Key points of the growing cooperation between Venezuela and Iran
Cooperation between Iran and Venezuela has been a constant over the last 20 years since Chávez came to power. Since 1999, Venezuelan foreign policy has been to strengthen ties with ideological allies such as Iran, Russia, China, Cuba, Belarus and Syria, with whom it shares a counter-hegemonic agenda to weaken the international liberal order built and promoted by the United States since WWII.
This coalition has allowed its participants to have alternatives of financing and trade to avoid the sanctions imposed by the United States and Europe, to create sanctuaries for irregular subversive and terrorist movements, and the support of the great powers with veto (China and Russia) to block any initiative of the Security Council against the members of the coalition.
The ties with Iran had their peak during the relationship between Chávez and Ahmadinejad, both presidents made dozens of state visits, established funds for joint projects, promoted investments in both countries, gave each other the highest decorations, among other things. Hugo Chávez always supported Iran on key issues such as the confrontation against Israel and the Iranian nuclear program.
Now, with Maduro, the authoritarian regime has retaken its links with Iran to try to circumvent the financial and diplomatic siege it is suffering as a result of the deterioration of the rule of law in Venezuela, systematic violations of human rights, drug trafficking operations and collaboration with terrorist groups. The American strategy of economic and political pressure on Iran and Venezuela has limited the capacity of both regimes to access resources: thus increasing the dependence between ideological allies.
The collapse of the refinery network in Venezuela and the limitations on gasoline imports resulting from the sanctions has led to a fuel crisis in the country that is accelerating economic deterioration and social tension. As a result, in recent weeks we have seen a significant increase in cooperation between the Islamic theocracy and Venezuela with the shipment of Iranian oil and catalysts to Falcon state in order to reactivate the Cardon refinery, according to AP. The reactivation of some refineries would allow the government to mitigate the shortage of gasoline and curb its damaging effects on economic conditions.
The situation does not go unnoticed by the United States, which views Iran’s growing influence in the Americas with concern. Tensions have been raised by the arrival of Iranian oil ships to Venezuela, their passage through the Caribbean represents a direct challenge to the American preponderance in the region. The United States has raised the stakes by filling an appeal in court to authorize the embargo of these shipments because they are related to the Iranian revolutionary guard that is considered a terrorist group.
The appointment of Tarek El Aissami as Minister of People’s Power for Oil, a man trusted by the Iranian regime because of his links to Hezbollah, has not gone unnoticed. This signal indicates the government’s commitment to strengthening ties with Iran in order to expand its centers of gravity and continue to survive at all costs. In this same direction, Julio Borges denounced on Twitter that 15 illegal flights have been made between Caracas and Teheran with the arrival of Iranian technicians, officials and groups in Venezuela, speculating that cooperation could not be reduced in oil matters but also in intelligence, the arrival of weapons and groups associated with the Islamic regime.
The growing cooperation with Iran is also a result of the nature of the external support for the Maduro regime: Russia and China have calculated how much support and how to present it. On the financial side, they have decreased credits to the regime due to their inability to pay and to recover the oil industry which is the main source of income for the country, but have decided that it is more profitable to have direct participation with concessions for oil exploitation and gold extraction. The oil industry is in such a deplorable condition due to the loss of human capital, the deterioration of facilities and wells, and machinery breakdowns, that not even the Russians were able to get PDVSA to stabilize production.
How far is Iran prepared to go in supporting the Maduro regime to survive? Cooperation will probably be reduced to providing technical assistance in refining and perhaps providing commodities, there will be no more oil ships arriving to Venezuela. In exchange, the Iranians have a safe space for money laundering operations and the presence of members of Hezbollah and the Iranian revolutionary guard, payment in gold for services: a very profitable business.
Written by Francisco de Miranda