NEWS ANALYST: Yes. In fact what is happening is that Irani strategic position and support from immediate neighboring countries is increasing spectacularly. Iran is much more integrated into the economy of Asia in general than it was five years ago. And I’m not only talking about the strengthening of their strategic position in Iraq and to a certain extent in Afghanistan; I’m actually talking about their relationship with the major Asian powers. You know, Iran is now for all practical purposes a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. JAY: Explain to us what that is. AHMAD: Shanghai Cooperation Organization was a Chinese initiative and the first meeting of that organization. Took place in Shanghai. This is the great initiative of cooperation between China and Russia across a whole range of issues, ranging from military security to energy security to integration of markets, exchange of technologies, and so on and so forth, bringing into it as many of the countries which were previously a part of the former Soviet Union if possible, particularly the Caspian Sea basin countries, to create a regional bloc. JAY: So at least at the moment the Bush administration policy, rather than isolating Iran, is actually helping to facilitate a much more powerful bloc. AHMAD: That’s right. Russia and China would have ideally liked to put India, Iran, and Japan into it. Now, of course, there’s no question of Japan joining anything of the kind. They may have an observer status sometimes [inaudible]. The United States has succeeded in isolating India from some of these very major Asian developments and pulling it to its side. How long that will continue we don’t know. We know that the nuclear deal, which was at the center of Indo-US relations, has now been put in the freezer, and that deal’s dead, because of the domestic pressure, the opinion against this kind of client relationship with the United States. It’s rising in India. All parts of the Indian public opinion, from the top CEOs to the communists, believe that India’s place is in Asia, as it should have. JAY: Another stunning example of the weakness of US strategic power. AHMAD: Absolutely. All parts of Indian opinion believe that the great rising powers are our immediate neighbors, which are Russia and China. You need to build that gas and petrol pipeline from Iran coming through India. So the strategic weak position of the United States on the whole in Asia is weakening [inaudible]. Iran, as you quite rightly said, is actually getting very deeply integrated into that whole structure. And that is what Putin is saying, and that is what is making a lot of these people very furious. They start off about World War III. Putin is saying that these are strategic interests. And depending which way you want to play it, we might be willing to actually play it. In that sense, in all these statements, Iran is a foil for US and Russia to contest for position in the region as a whole. DISCLAIMER: Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

Aijaz Ahmad

Based in New Delhi, Aijaz Ahmad has appeared many times on The Real News Network; he is Senior Editorial Consultant, and political commentator for the Indian newsmagazine, Frontline. He has taught Political Science, and has written widely on South Asia and the Middle East.