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Iran, Venezuela and Company
News From Around the World
Friday, November 05, 2010
Alf Cengia

I was genuinely surprised to learn that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has visited Iran eight times. Chavez’s last visit occurred recently in October 2010. During this two day visit he and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad referred to themselves as brothers saying no one could stop them strengthening their ties.

It’s a very long way to visit anyone so I’d be guessing those ties are serious enough already! And somehow I think that Ahmadinejad’s interest in Hugo Chavez extends further than taking advantage of Chavez’s personal popularity in Hollywood and perhaps getting his face on some T-Shirts.

Naomi Campbell, Sean Penn, Danny Glover, Ed Asner, Harry Belafonte and Kevin Spacey are also among the notable aficionados and the usual suspects who love Chavez.

While it’s arguably a myth that Lenin ever used the term “useful idiots” regarding support from sympathetic foreigners, it is nevertheless true that many academics and Hollywood celebrities inexplicably support oppressive regimes while denigrating America. I guess as long as they don’t have to live under a bona fide one….

While what drives Ahmadinejad’s relationship with Chavez is no real mystery, the reason why some of the Hollywood elites love him continues to fascinate me. None of them are falling over themselves to apply for permanent citizenship in Venezuela, or Russia and China for that matter. I’m speculating that it’s probably safer making movies, money and even pursuing a hedonistic lifestyle in bad old America.

During a HBO interview with Bill Maher, Chavez admirer, actor Sean Penn, denied that Chavez ever did anything remotely tyrannical and complained that:

“Every day, this elected leader is called a dictator here, and we just accept it, and accept it…truly, there should be a bar by which one goes to prison for these kinds of lies.”

One person who disagrees with Penn’s sentiments is native Venezuelan Antonio Rumbos who works for the Hudson Institute in the Center for Latin American Studies. He called Penn’s comments “a public display of civil irresponsibility”.

Rumbos suggests that Penn may have made a “mental typo” when the latter claimed that Chavez had: "gone through fourteen of the most transparent elections on the globe." He pointed out that this was more elections than years that Chavez was in office. He further suggests that Chavez is one of those benevolent leaders who is quite happy to have elections - that is, as long as he wins them. And that he isn’t shy about making sure that that happens.


“I know of several groups of brave (and dare I say, progressive) university students who decamped to voting centers during the 2007 and 2009 constitutional referendums to prevent Chavista redshirts (i.e. Chavismo’s version of Brownshirts) from intimidating voters and registered election monitors. In addition, it is a well-known fact that the Centro Nacional Electoral (CNE), Venezuela’s highest electoral body (and theoretically a separate branch of government), is staffed by Chavista loyalists and has been since 2004.”

But getting back to Ahmadinejad and Chavez - both had a few choice words for news reporters. According to Ahmadinejad, he and Chavez are going to build a “new world order” free of US and Western domination. He added that, because it is “God’s promise”, the enemies of their respective nations will “one day go”. Chavez piped in to condemn international and military threats against Iran regarding its nuclear program.

In 2009 researcher/writer Ryan Mauro noted that:

“Venezuela is a critical part of Iran’s efforts to build an alliance of rogue states across the world to challenge the U.S. and provide the regime with help to sustain its fight against the West. To help prepare Iran for possible sanctions targeting its reliance upon imported gasoline, Venezuela has agreed to provide the regime with 20,000 barrels of gasoline per day.” 

Even more interesting - or disturbing:

“This comes on the heels of Chavez’s announcement would allow Iran to build a “nuclear village” inside his country. There is even an unconfirmed Israeli report that Iran is planning on duplicating its nuclear program in Venezuela, allowing for the acceleration and securing of its own efforts.”

In 2008 the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace published a report stating that Venezuela had 50,000 tons uranium reserves.  Last year Fox News also reported that Iran was helping Venezuela to detect uranium deposits.

Obviously, unlike the star-struck Hollywood set, the two leaders have solid reasons of mutual benefit in fostering their relationship. Ahmadinejad has a nuclear reactor that needs feeding and Chavez has the fuel. Their ideologies are compatible - they hate America and Israel - and so it’s great doing business.

But Ryan Mauro also points out that cooperation between the countries goes beyond the “nuclear arena”. He claims that they have created a $200 billion fund in an attempt to lure other Latin American counties into their power bloc against “American Imperialism”.

The ominous potential of the Iranian-Venezuelan partnership wasn’t lost on American Robert Morgenthau who noted:

“That means two of the world's most dangerous regimes, the self-described "axis of unity," will be acting together in our backyard on the development of nuclear and missile technology. And it seems that terrorist groups have found the perfect operating ground for training and planning, and financing their activities through narco-trafficking.”

Turkey deserves another honorable mention here.  Perhaps as a result of its disillusionment with the European Union, it has steadily nurtured a trade relationship with Iran. David Pupkin, writing for IranTracker explores significance of the Iran-Turkey trade partnership, specifically in respect to Iran’s nuclear aspirations. They very first key point made was that since 2000, trade between the two nations increased tenfold.

So we see that the Iranian-Venezuelan enterprise isn’t just a concern for Israel – it should concern Americans as well. It also highlights that sanctions don’t work quite the way they’re designed to do. There will always be a way around them for those who are determined.

Meanwhile, the Iranian nuclear reactor is slowly ticking.

Further reading:
Communist President of Venezuela    
An Iranian Satellite in Latin America 

About Alf Cengia

Last week: Missing the Target in the Middle East

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