Saturday, August 22, 2009

Soft power, Iran, and Bolivia

In his book Soft Power, Joseph Nye had argued for the U.S. government to expend more resources on media, foreign exchanges, and other means of cultural interchange. Coincidentally, Samuel Logan at Security in Latin America notes how this is taking place. Except that it is Iran.

The Iranian administration caused an uproar in the government’s own Majlis parliament when it provided Bolivia with an unapproved loan of over 280 million dollars on July 31, 2009.Over and above the material and financial support that Iran has provided, newly installed TV and radio stations may spread Tehran’s influence at a more cultural level. Iranian radio has broadcast in-depth reports and interviews about its positive relationship to Latin America, the evils of colonialism, and anti-imperialism. “This opportunity has come up for Iran,” said Dr Massah, a university lecturer on one program, “to spread the slogans of anti colonialism, prevent the international system from becoming monopolized, and spread the sense of seeking justice, which arises from Islamic standards, in [Latin America].” Bolivia’s state-run TV channel regularly shows Iranian movies, and a Muslim preacher delivered services at a state-sponsored event in June 2009.

Interesting stuff. I have to wonder, though, how much traction Iranian TV and radio will get in Bolivia, and whether that would foster greater sympathy for Iranian foreign policy.


Miguel Centellas 4:25 PM  

Well, they're sending Hezbollah missionaries to try to convert Bolivian indigenous communities to Islam. Not sure how successful that effort will be, either.

Greg Weeks 4:36 PM  

About as successful as Che Guevara at transforming indigenous communities into guerrillas?

Justin Delacour 1:09 AM  

Well, they're sending Hezbollah missionaries to try to convert Bolivian indigenous communities to Islam.

Just out of curiosity, what's your source on that one, Miguel?

leftside 2:44 PM  

Logan is nuts. He equates Bolivia's sovereign decision to cut off relations with Israel to "supporting a terrorist organization" (Hamas). He tries to make the construction of milk-processing plants and three health clinics into a new Cold War. The supposedly "newly installed" TV station was actually declared dead a year ago. At least he did not repeat the Israeli lie that Bolivian uranium is being used in Iran's nuclear plants.

Whether you believe the Iranian aid package is a strategic threat to the US or just a benign example of "soft power" - both assume the underlying reason is an attempt to buy a friend who will support Iran's foreign policy objectives (nuclear energy production, pro-Palestine, etc). As if Iran needs to buy off anyone to support these (NAM approved) foreign policy positions.

Left out of this equation is that the US helped creat the situation it is now decrying by explicitly shutting out Bolivia economically - for BS anti-drug reasons. It is inevitable Bolivia would have to find new markets. Iran and China are very astute in picking up in areas facing US rejection.

Justin, the "source" for the Hezbollah missionary claim is a hysterical 2007 article in La Razon. When your read the original piece, you learn that the missionaries are all imported directly by Hugo Chavez and operate in Colombia, Venezuela, Argentina, Chile, El Salvador and Nicaragua. With regards to Bolivia, it says "reports claim that the missionaries imported by Hugo Chavez are doomed to covert the millions of indigenous Quechua and Aymara in Bolivia." Gotta love this type of journalism (doomed to convert). But Logan goes further saying that Morales personal involvement in this hypothetical missionary project is "likely." Of course it is. Morales secretly wants to change the religion and culture of his supporters.

Anonymous,  9:10 PM  

What is Behind the Bolivia-Islam Connection?
Written by Devin Beaulieu
Wednesday, 26 August 2009


Miguel Centellas 10:03 PM  

Actually, the source I had for the Bolivia-Iran connection is:

I've no idea about the credibility of the source per se. But it does seem to have a number of sources. But, yes, it may very well be totally bogus. I should've been more skeptical originally. Apologies.

I can believe that Iran would send such missionaries (just as conservative Christian groups do). But I'm fairly certain such an effort would be failure.

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