Iran returns to Latin America to resume its anti-U.S. operations

Cuba’s communist Castro regime and its socialist allies in Venezuela and Nicaragua have rolled out the red carpet to Iran so it can resume its anti-U.S. operations in Latin America.

Steven Johnson in Foreign Policy:

Iran Is Working Hard to Revive Anti-U.S. Operations in Latin America

Reactivating old alliances in America’s soft underbelly is not as easy as it seems.

Just as Iran’s adventures in the Western Hemisphere were beginning to fade from memory, Iranian passenger jets began landing in Venezuela again in late April. Industry sources reported that the Iranians were providing parts and catalysts to restart dilapidated refineries as well as military trainers and drones to help the government tighten control over its own security forces and increasingly desperate population. According to a Bloomberg report, Iran even flew out some $500 million in gold bullion as payment for services rendered. In May, five tankers loaded with gasoline left Iranian ports for Venezuela. While these actions appear to be a response to a distress call from a once close ally, they are also a reminder of Iran’s unfinished business in the Americas—and the pivotal role Teheran hopes that Caracas can still play in reviving Iranian influence in the region.

To be sure, Iran has significant history in the Americas. Its relationship with Venezuela goes back at least to 1960, when both countries were founding members of OPEC. After the 1979 Islamic Revolution that deposed the U.S.-supported Shah, Iran developed close ties to Cuba and Nicaragua, aligning itself with those communist regimes in thwarting U.S. influence. With the election of the strongman Hugo Chávez in 1998, Venezuela opened its doors to Iranian cooperation on a broad range of internal projects and helped it navigate difficult cultural waters to broker alliances with Bolivia’s populist president Evo Morales and Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa. Key to Iranian-Venezuelan collaboration was a personal relationship that developed between Chávez and then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who made frequent visits and signed as many as 300 agreements. However, the two countries’ relationship lapsed in 2013 when Chávez died and Ahmadinejad left office.

By some accounts, there was growing disappointment among Iran’s senior leaders over years of costly investments that never paid off. A joint “anti-imperialist” auto factory in Venezuela never met production goals and produced poor-quality cars that didn’t sell well. A Caracas-Tehran airline route, established in 2007 despite low traffic, hemorrhaged money and ceased operations in 2010. Oil ventures soured with contracts that Iran saw as disadvantageous, while potential mining deals failed to go beyond exploration. In fact, many of the highly touted mineral resources fell into the hands of Colombian guerrillas and criminal gangs. In the end, current Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro’s incompetent financial management and practice of recycling corrupt cronies through top leadership positions probably made further cooperation unpalatable.

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