Bilbao

Just opened the window and let the cool breeze of December 22st come in. San Mames is partially lit and the lights are turning on here and there. The sky is getting dark and the clouds are losing the red hue they usually enjoy in twilight. Noise of the city is coming in. Now and again a car rushes through highways.
Thousands of kilometers away from where I belong, I’ve fallen in love with a city.

Iran to Latin America: Adios Muchachos!

WikiShrek

As observers of international politics, together with a big part of Iranian public are closely following Geneva nuclear talks between EU3+3 and Iran, let’s look to another part of Iran’s new direction in foreign policy.

Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif is a liberal minded witty career diplomat who unlike his predecessors knows exactly what he’s seeking: He believes in and acts to achieve a “post zero sum game” world. He employs social networks to promote his and his country’s agenda and peace rhetoric.

On his facebook page, he’s reporting to Iranian public. The page now has more than 450000 followers and his updates get tens of thousands of likes and comments; his latest has 65981 likes, 10891 comments and 1609 reshares. Moreover, he reads and responds to many of messages sent to him.

The stuff he writes aren’t that specific, exclusive or in any way secret. Obviously one doesn’t expect hearing secret from a diplomat. But there are times that “things” can be read between the lines.

For example, his last status update during UN summit (here) includes a part about “progressive” Latin American countries. It mentions that due to Rouhani and Zarif’s having a lot of meetings in the summit, there wasn’t an opportunity to meet with the Presidents or FMs of these countries, so Zarif is going to have a lunch with them.

Should I note that during Ahmedinejad’s years, Iran enjoyed very warm relations with these countries and heads of states frequently met? Latin American friends of Iran, helped Iran evade and go around the sanctions and as such, did a big service to Iran. So why is this “cooling down” happening? I have three ideas:

1)    Rouhani wants to distance himself from Ahmedinejad and his Anti-Western rhetoric.

2)    Iran is hopeful of a big change regarding sanctions(i.e. immediate lifting or reduction of sanctions)

3)    As Rouhani’s advisor on International relations, Mahmoud Sariolghalam has repeatedly said(here, here and here-All in Persian), there’s no reason to have such close relations with countries far, far away. They don’t provide Iran with a strategic advantage, so why invest there when there are neighboring countries of Central Asia or Middle-East?

Homage to Catalonia: rise of ERC

Where better to start than Catalonia, when you are a fan of FC Barcelona and you’ve been to Barcelona twice and want to spend much more time there.

Source: La vanguardia
Source: La vanguardia

New opinion poll for Catalonia regional assembly is out and indicates that leftist separatist group ERC( Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya) is in a close competition with moderate Catalan nationalist CiU (Convergència i Unió) and were the election taking place today, it would have a big chance of winning it for the first time after the Spanish transition to democracy. The chart below shows the share of CiU and ERC in the regional elections after death of Franco. Inverse relationship between the parties’ electoral performance is notable:

CiU-ERC

The poll also shows downward route of classic duo that have governed Spain in the last three decades. Socialist party of Catalonia and People’s Party of Catalonia would take together about 30 seats, which shows 9 seats decrease in their combined share since the last election in 2012 and 16 seats drop since 2010 election. The chart below shows their combined shares throughout the last three decades, compared to combined share of ERC and CiU.(UCD’s seats in 1980 election and AP’s seats in 1984-1988 have been attributed to PPC):

Coalition Comparison

Rapid fall of PPC-PSC taken together with fast growth of radical Catalan parties (Independentist CUP, Anti-independence C’s) and steady rise (or one can say stability) of classic Catalan parties can be considered from two perspectives. First, it shows how much politics in Catalonia has been diverging of Spain. On the other hand, it can be interpreted as following the dominant trend in Spain which is unpopularity of PP and PSOE( of which PPC and PSC are regional branches)

Why is CiU that has almost had a monopoly on Catalan politics falling? One can attribute it to its rhetorical shift from moderate Catalan nationalism to supporting independence. ERC on the other hand, has been the flag bearer of Catalan independence for so long, including one declaration of independence in 1931 and one in 1934. And who doesn’t prefer original over copy?

After president of Catalonia, Artur Mas(of CiU), announced an early election last year as an advisory platform for an independence referendum and declared his and his party’s support for independence, CiU’s throne began to tremble. Unlike what Mas had hoped, in 2012 election, their share of vote decreased significantly and ERC added more votes than its centrist competitor. Despite Mas’s maneuvers and show offs toward Spanish government and Prime minister Rajoy( which by the way seems to be making concessions) this trend still persists. There is no doubt in ERC’s separatist intentions. Amid the economic crisis and rising tide of Catalan nationalism, Catalan question might get a different answer this time around.

Prologue

A legend says,

Knowing that he has reached the last days of his life, he embarks on his last hunt. He’s previously conquered everything and every realm on Earth. Only sky remains.  He goes to the highest cliff. The old panther gathers all of his force and jumps to his most majestic hunt; the moon. He falls to the valley. Injured and closer to demise, he mounts the cliff again and jumps anew. At last, the panther, the master of land, falls to his death.

When I decided to write an English blog, my only clear idea was to choose a name from Iranian/Persian heritage. Recanting this story, I just couldn’t envisage anything more suited to a blog on International Relations. That legend, other than its function as a literary treasure, reminds me of one book:  the Tragedy of Great Power Politics.

If one is familiar with IR, I assume he already has some ideas on my way of thinking. I am a realist, fascinated by works of Mearsheimer, Walt, Waltz et al. From time to time I’ve shown so much of a firm “believer” in Realism that some friends & colleagues have compared me to Mearsheimer- obviously a huge exaggeration on their part. I beg to differ. That book is certainly great and can act as a guide or even a teacher, but “belief” is something I put behind when entering Academy.

I’ve been a really disorderly blogger in Persian for the last 8 years, so I’m not going to make it difficult for myself here. I’ll try to write mostly on International Relations, but domestic politics will surely play a role too. Also, as a zealot fan of football, there is substantial possibility of writing on sports. Ranting on about other pastimes seems scary, at least for now.

Let’s mount a cliff and watch the moon. It’s not even close to the last hunt, but it’s sure as hell beautiful.

English writings of an Iranian living in Basque country on International Relations