Iran–Venezuela relations

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Iranian-Venezuela relations
Map indicating locations of Iran and Venezuela

Iran

Venezuela

Iran–Venezuela relations (Spanish: Las relaciones de Irán y Venezuela; Persian: روابط ایران و ونزوئلا) have strengthened substantially in recent years. The two countries are strategic allies. The presidents of Venezuela and Iran, President Hugo Chavez and President Ahmadinejad, respectively, had both described themselves on the world stage as opposed to "US imperialism". Citing this commonality of opinion, they regard each other as allies, and they have embarked on a number of initiatives together. For example, on January 6, 2007, the two announced that they would use some money from a previously-announced $2bn joint fund to invest in other countries that were "attempting to liberate themselves from the imperialist yoke", in Chavez's words.[1] The two presidents declared an "axis of unity" against "US imperialism".[2]

History[edit]

President Chávez had developed strong ties with the government of Iran, in particular in the area of energy production, economic, and industrial cooperation.[3] He has visited Iran on several occasions, the first time in 2001,[4] when he declared that he came to Iran to "prepare the road for peace, justice, stability and progress for the 21st century".[3] Mohamed Khatami also has visited Venezuela on three occasions. During his 2005 visit, Chávez awarded him the Orden del Libertador and called him a "tireless fighter for all the right causes in the world".[5] In May 2006, Chávez expressed his favorable view of the production of nuclear energy in Iran announced by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and denied that they had plans to develop atomic weapons.[6] His relationship with Iran and his support of their nuclear program has created concern for the US administration.[7]

On March 16, 2007, Chavez said in a television interview that he disagreed with President Ahmadinejad's alleged call to "wipe Israel off the map" (which is a mistranslation) saying "I don't support causing harm to any nation.".[8] (See also Israel-Venezuela relations.)

Chávez paid a two-day visit to Iran when the government faced international criticism for continuing its nuclear program and backing Hezbollah guerrillas.[9] On Chávez's birthday, July 28, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad presented Chávez with Iran's highest honor for "supporting Tehran in its nuclear standoff with the international community".[10]

Chávez pledged that Venezuela would "stay by Iran at any time and under any condition." He said "We are with you and with Iran forever. As long as we remain united we will be able to defeat (U.S.) imperialism, but if we are divided they will push us aside".[11]

Reuters reported that Chávez told a crowd at the University of Tehran, "If the U.S. empire succeeds in consolidating its dominance, then the humankind has no future. Therefore, we have to save the humankind and put an end to the U.S. empire". The reports adds that Chávez slashed out at Israel and labeled the 2006 Lebanon offensive as "fascist and terrorist."[12]

Academic relations[edit]

At a time when Venezuela and Russia were working on nuclear cooperation, the Iranian Minister of Science, Research and Technology, Mohammad Mehdi Zahedi, headed a delegation to Caracas to hold talks with high-ranking officials in order to follow up on implementation of agreements which had been inked between the two countries in 2006. Additionally, two technical and educational committees for implementing Iran-Venezuela agreements were also set up. The Iranian delegation visited the Venezuelan Foundation for Seismological Research, Caracas Central University, Simon Bolivar University, and the Venezuelan Institute for Scientific Research.[13] Beyond the political-military sphere the two countries also pledged to work together academically in the commissioning of a new university programme at the existing, tuition-free Bolivarian University, with a focus on teaching socialist principles and to promote discussion of "21st century socialism." The government of Venezuela said this followed with plans to establish the University of Civilizations under accords recently signed with Iran.[14]

Trade relations[edit]

As of the end of 2008, Iran's beneficence to Venezuela had paid dividends in the form of an Iranian ammunition factory, a car assembly plant, a cement factory and even direct air service between Tehran, Damascus and Caracas courtesy of Iran Air, amongst others.[15]

