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By Micah Halpern

Wednesday November 25, 2009


In the areas of foreign outreach and diplomacy, Iran is masterful.

The Iranians are on a mission to build bridges across the world. They are creating alliances in places most Americans would be too geographically challenged to find on a globe.

President Ahmadinejad of Iran recently paid a visit to Bolivia, a very poor country in the Andes. Ahmadinejad was there to show support. More importantly, he was there to invest. Lithium is a natural resource, it is a very light weight metal and Bolivia possesses more than one half of the world's lithium.

Lithium is an essential component in the manufacture of long lasting batteries. It is not just used in flashlights and ipods, lithium is the element used for alternative energy car batteries and electronic devices like the computers that have come to control our world.

Ahmadinejad forged an alliance with a country that has been neglected and ignored by most of the world. And to secure that alliance, Ahmadinejad opened a hospital that Iran will fund and inaugurated two milk processing plants. And Iran will invest in investigating how to best move the lithium from the mines to the industries.

It was a subtle diplomatic exchange. In return for the extravagance shown his country by President Ahmadinejad, Bolivian President Evo Morales issued an extravagant statement proclaiming that Iran has the right to develop its own nuclear program without the intruding intervention of Western nations. Let's examine the balance: facilities that provide health and nutrition on one side, nuclear facilities on the other side. And both sides are happy.

Iran is running circles around the United States. In truth, Iran does not have to run very fast - US foreign policy has not even stepped off the starting gate when it comes to reaching out to countries with untapped natural resources, countries in need of the financing to capitalize on the natural gifts they have been given, countries that can enhance our own natural resources with theirs.

I have learned not to be surprised by the inactions of our foreign policy decision makers. I am surprised, however, that America's private investors did not lunge for lithium, one of the greatest sources of alternate energy.

Granted, many countries - primarily poor and underdeveloped countries, have a natural predisposition towards Iran and against the United States. These countries see the United States as exploitive and condescending. And Iran plays that card very successfully. But isn't that what diplomacy is all about?

If the United States government or interested parties from the United States or US investors had knocked on Bolivia's door before Iran arrived, Bolivia would have welcomed them in and gladly joined forces. Bolivia and countries like Bolivia choose to side with Iran because the United States has not provided them with the other option. In truth, these countries would rather follow the US model and be transformed into a mini United States than into a mini Iran.

I know why Iran has plotted this foreign policy path. I know why Iran is building these bridges. I do not understand why the US is not doing the same. This is a race for world domination and a race to have unrestricted access to necessary natural resources. It is also a race for the hearts and minds of the nations of the world.

It is a race that Iran is winning.

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4 June 2017 12:13 PM in Columns

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