PARIS -- When Ben Affleck's "Argo" -- a film based on the true-life, CIA-assisted Canadian operation to rescue American diplomats during the Iranian hostage crisis in 1979 -- won the Oscar for Best Picture, all I could think about was how badly Iran blew a prime opportunity to keep quiet for once.
Iranian Culture Minister Mohammad Hosseini is so incensed with the portrayal of his country in "Argo" that the government is financing a film in response. Look, Canadians took issue with some "Argo" distortions, too -- mainly because, as former U.S. President Jimmy Carter has said, "90 percent of the contributions to the ideas and the consummation of the plan was Canadian," while the film portrays the inverse. But Canada isn't going to get all insecure about something that happened more than three decades ago. Granted, Canada also has a lot going for it -- including a world of "friends" with whom to trade.
By contrast, the Iranian regime considers its image to be so fragile that a single Hollywood film must be treated as a threat. Even Affleck is more secure in his manhood than Iran. The director has called Iran's criticism "a badge of honor."
Iran could learn from Affleck, who has bombed out in the past but has learned whatever lessons he needed. He simply moves on and tries not to repeat the same bad scripts. When Iran bombs out, it never, ever lets go of the script.
Iran's grasp of diplomatic relations hasn't improved much since the "Argo" era, regardless of what Iranians want us to believe. The best image that any country can project is through its day-to-day actions, its relationships, its friends.
Sadly, Iran doesn't have many friends. Well, it has Russia and China as besties -- but someone should ask Russian President Vladimir Putin how it feels to have your friend's checks start bouncing, as Iran's did when Russia was trying to help build the Bushehr nuclear power plant.
While trying so desperately to martyr itself as a victim of the meddling West, Iran is dropping ammo all over Africa. Great Britain's Conflict Armament Research recently issued a report detailing Iranian ammunition used by "foreign-backed insurgents, rebel forces, Islamist-oriented armed groups and warring communities." Speaking of which, Israel just bombed an Iranian general who was hanging out in a Syrian conflict zone -- no doubt handing out cupcakes and balloon animals to children.
Meanwhile, Iran's own trade partners seem to have relegated the nation to "Mr. Right, For Right Now" status, with China, India, Malaysia, South Korea, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Turkey and Taiwan qualifying for exemptions from U.S. sanctions for having significantly reduced their imports of Iranian oil.
I can't even begin to imagine how this must anger the knee-jerk anti-Americans who chronically fly off handle at the thought of Iran not having a God-given right to trade with the United States and its allies while simultaneously bad-mouthing them all. Pretty soon the anti-Westerners will be the only ones left on earth who will want to do business with Iran -- and by that I mean them personally. Like, they can go online and send over some pizza or something.
As China keeps colonizing Africa and going into resource-rich nations to drink their respective milkshakes dry, Iran will be increasingly relegated to flophouse status -- a pit stop for Chinese imperialists in transit between their de facto African colonies. China could even fill up Iran like a giant foam ball pit at Chuck E. Cheese because it will be all theirs.
Oh, so you haven't heard about China seducing and colonizing various African nations rich in resources but poor in their ability to exploit them? That's likely because there are no corporate logos at which to point fingers of blame -- unless you count the Chinese Communist Party as a massive corporate entity unto itself.
I guess bilious anti-Westerners who foam at the mouth with every incursion Western nations make into Africa -- usually for national security or humanitarian purposes -- figure that the sort of dubious labor conditions they abhor in China would still be preferable to anything a Western corporation would introduce in Africa.
That's the reality Iran has created for itself -- and the movie that it should really be worried about.