To iBRICS or not

The story starts with Goldman Sachs who is a leading global investment banking, securities and investment management firm. It created BRIC in 2001. It needed an easy acronym to communicate that there were investment opportunities in the large emerging markets of the four large developing economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China. The story continues that this acronym took the form of a marriage bureau when the heads of these countries decided it sensible to try to use their emerging clout collectively to attempt to arrange the global economic and financial system to their better advantage. The last part of the saga is when BRIC became BRICS when South Africa joined. There is now a potential sequel as speculation grows about iBRICS. The small letter i standing for Iran. It is a small i because Iran cannot be measured on the same economic or political status as Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

The scriptwriters are quick to stress that BRICS is not an alliance or even an economic bloc. BRICS is a formal name for a very informal group. The BRICS countries continue to have little if anything in common except that have fast growing large economies. China is all about manufacturing while India is about services; Russian had an oil boom and lives in its shadow of a Cold War superpower while Brazil exports commodities; and South Africa has a monopolistic regional dominance.
For BRICS the lack of commonality and regional diversity is its strength. The five states don’t threaten each other’s interests. Indeed, they complement each other’s interests not only economically. Economics and politics go hand in hand and BRICS as a grouping has political clout because the five countries mutually benefit from pooling their power. The New Development Bank shows this. The image of BRICS is synonymous with “the rise of the rest.” It seeks to change the Western dominance of the global financial and peace and security architecture.
But what about Iran? Iran is not an emerging market or developing economy. To be sure Iran lacks the economic patina of the BRICS countries. So, while Iran cannot be uttered in the same economic mode as Brazil, Russia, China, India and South Africa it is mentioned when schmoozing about political clout and anti-Western dominance. Therefore, there is reciprocal BRICS and Iranian interaction. Herein lies the attraction of Iran. However, Iran cannot be contemplated as being a large I in absolute or even comparative terms, so if it were to join BRICS then it could only be written in with a small i, namely iBRICS.
Grasping to find justification for this or simply aiming to provoke America sees BRICS heads of states placing Iran on their agenda of speculation for joining BRICS. They utter that Iran might serve as a balance or as the focus point for the Muslim Middle East world vs the Arabic Middle East world. This has led to an absurdist paradox. Even President Trump might see such a balance appealing. Yet President Trump is the reason that BRICS and Iran are fuelling speculation about Iran becoming an i with BRICS. Adding to absurdity is Brazil, India and South Africa being peaceful non-aligned countries. In fueling the speculation and provocation each member of BRICS has taken meaningful steps to strengthen bilateral ties with Iran. BRICS has taken a consistently supportive position on Iran, throughout the American sanctions debacle. BRICS backs Iran’s inalienable right to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.
It is illogical, irrational, utterly foolish and even dangerous to contemplate Iran being part of iBRICS because of this. More logical, more rational and extremely prudent would be for Iran to relinquish its missile and nuclear programmes and to no longer support or ferment regional instability through terrorist organisations such as Hamas and Hezbollah. Sanctions would be dropped, and Iran would flourish economically. However, then Iran might no longer have the clout appeal that fuels the iBRICS speculation. Iran would be economically and politically welcomed into the Western fold. In doing so it might lose the potential of being that small i in iBRICS.