13 January 2010

Iran and Venezuela’s Relationship: Iran is Just Looking for a Friend

First off, I would like to give a “Bravo” to our writers on al-sahwa and the fantastic posts that they have been writing lately. You all are truly putting out some great thoughts and ideas with some superb critical thinking.

This inspired me to dust off the analytical cobwebs and place a post. In this post I am going to evaluate why Iran and Venezuela are such good “friends” in the international community. This relationship really seems very unlikely at first look since Venezuela is turning socialist and Iran is a Theocracy.

First one has to takes at look at Iran and its bordering countries to understand Iran and Venezuela’s relationship. When you look at the borders of Iran one must struggle to find one they can really call a good “friend”. Iraq and Iran fought a near ten year long war and Iran loves to remind Iraq of its current military power. Afghanistan cannot be considered a friend of Iran until the Taliban is no longer a threat to that country. Pakistan and Iran supported opposite sides during the 1991-2001 Civil War in Afghanistan (Iran with the Northern Alliance, and Pakistan with the Pashtun Taliban). Turkmenistan has enjoyed good relations with Iran since its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. I would consider them a friend of Iran. Turkey may be friendly to Iran. They have enjoyed increasing trade between their two countries which is reported to reach 20 billion by 2011 [1]. But the problem with sharing a border with Iran is that the relationship always has the potential to turn from “friend” to “foe” quickly due to regional conflicts that can arise. From what I see none of these “friends” who share a border with Iran would likely be willing to stick by them when the going gets really tough.

I think that logically Iran needs a “friend” half a world away. They need someone who has no interest in how Iran treats its people or what it does to ensure its continuing rule. They need a friend that they won’t have a regional conflict with and someone who won’t try to change their status quo. Iran needs an ally that has similar threats to its statehood and who they can have mutually a beneficial relationship. Iran needs a friend that also despises the country that placed them on the “Axis of Evil”. Iran needs someone who has got their “back” against the United States.

Venezuela now comes into the picture. Venezuela and Iran created the base for their current relationship during Muhammed Khatami’s presidency (1997-2005). But I would not consider them good “friends” until Mahmud Ahmadinejad’s presidency started in 2005. The two countries vastly increased their anti US rhetoric together, as well as their economic dealings. It just happened to be that Mahmud Ahmadinejad was elected soon after Bush’s 2005 State of the Union Address where he stated “Today, Iran remains the world's primary state sponsor of terror -- pursuing nuclear weapons while depriving its people of the freedom they seek and deserve.”[4] I see this “friendship” between Iran and Venezuela as a very logical outcome to the United States’ rhetoric and political posture at the time.

Venezuela has made it clear that they have got Iran’s “back”. Venezuela has also made it clear that they will stand by Iran when the going gets tuff. A very good recent example of this is the agreement that Iran and Venezuela reached September 2009. In the agreement Venezuela would export 20,000 barrels of gasoline a day to Iran if the UN imposes sanctions on the country. Another agreement signed at the same time includes an investment of 760 million dollars by Venezuela in the development of Iranian natural gas fields and a 760 million dollar investment by Iran in the development of Venezuela Oil Fields [2].
Another great example of their “friendship” is shown in this Italian article that was written Dec 2008 which states “Iran is using its warm relations with Venezuela to dodge UN sanctions and use Venezuelan aircraft to ship missile parts to Syria, an Italian newspaper reported Sunday……. In return for providing aircraft, Iran has made available to Caracas members of its Revolution Guards and the elite Al-Quds unit to train and reinforce the Venezuelan police and secret services.”[3] Now if helping someone dodge UN sanctions on multiple fronts isn't a good friend, I don’t know what is.

So now what is the “Way Ahead” when dealing with Iran and Venezuela’s relationship? How the US has been handling this relationship in the past couple years is obviously not working. There is a clear correlation between the pressure the United States has put on Iran and their growing friendship. Maybe we shouldn’t give Iran a reason to need a state that has their “back”. I think we should deal with Iran, the way we have been dealing with Venezuela lately. Just ignore the rhetoric, trade with them, and take a back seat on commenting on their politics. Venezuela doesn’t seem to be doing their country a favor by devaluating their currency and nationalizing their economy. Just image what would happen to Venezuela if they really got out of line and the United States cut off trade with them when at least 60% of their exports go to the United States. Too bad we don’t have a trump card like that to hold over Iran and their nuclear program.


[1] “Iran and Turkey expect their bilateral trade volume to reach $20 billion annually in the next three years”
[2] “Iran and Venezuela signed three memorandums of understanding in the energy sector in Tehran”
[3] “Iran using Venezuela ties to duck UN sanctions: report”
[4] “Transcript of State of the Union” Bush 2005

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