By Ramin Mazaheri for The Saker Blog
(Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for Press TV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. He is the author of the books ‘I’ll Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China’ and the upcoming ‘Socialism’s Ignored Success: Iranian Islamic Socialism’.)
Everyone has been in this situation: You begin a new relationship, but it just didn’t work out. Now the other person won’t accept the answer is “no”, regardless of how polite you are.
But they keep calling and calling, nearly begging, and trying to fix what just can’t be fixed. “Why did I ever get started with this mess,” you wonder!
Iranian Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei is apparently having this problem with French President Emmanuel Macron. Last week on Twitter Khamenei sounded as if he was at his wits’ end with Macron’s unwillingness to just move on:
“He contacts Iran and sends messages, saying that a single meeting with the U.S. president will solve all the problems! One wonders if he is really so naïve, or just an accomplice and working with the U.S.”
Khamenei should, as the kids say, just “ghost” Macron. But that’s not possible because “ghosting” is rather heartless and, anyway, the Leader has accepted a lifetime of responsibilities – Macron is reminding Khamenei of what a tough job he has.
The French seem to pride themselves on their cynicism and worldliness: “Naïf, moi?” However, Macron is so young to have so much power, so inexperienced politically, and evinces such a lack of historical and cultural knowledge that maybe he truly is just naïve?
In August Macron’s outlandish claim of an Iran-US meeting “within weeks” seemed to rather naïvely imagine that Iranians would disregard four decades of US-led hot and cold war that quickly. However, we could explain it as an example of the West’s politics of individualism: it came during France’s hosting of a G7 summit, and Macron needed to reflect a victory to the international spotlight.
The fact that he is persisting appears laudable but it is so mistimed as to appear curious.
If Macron was calling because he truly wants mutually-beneficial, equal-partner business deals to improve France’s economy – which is beginning its second “Lost Decade – he seems to have forgotten that Iran and France signed exactly these types of bilateral deals in Paris in 2016.
I saw Macron was there with my own eyes, so naïvety is not an excuse here. Macron has been in office for 2.5 years so he has had plenty of time to get these deals started, but at this point the Iranian taxpayer hasn’t even recouped the cost of sending the delegation to France.
Macron also had plenty of time to persuade his own central bank to start doing business with Iran, but Iranians in France will tell you – the restrictions have only worsened. Of course, in the Western model central banks must be independent from the government and thus uncontrollable, unaccountable and knowingly detrimental to the nation – Macron could change Donald Trump’s decisions before he could any central banker’s.
And then we have the issue of the JCPOA: no matter how many anti-Trump articles the Western mainstream media can muster, the reality is: France was one of seven signatories, and France did not honor its word.
So, Khamenei is just another exasperated Iranian who has given up on negotiations.
Iranian society has wasted 6 years discussing, arguing, voting, writing, editing and waiting for the JCPOA to finally work, but the West – including Macron himself – let it flounder, then get breached, then did nothing to rectify the wrongdoing.
Khamenei is correct that American demands of Iran will never be satisfied – there aretooc many fundamental differences of principle at work. The US stretches out negotiations (at 159 pages, the JCPOA is the longest international treaty since World War II) in order to give their blockades and sanctions more time to wreak destabilising damage in the hope of provoking more hot war – is not civil war “hot” enough?
However, the reality is that the former Rothschild banker is no different than Trump – he thinks he can make a deal on anything. What both of them fail to realize is that Khamenei believes, and so do many Iranians, that not everything is for sale.
For example, assets of the state: This week Macron began de-nationalising the state lottery. I don’t understand: neoliberals spend half their day’s breath insisting that any state enterprise which doesn’t turn a profit must be privatised, and the world’s 4th-biggest state lottery regularly turns big profits… yet it must be de-nationalised, too? And even though France’s government is allegedly so broke?
Khamenei would have stopped this conversation even sooner than immediately: Iran is not going to sell off 52% of any major- or even average-sized state asset, but there’s not going to be any state lottery whatsoever because of the populist principle that the state shouldn’t profit from immorality.
However, Macron likely assumes that with the right amount of Gallic charm he can eventually persuade Iran’s leaders to change its guiding lights and start making immorality the business of government. Many Western leaders believe that everyone is a neoliberal and neo-imperialist – they just don’t know it, or haven’t had the chance to prove it, yet.
The differences in moral principles between Iran, the US, and Western Europe include but also go far beyond gambling. Macron’s inability to register this reality may be why Khamenei doesn’t know what to make of Macron and whatever absurdity he keeps trying to put on the table?
Maybe Macron even offered to let Iran buy a big stake in France’s lottery? Is Macron “naïve”?
I won’t give the benefit of the doubt to the man who helped inspire the phrase “liberal strongman”, via his apparent belief that in a democracy public opinion should be heeded once – on election day. An even worse moniker he is almost certainly responsible for is “rubber bullet liberalism”, via his merciless and regular repression of the Yellow Vests (the rubber bullets keep whizzing past me, thanks to God, but I certainly have been hurt by the liberalism).
Khamenei was accurate when he said Macron’s stance was “100% wrong”. The problem is not that Macron is naïve, but that he is “unintelligent” – what else can we politely call being 100% wrong on an issue he is supposed to have studied?
Is Macron an “accomplice”? Khamenei suspicions have certainly been loudly raised by many a Yellow Vest.
People in France love to bring up Charles de Gaulle and praise how he was so very independent from the US – they obviously do so to express the lack of patriotism evinced by their current leaders. He really wasn’t – the difference between the patriotic independence of Khomeini or Castro and de Gaulle is wider than the Persian Gulf – but it’s a sliding scale, and Macron is clearly at the bottom of such measures.
I think it is perhaps difficult for Khamenei to understand just what a devoted neoliberal/globalist Macron is because the Iranian Islamic Revolution severed the influence of Western capitalism-imperialism in Iran just as the West was launching this most-deadliest version of it. I can assure readers that Macron truly appears to earnestly believe that globalisation is going to help France despite all the evidence to the contrary. Macron believes this because, like all 21st century capitalists, he conflates “the 1%” with “the nation”, whereas Khamenei has an older, broader, more humane concept of what “the nation” constitutes. Or maybe Khamenei has figured out neoliberalism completely, and that is the naïvety to which he is referring is Macron’s unjustified faith in it?
Khamenei cited Cuba as an example of what talking with the US gets – only more sanctions. Barack Obama signed an alleged upgrade to bilateral relations, and then immediately undermined them and the Cuban economy by levying billions of euros of intimidating fines on European banks which worked with Cuba. Just like Macron, Obama had more than two years to put his words into actions by executive orders, but in France executive orders are only for deregulation, austerity rollbacks to the labor code and, shortly, the pension system.
If Macron has finally decided to get serious it is likely because 2019 will be remembered as the year Iran proved that they have technological parity and military supremacy around the Strait of Hormuz shipping chokepoint. It’s good that reality is now clear, but chances of war increase when diplomacy fails: despite Macron’s “day late, dollar short” efforts, it is French and Western diplomats who failed and not Iranian ones.
Khamenei has already proven to the world that he will meet someone halfway, but in this life no one is granted an endless amount of time to waste.
Macron needs to take the hint: Stop calling – at least until you make some serious changes with yourself.
Or, if the French are truly gluttons (for punishment), you somehow get re-elected.