Iran and Venezuela: A Dangerous Alliance

If Iran does not already have nuclear weapons, it is getting very close. There is substantial dispute over how much notice there might be of Iran's actual production of a nuclear weapon capable of missile delivery. It is the position of the United States that there will be substantial warning, yet Israel thinks there will be very little:

"We’re all looking at the same set of facts," one senior Israeli intelligence official said on a recent visit to Washington, talking about the exchanges with Mr. Obama’s national security team. "We are interpreting them quite differently than the White House does."

In the past, Israel has been more perceptive in this area than has been the United States.

Venezuela and Iran have been allies for quite some time, and their relationship has become more intimate. Venezuela recently agreed to provide 20,000 barrels of gasoline per day to Iran. This seems a bit odd; Venezuela has been importing gasoline due to difficulties experienced with its state-run refineries and oil fields and is considering an increase in the (extremely low, subsidized) domestic price of gasoline. According to Venezuelan President Chávez:

[Payment for the gasoline] will be deposited in a fund established in Iran and will serve to finance the purchase of equipment and technology.

Venezuela is also thinking seriously about establishing nuclear facilities:

According to PressTV, a Tehran-based, English-language television channel, Chavez also said Venezuela is working on a plan for a “nuclear zone” in Venezuela, with Iranian assistance.

This, in the context of a declaration by Iranian President Ahmadinejad that "Iran and Venezuela share the important mission of helping oppressed, revolutionary nations and of extending the anti-imperialist front across the planet." From the standpoint of the folks living in the United States and in Latin America, Venezuela with an atomic bomb would be worse than Iran with an atomic bomb. Venezuela hardly needs nuclear facilities for peaceful purposes. Neither does Iran.

In a lengthy article, Manhattan district attorney Robert Morgenthau expressed substantial concern over current strengthening of the Iran-Venezuela alliance, noting that the two countries have grown increasingly close in recent years. The article deals principally with banking and the probable use of Venezuelan banks to launder money from Iran to facilitate Iranian importation of proscribed materials and technology. This problem relates to the banking relations which persist between Venezuela and the United States. However, the article also notes:

My office has learned that over the past three years, a number of Iranian-owned and controlled factories have sprung up in remote and undeveloped parts of Venezuela. These factories have emerged in small towns in interior Venezuela with a lack of basic infrastructure and simple amenities like restaurants and groceries. The lack of infrastructure is offset by what experts believe to be ideal geographic locations for the illicit production of weapons.

The article is scary and should throw into question the recent efforts directed by the United States at appeasing both countries. The hands-off approach of the Obama administration during the recent brutally suppressed and now dying protests against the Iranian reelection of Ahmadinejad and the decidedly hands-on and highly intrusive approach to the so-called coup in Honduras are examples of this appeasement. It appears to be completely irrelevant how free, open, and transparent the scheduled November Honduran elections will be. There appears to have been no softening of the United States position that the results of the elections will not be recognized unless Zelaya is returned to power.