The Secret Behind Expansion of Iran’s Ties with Latin America

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Hossein Sobhaninia

Latin America is a region in western hemisphere comprising three regions of South America, Central America and the small countries of the Caribbean Sea. All dwellers of these countries except for those of Brazil who speak Portuguese, speak Spanish. Since the two languages are among Latin languages, the region is called Latin America.

In the nineteenth century, most countries of this region were among first colonies which gained their political independence from colonialist countries. However, due to the economic backwardness and kind of relations which had been established and continued to exist between the region and the big powers, the countries were dependent and faced the challenges of recession and economic crises alternatively to the extent that the countries in this region are considered among the most indebted countries of the world.

The Latin American countries are very different in terms of area, population, resources, economic growth, political stability and even system of sovereignty as well as domestic and foreign policies and follow very different and even contrasting approaches. For this reason, even if Latin America from geographical point of view is a solid area, world countries establish close ties with some of the states in this region with respect to their own interests and national objectives and based on the variety of countries in this region, yet, they do not have friendly ties with some other countries.

Iran’s foreign policy is not excluded from this rule. During the past decade, especially with the coming to power of anti-imperialist governments in the region, the Islamic Republic of Iran has enhanced its diplomatic moves in Latin America. In a selective manner and taking up only a few countries including Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia and Nicaragua, Iran has established close and sincere ties with these countries. Ties with Latin America has been top on the agenda of Iranian diplomacy since the culmination of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Here, an important element prepared psychological grounds for the relations.

The Islamic Revolution in Iran coincided with the socialist revolutions in Latin America which had anti-US characteristics. Here, the case of Nicaragua can be mentioned because revolutions occurred in these two countries almost simultaneously. In other words, as Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said during his visit to Iran, these two revolutions can be called twin revolutions.

Meanwhile, the hostile US moves against the political revolutionary systems of these two countries were carried out similarly and in some cases in parallel with one another. At this point, the case of Iran-Contra affair can be mentioned: The clandestine sale of arms to Iran by the US was aimed to prolong the war of attrition between Iran and Iraq. The profit gained from sale of the arms was sent to Contra rebels who fought against the Nicaraguan government. However, during the recent decade, Iran’s diplomacy paid more attention to Latin America especially after the coming to office of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. Although Venezuela was the gateway of Iran’s diplomacy to Latin America but by strengthening ties with Bolivia and Nicaragua, Iran’s strategy towards Latin America became more coherent and formulated and the spectrum of ties expanded from one country to three.

Fortunately, the two countries of Bolivia and Nicaragua welcomed Iran’s willingness to establish friendly ties and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was warmly welcomed by Daniel Ortega and Evo Morales in the capitals of the two countries.

During Ahmadinejad’s visit to the two countries, several agreements were signed in the field of oil and gas in Bolivia and in Nicaragua on construction of refinery, electricity power stations, ports and rendering assistance to the country’s shipping industry. Ortega visited Iran some time ago and Morales arrived in Tehran recently. The two officials signed considerable agreements with the Iranian side during their visit to Tehran.

In line with the nature of relations which was mentioned earlier, the parties to the relations, namely Iran on the one hand and the three Latin American countries on the other follow dual objectives. However, it should be taken into consideration that the objectives of the two sides are aimed at one thing, using the status of the other party to advance their macro strategy in foreign policy.

The three Latin American countries try to secure a reliable economic and political partner for themselves by establishing friendly relations with Iran.

Among their regional counterparts, these three countries do not find any country except for Cuba which opposes the hegemonic policies of the United States. Thus, they have focused their attention on countries beyond the Atlantic Ocean and above all on Iran and are trying in this way to add up to number of their friends.

Campaign against imperialism and oppression as well as seeking justice and independence are repeatedly mentioned in speeches made and positions taken by the leaders of these three countries. These are the subjects that Iran lays emphasis on, too. On this very same basis, Iran’s objective is to use these countries to impose pressure on the United States.

On the whole, the policy of shifting towards Latin America has expanded the geographical scope of Iran-US conflict and intensified US hostility towards Iran.

Although the attention of Iran’s diplomacy to Latin America in the recent decade has helped impose pressure on the age-old foe, that is the United States, but Iran should not concentrate its relations with these countries on the basis of persons so that the visits between Iranian officials and those of the three countries would not be limited to the heads of state. Even in macro economic agreements, the relevant ministers of the negotiating parties should be present and the role of parliaments and parliamentary debates should be stressed. Parliamentary visits and parliamentary friendship groups should also be strengthened.


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