Cuba and Iran sign accord
Two historically significant projects deepen cooperation
For some, the relation between Cuba and Iran is a surprising development. In the ideological terrain of the global North, the two nations belong to different categories: Iran is the bad guy of the Islamic World, whereas Cuba is the bad guy of Latin America. And as everyone knows from Hollywood movies, the bad guys are brutes with everybody, including each other. So many would not anticipate that two of the world’s most sanctioned and notorious states would cooperate with one another on the basis of the moral principles that the global powers have declared and for the most part ignored.
Although unanticipated, there it is, complete with photo documentation and declarations by evidently dignified representatives of the notorious governments. Of course, the editors of the mainstream media, ever faithful servants of the global powers, decide to ignore the event, possibly with awareness that the unexpected development might cause the peoples of the North to question the false premises that they have been taught for decades, resulting in the unravelling of the scam, already viewed with great incredulity by the peoples of the South.
Cuban Vice-Prime Minister Ricardo Cabrisas Ruíz was received on May 18 by Dr. Seyyed Ebrahim Riasi, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, in the context of the Eighteenth Session of the Cuba-Iran Intergovernmental Commission, held in Tehran. Both sides reaffirmed their commitment to accelerate and deepen the economic, commercial, and financial ties of cooperation between the two nations. The Cuban Vice-Prime Minister declared that “Cuba will always be a committed friend of Iran.”
During the session, thirteen documents were signed in the sectors of biotechnology, health, energy, agriculture, food production, banking, sport, regulatory agencies with respect to medicines and foods, and the logistics of international maritime transportation. Among them was a memorandum of understanding between the Group of Biotechnological and Pharmaceutical Industries of Cuba (BioCubaFarma) and the Barket Pharmaceutical Group of Iran for collaboration in pharmaceutical products and medical equipment. In addition, the Cuban Finlay Institute for Vaccines and the Iranian Pasteur Institute signed a document for the development of combined vaccines for children.
Also participating in the Cuban delegation were the minister of Energy and Mining, the director general of Bilateral Affairs, and the Cuban Ambassador to Iran. For Iran, the Minister of Education and Health, the co-president of the Intergovernmental Commission Cuba-Iran, and functionaries of Iranian ministries of health and education and of international relations were present.
The session was highlighted by the announcement of the inauguration of a plant for the production of an anti-COVID-19 vaccine, through the technology transfer of the Cuban vaccine Soberana 02, developed by the Finley Institute for Vaccines, to the Pasteur Institute of Iran. Thus, Iran will become the first country to industrially manufacture a Cuban immunogen against SARS-COV-2. The vaccine will be commercialized in the Persian country as PastuCovac.
The fabrication of a pharmaceutical product in Iran through the transfer of technology from Cuba is a significant example of the historic aspirations of the Third World project to break the core-peripheral economic relation with the West. In the historic colonial/neocolonial pattern, the Third World exports raw materials, on a base of low-waged labor, which are characterized by fluctuating and declining prices and low profit margins. So the historic goal has been to develop a mutually beneficial trading relation among the nations of the South, including high-technology and high value-added products. The vision is difficult to implement in practice, because of the domination of the fabrication of the more favored products by the great corporations of the imperialist core powers, and because of limited resources for investment. In the case of the Cuban pharmaceutical industry, the Cuban state had undertaken a long-term investment, dating back to 1961, when Fidel declared that “our country must become a nation of men and women of science.”
An online commentary in the Cuban daily Granma celebrated the news as an indication that humanity is liberating itself from the cruel tyranny of the capitalist pharmaceutical industry.
Raisi and Cabrisas also expressed during the Eighteenth Session of the Cuba-Iran Intergovernmental Commission the firm political will of their respective governments to confront the coercive measures imposed by the United Sates in a unilateral and illegal manner, which have resulted in criminal conditions for their peoples.
The Islamic Revolution in Iran in historic context
Prior to the emergence of Islam, ancient Arabia was dominated by anarchic Bedouin tribes, whose core values were virility, generosity, and hospitality. The Islamic conquest of the region provided the foundation for a theocentric philosophy that was in marked contrast to the anthropocentric thinking of ancient Greek civilization.
When the Arab tribes, thanks to Islam, united in a single state, they were able to conquer adjacent territories, including the Near East, half of the Roman Empire, the totality of the Persian Empire, the followers of Buddha to the East, and Spain and Portugal in the West. Conquest has been the foundation of human progress, but it has taken different forms. In the case of the Islamic conquest, the Arabs were warriors and administrators who appreciated the advances in science, philosophy, art, and literature of the conquered peoples, so they tended to appropriate and improve the teachings of the past, inspired by the civilizations that had flourished before their arrival. For their part, the conquered peoples tended to embrace the religion of Islam, although not compelled to do so, attracted to its coherent, theocentric theory and practice.
