In 1994, in Buenos Aires, there was the terrible attack on the AMIA, a Jewish association, which caused 85 deaths, almost certainly by the hand of Hezbollah with support from the Iranian embassy, apparently in retaliation for executions by Israeli drones of some of its leaders in Lebanon. During my term as a federal deputy (2011-2015), a member of the Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee, I participated in three closed meetings to analyze the risks of terrorism in anticipation of the 2016 Olympic Games. It was possible to draw a rough picture of dangerous organizations of Shiite or Sunni origin. They were threats of a different nature. Hezbollah had and has a powerful network, not only in the famous “triple border”, of basically logistical and political mission. The presence of al Qaeda was also detected (the Islamic State came later) which obviously concerned us much more. Our vulnerability to attacks against third parties has become clear. Fortunately nothing happened.
Hezbollah is a Lebanese mass party, majority and hegemonic in the Shiite community, linked to Iran, which has a powerful military force – Israel tried it, in 2006 – and which eventually resorts to terrorism. Reducing it to this, however, is an error of analysis. It uses this instrument in a “rational” way in the same way as its godfathers in the Islamic Republic of Iran. It is state terrorism as practiced by many countries: USA, Russia, even France in the 80’s when a Greenpeace boat was blown up. Unlike jihadism, its terrorism is selective, instrumental, and situationally driven.
Brazil, all these years, has never caught the brunt of terrorism originating in the Middle East, fundamentally because it is seen as a diplomatically balanced country. Topically, we were involved in failed mediations, but they reveal Itamaraty’s broad interlocution with the various actors. Some governments of Israel have complained of partiality but the Brazilian position has been in tune with the UN resolutions and has always defended its existence and right to security. The relative exception was precisely during the military regime, in the Geisel government, when Brazil voted at the UN that motion equating Zionism to racism. At the time we were selling Urutus armored vehicles to Saddam Hussein.
With the Bolsonian government a powerful Pentecostal segment, influenced by its US counterparts, has obtained the promise of the move of our embassy to Jerusalem and a blind alignment with the Trump and Netanyahu administrations. Moving the embassy would be a cannon shot in the foot in the economic relationship with the Muslim world. It would put us exposed to Islamic terrorism. Now, Itamaraty’s support of the act of international gangsterism, the death of General Qassem Suleimani, was as stupid as the said one. We sympathize with an attack against a country with which we have important diplomatic and commercial relations (2 billion in surplus). We have compromised our status as a neutral country and exposed ourselves to terrorist acts against US targets, on our territory.
Trump has opened Pandora’s Box. Their initial defeat will be geopolitical with the withdrawal of their troops from Iraq (which will be, happily, replaced by the Russians). It will inevitably suffer military reprisals during the process. The longer it stays, the worse. It has already warned that it will retaliate by bombing Iran, including “cultural” targets. The retaliation will possibly be in the Strait of Hormuz, with mines and missiles against tankers. The escalation will be the bombing of Iranian cities. Then the jack-of-all-trades begins, with terrorist attacks on various continents. Only this time there won’t be a political reason to include us out of it. We are in danger of becoming a battlefield …
Trump has committed an extraordinary stupidity: Iraq and Iran were overrun with protests and, in a magic trick, he has awakened the nationalistic fervor of two humiliated peoples. They may dislike their regimes, repressive and corrupt, but they hate the foreign aggressor, the “crusader” even more. Trump is going to lose this asymmetric war – the Shi’ites’ capacity to suffer casualties is unlimited, the US’ far from it – in Iraq and elsewhere. The more you attack, the greater your final loss. Only, he is in danger of dragging along some unsuspecting partners. Itamaraty, dominated by the geopolitical terraplaning of recruit Zero and his faithful medieval squire, makes us strong candidates for the economic and strategic burrs of the future.