Iran seeks new anti-US allies

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is on a tour of 4 Latin American countries. In the context of tensions between Iran and the US due to recent heavy sanctions, the visit is an attempt by Iran to gain political and economic support from Latin America.

 Mr. Ahmadinejad is scheduled to visit Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba and Ecuador, which all maintain cold relations with the US. In recent years, Iran has strengthened diplomatic and economic relations with these countries and through this visit, President Admadinejad is seeking to recruit them as anti-US allies. Mr. Ahmadinejad decided to make Caracas the first leg of his 5-day tour. One year ago, the US imposed sanctions on Venezuelan oil companies for supplying 2 cargo ships to Iran. In 2008, the US imposed sanctions on Iran’s banks in Caracas accusing them of financing Iran’s weapons program. This week, the US expelled the Venezuelan General Consul in Miami for allegedly plotting with Cuban and Iranian agents to organize cyber attacks against the White House, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Pentagon when she was the Venezuelan Councilor of Culture in Mexico 5 years ago. These moves have brought Iran and Venezuela closer. Before his visit to Caracas, Mr. Admadinejad praised his Venezuelan counterpart as a hero in the fight against imperialism, serving his people and putting an end to political and economic dependence on other countries. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the Nicaraguan President was a revolutionary against hegemony who was pursuing independence, progressiveness and equality for his country. Obviously, the US doesn’t want disaffected leaders in Latin America to increase cooperation with each other. Washington immediately warned that it’s not the time for Latin American countries to increase cooperation with Iran either economically or with respect to security. In response, President Hugo Chavez said Latin American countries are independent in making their own decision about developing relations with other countries and said the US should focus on solving its own problems and not intervene in other countries’ internal affairs.

According to analysts, with the US and its western allies tightening sanctions to isolate Iran and Latin American countries disinterested in relations with the US, Iran has an opportunity to recruit a network of allies. If the EU bans Iran’s oil, it will have found new markets in Latin America. Iran’s Latin American allies can also back the country in opposing US warships in the Persian Gulf. During his visit, the Iranian President will sign cooperation agreements in energy and infrastructure development, including plans for a hydro power plant in Ecuador. Ecuador will purchase weapons, a radar system and some military vehicles from Iran. Iran will help Nicaragua build a dam and a seaport. Iran’s investment in Latin America is expected to increase after Ahmadinejad’s visit. Mr Ahmadinejad’s Latin American visit undercuts US sanctions and ensure that Iran will not be on its own if war breaks out in the Gulf.

Anh Huyen