Persian influence in the Islamic civilization would arrive to rival that of the Arabs. Persia had been among the first of the settled human populations, and its civilization was advanced by the time of the Islamic conquest.
The Islamic Civilization reached its zenith from the tenth to the fifteenth centuries, incorporating the knowledge of the Arabs, Iranians, Turks, Jews, Christians, and Hindus. An indication of its pending decline was the destruction of the Baghdad caliphate by the Mongols in 1258, which isolated Iran from the Arab Near East. The decline was evident by the sixteenth century, with advancing European conquests of Islamic territories. Artists, scientists, and philosophers disappeared from the horizon of Islam. Stagnation of knowledge set in, while the West advanced to a new stage of discovery of truth based on experimentation. But unlike the Islamic civilization, the modern West would separate science from the sacred.
By the nineteenth century, European control of Islamic territories gave rise to a pan-Islamic movement, expressing the solidarity and unity of all Muslims. The movement responded to the dual reality of European domination as well as the decadence of Islamic civilization. It sought renewal through fidelity to the historic principles of Islam. At the same time, it taught that Islam would have to appropriate from the West to attain liberation.
The rebirth of Islam would lead finally to the victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979, led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini (1902-1989). Khomeini had lived in exile from 1965 to 1978 in Najaf, a city in Iraq that had been one of the principal theological centers of Islam since the sixteenth century. Following expulsion from Iraq for his propaganda activities, Khomeini relocated temporarily to Paris in 1978, before returning to Iran in February 1979. The extreme repression by the monarchy in defense of Western interests in Iranian oil and against the religious opposition had fed popular support for the Islamic revolution.
The conflict between the Iranian Revolution and the West unfolded during the course of the twentieth century. During World War II, a despotic dynasty in Iran had been removed from power by the Allied armies, discredited for its relations with Nazi Germany. Following the war, the secular modernist constitution of 1906 and the parliament were restored, and elections were held. In 1953, Mohammad Mosaddeq rose to power on the basis of a promise to the people to recover control of the country’s oil. Upon taking office as Prime Minister, in fulfillment of the promise, Mossaddeq cancelled the lease with British Petroleum and announced nationalization of the oil industry.
In response to this petroleum nationalism, the United States funded a coup d’état that placed in power Reza Shah Pahlavi, the son of the previous king. The young shah signed a treaty with the United States that turned management of the nation’s oil over to an international consortium of oil corporations. These events in Iran transformed the international image of the United States in the Islamic world from a defender of democracy in the world to a new imperialist power, displacing Great Britain.
The Shah of Iran ruled in a totalitarian manner for twenty-five years, an important ally of the United States in the region. The installation of the Shah gave rise to a resistance movement, in which the leading figure was Dr. Ali Shariati, a French-educated socialist intellectual who envisioned a progressive socialism in the Islamic tradition. A secondary tendency in the resistance movement was led by Ayatollah Khomeini, who promoted a more traditional reading of the Qur’an.
In 1978, a coalition of secular leftists, Islamic socialists, and pro-Khomeini Shi’i revolutionaries drove the Shah of Iran out of the country through a non-violent revolution. By 1979, the Khomeini faction, more in tune with the deepest impulses of the Iranian masses at that historic moment, had taken the leadership in the movement and established the Islamic Republic of Islam.
For more on the Islamic Revolution in Iran, see “The Islamic Anti-Imperialist Revolution of Iran: A key actor in the construction of a pluripolar world,” February 15, 2022.
Iran and the Non-Aligned Movement
At the beginning of the twenty-first century, when the new role of China as a promoter of international cooperation began to emerge; when the Non-Aligned Movement recovered its classic voice of the 1960s and 1970s, demanding national and social liberation for the Third World; and when Latin American political reality became transformed by the emergence of nations demanding their real sovereignty, the Islamic Republic of Iran became a fully accepted and respected member of the alternative world order being forged from below. The rapprochement between Iran and the Third World occurred in spite of the fact that the Islamic Revolution of Iran had ideological roots different from the founding nations of the Non-Aligned Movement. The rapprochement is illustrated by the election of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the presidency of the Non-Aligned Movement in 2013, and by the repeated declarations by the Non-Aligned Movement in support of the Iranian position that every nation has the right to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. The rapprochement between Iran and the Third World indicates an emerging global anti-imperialist alliance as well as a global socialist/religious alliance in opposition to a post-modern capitalist world-economy and neocolonial world-system in decadence.
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