The events of the past few months have once again demonstrated that Iran’s malicious activity is not confined to its Middle Eastern neighborhood. Last month, the Justice Department indicted four Iranians with conspiring to kidnap a prominent Iranian-American journalist and transport her to Venezuela before sending her to Iran for possible imprisonment and torture, or even death.
Weeks earlier, an Iranian ship loaded seven attack boats similar to those harassing Western warships in the Gulf to steam into Venezuela. The ship only made a last-minute turn to the North Atlantic following pressure on Caracas from Washington and other states not to allow the ship to dock at a Venezuelan port. Another Iranian ship was heading for Cuba, carrying missiles, and was also turned back after US pressure on Havana.
Iranian malicious interventions in Latin America date back at least to the 1994 bombing of the Jewish community center AMIA in Buenos Aires, which left 85 dead and hundreds injured. Tehran’s ties with Venezuela flourished during the reign of Hugo Chávez. The Venezuelan dictator made his first visit to Iran in 2001, and he and Iranian leaders exchanged visits on several occasions until his death in 2013. During this period, the two countries reached hundreds of agreements , in particular on energy production, infrastructure, industrial cooperation and a joint agreement. development bank.
At the same time, Iran and Venezuela seemed to coordinate their anti-American policies; in 2007, they announced an “axis of unity” against what they called “US imperialism,” which has long been a term of Latin American leftists hostile to their neighbor to the north.
Relations have only grown stronger since Nicolás Maduro took over from Chávez. Indeed, Iran was one of the few countries to continue to recognize Maduro as president of Venezuela after the National Assembly invalidated the 2019 presidential election and recognized Juan Guaidó as interim president. In 2020, Iran began shipping oil to Venezuela, in defiance of U.S. sanctions against the two countries. More generally, bilateral trade between them, once tiny, continues to grow and now amounts to several hundreds of millions of dollars.
Although it has taken a hard line against the planned Iranian shipment of missile boats to Venezuela, the Biden administration appears reluctant to step up its pressure on the two countries as it continues to pursue what appears to be growing. more to be the chimera of a revived Iranian nuclear deal. This reluctance certainly goes against the spirit, if not the letter, of the Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act, which president obamaBarack Hussein ObamaSteve Ricchetti is Biden’s right-hand man in the Senate Biden appoints Mark Brzezinski as US ambassador to Poland On The Money: Trump asks court to block the release of tax returns to Congress | The private sector creates 330,000 jobs in July, well below expectations MORE signed almost ten years ago, in December 2012.
In particular, although it recognizes Guaidó as interim president of Venezuela, the Biden administration did not follow through on the request made earlier this year by a bipartisan group of congressmen from Florida – where thousands now reside. Venezuelans – who asked the administration to appoint a new special representative for Venezuela. The role of this official, as the State Department describes it, is “to advance the objective of American policy to help Venezuelans return their country to a democratic, prosperous and stable nation.”
In this regard, it should be noted that outgoing envoy Elliot Abrams was double-haired as Special Representative for Iran, reflecting the Trump administration’s hard line towards both countries.
It’s time for the White House to appoint a new envoy to fight Maduro’s illegal regime and its continued disregard for US sanctions in coordination with the government in Tehran. Failure to do so will only prove to the Iranian mullahs that Washington is not really serious by claiming that it will seek a follow-up to any resumption of the nuclear deal to combat Iran’s destabilizing activities in the Middle East and beyond. It is certainly not a perception, let alone the reality, that the Biden administration should wish to foster.
Dov S. Zakheim is Senior Advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and Vice Chairman of the Board of the Foreign Policy Research Institute. He was Undersecretary of Defense (Controller) and Financial Director of the Ministry of Defense from 2001 to 2004 and Deputy Undersecretary of Defense from 1985 to 1987.