Trade between Venezuela and Iran grown steadily and the two countries have launched joint ventures in a number of sectors, including energy, agriculture, housing, and infrastructure (2008).[16][17] The value of industrial development projects carried out by Iranian firms in Venezuela stands at around $4 billion (December 2008).[18] Iran-Venezuela bilateral trade spiked, from less than $189,000 in 2001 to almost $57 million by the end of 2008.[19]

In 2007, Iran Air, in partnership with Conviasa, started a Tehran-Caracas flight via Damascus.[20][21] The flights along with the partnership between Conviasa and Iran Air ceased in 2010.[22]

Venezuela threat to sell F-16 fleet to Iran[edit]

In 2006, the Iranian media have published series of reports that suggested Venezuela was interested to sell its 21 F-16 Fighting Falcons to Iran.[23] The rumours were confirmed, when a Hugo Chavez advisor told the Associated Press that: "Venezuela's military is considering selling its fleet of U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets to another country, possibly Iran, in response to a U.S. ban on arms sales to President Hugo Chavez's government". In response, Sean McCormack, the U.S. State Department spokesman, warned Venezuela and suggested: "Without the written consent of the United States, Venezuela can't transfer these defense articles, and in this case F-16s, to a third country".[24]

Relations with other South American countries[edit]

Trade between Iran and Brazil quadrupled between 2002 and 2007, and it will further increase as much as fivefold, from $2 billion to $10 billion annually. In addition to Brazil, Iran has signed dozens of economic agreements with Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador and Nicaragua. In Nicaragua, Iran and Venezuela have agreed to invest $350 million in building a deepwater seaport off the Caribbean coast, in addition to a cross-country system of pipelines, rails and highways.[16] Iranian firms are also planning to build two cement factories in Bolivia. Other developments include the agreement reached with Ecuador to build a cement factory as well as several other industrial cooperation MoUs (2008).[18] In the four years after Ahmadinejad ascended to the Iranian presidency in 2005, Iran opened six new embassies in Latin America. The new embassies are located in Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Uruguay - in addition to the five already in operation in Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Mexico and Venezuela.[25]

"G-2 summit" and development bank[edit]

During the 2009 G-20 London summit, Chavez and Ahmadinejad held their own meeting which they called the "G-2" summit, at which the formation of a joint Iranian-Venezuelan development bank was announced, initially with US$200 million capital.[26]

Bilateral visits[edit]

During a visit to Iran in 2010 by Hugo Chavez, he condemned "military attack threats against Iran by some countries. We know that they can never thwart the Islamic Revolution." He also said that as a result of such "great threats" it was necessary to "consolidate strategic alliances in political, economic, technological, energy and social areas." Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, also supported the comments for a "strategic alliance;" he also added that "We are united and determined to end the current unjust which dominates the world and replace it with a new world order based on justice. Iran and Venezuela are united to establish a new world order based on humanity and justice. We believe that the only result of bullying movements of imperialism all around the world, and especially in Latin America, will be the fast decline of imperial power." The two countries also signed deals in areas such as oil, natural gas, textiles, trade and public housing.[27]

U.S. Congress Examines Iranian Links[edit]

In early 2012, the U.S. Congress began to voice escalating concern over Iran's interests in Latin America, particularly its relations with Venezuela. On January 18, Representative Jeff Duncan (R - South Carolina) introduced the Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act of 2012.[28] The bill called on the United States to use all elements of national power to counter Iran’s growing presence and hostile activity in the Western Hemisphere. Then, on February 2, Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) convened a Committee on Foreign Affairs hearing on Iranian activity in the Western Hemisphere.[29] Finally, on March 7, Duncan’s legislation concerning the Iranian government’s activities in the Western Hemisphere passed out of the House Foreign Affairs Committee with strong bipartisan support.[30]

Following the hearings, a number of independent reports and position papers were released which appeared to legitimize the threat posed by Iranian activity in the Western Hemisphere. This included a major study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in March 2012.[31] However, it was also suggested that partisan politics contributed to Republicans' interest in the topic.[32]

The Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act of 2012 currently is before the House of Representatives for consideration.[33] If passed into law by Congress, the bill will require the U.S. Secretary of State to submit to Congress a strategy to address Iran's growing presence and activity in the Western Hemisphere within 180 days of enactment.[28]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Iran and Venezuela plan anti-U.S. fund, USA Today, January 14, 2007
  2. ^ "Iran, Venezuela in "axis of unity" against U.S". Reuters. 2 July 2007. 
  3. ^ a b VENEZUELA E IRÁN EN CAMINO HACIA UNA 'ALIANZA ESTRATÉGICA'. El Universal (21 May 2001). Accessed 1 July 2006. (Spanish)
  4. ^ Hugo Chávez de visita en Irán hasta el lunes. El Universal (18 May 2001). Accessed 1 July 2006. (Spanish)
  5. ^ Presidente Jatami recibió condecoración Collar de la Orden del Libertador. Radio Nacional de Venezuela (1 Mar 2005). (Spanish)
  6. ^ Chávez exige respetar Irán y aclara que no tiene plan nuclear. El Universal (21 May 2006). Accessed 1 July 2006. (Spanish)
  7. ^ EE.UU. preocupado por Venezuela. BBCMundo.com (14 Mar 2005). Accessed 1 July 2006. (Spanish)
  8. ^ Chavez opposes Ahmadinejad on Israel, Jerusalem Post, Mar 17, 2007
  9. ^ FoxNews.com Venezuela's Chavez, Iran's Ahmadinejad Pledge Mutual Support. Associated Press (July 29, 2006).
  10. ^ Karimi, Nasser. Yahoo News. Hugo Chavez receives Iran's highest honor. Associated Press (July 30, 2006).
  11. ^ Karimi, Nasser. Chavez, Ahmedinejad pledge mutual support. Canoe Network (July 29, 2006).
  12. ^ Chávez decorated in Iran; initials cooperation pacts. El Universal (July 31, 2006).
  13. ^ http://mathaba.net/news/?x=611701
  14. ^ http://www.kyrgyzstannews.net/story/431505
  15. ^ http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/editorial/outlook/6113854.html
  16. ^ a b http://www.iran-daily.com/1387/3287/html/economy.htm#s349554
  17. ^ http://www.turquoisepartners.com/iraninvestment/IIM-Jan12.pdf
  18. ^ a b http://www.iran-daily.com/1387/3294/html/economy.htm
  19. ^ Goforth, Sean. “Axis of Unity: Venezuela, Iran & the Threat to America.” Potomac Books Inc., 2011. p. iii.
  20. ^ http://www.airliners.net/aviation-articles/read.main?id=108
  21. ^ Romero, Simon (3 March 2007). "Venezuela and Iran Strengthen Ties With Caracas-to-Tehran Flight". The New York Times. 
  22. ^ Venezuela cancels round trip "Terror flight" to Syria and Iran
  23. ^ چاوز: جنگنده های اف – ۱۶ را احتمالا به ایران می فروشیم (Aftab News)
  24. ^ "Venezuela Threatens to Sell F-16 Fleet to Iran". Fox News. 16 May 2006. 
  25. ^ O'Connor, Anne-Marie (13 July 2009). "Iran's Rumored Nicaraguan 'Mega-Embassy' Set Off Alarms in U.S". The Washington Post. 
  26. ^ "Iran and Venezuela open joint bank". CNN. Retrieved 2010-05-05. 
  27. ^ http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2010/10/201010210245244304.html
  28. ^ a b http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c112:H.R.3783:
  29. ^ http://foreignaffairs.house.gov/press_display.asp?id=2186
  30. ^ http://foreignaffairs.house.gov/press_display.asp?id=2241
  31. ^ Stephen Johnson. Iran's Influence in the Americas. CSIS (March 2012).
  32. ^ Eddie Walsh. Why Congress suddenly cares about Iran threat in L. America. The Jerusalem Post (March 20, 2012).
  33. ^ http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/112/hr3783