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The Venezuela-Iran Games
Almost lost in the shuffle of Gaza and the transition is the story of the Turkish interdiction of Iranian arms shipments to Venezuela

The shipment of 22 containers, carried by truck from Iran to Turkey for shipping, was labeled "tractor parts."

Instead, the inspectors halted: a suspicious shipment bound for Venezuela from Iran because it contained lab equipment capable of producing explosives, a customs official said Tuesday. Suleyman Tosun, a customs official at the Mediterranean port of Mersin, said military experts were asked to examine the material, which was seized last month, and decide whether to let the shipment to go to Venezuela.

"Experts from Turkey's Atomic Institute determined there were no traces of radioactive material, but said the equipment was enough to set up an explosives lab," Tosun said. "We have asked the military to send experts to determine whether to resume the shipment."

Doesn't exactly sound like tractor parts, particularly when Some barrels, labeled with "danger" signs, contained chemicals.

As the AQ Khan network showed, it is relatively easy to ship almost anything illicit by ship, because the shipping cargo containers are so seldom actually inspected. Iran, a direct beneficiary of Khan's efforts, helped perfect the hiding of dual us and nuclear equipment.

This is in addition to the weekly Tehran-Damascus-Caracas flights that carry mostly cargo, rather than passengers as promised. And in addition to the wholly-owned Iranian bank granted special license to be created and operate in Venezuela. So it doesn't bode well.

The striking things about the relationships Iran and Venezuela develop across Latin America is that two things almost immediately happen: almost all dealing are opaque, untraceable and carried on outside of normal institutional channels; and the striking retreat in terms of democratic process and human rights.

Among the most obvious recent examples are Ortega's fraudulent election counting in Nicaragua's recent municipal elections, which both the U.S. and EU condemned; and the recent report on Bolivia completing its worst year in decades in terms of press freedom and attacks on journalists.

If the Bolivarian Revolution, joined with the Iranian theocracy were bringing winds of freedom and human rights across the region it would be one thing. But to bring not only economic chaos but a total lack of transparency (not that there was much before) and a sharp return to the worst authoritarian practices of governments of both right and left, marks a sad day.

Venezuela and Iran both dismiss the recent seizure in Turkey as being unimportant. And both decline to explain what the shipment was. It is likely only a speed bump on the road to whatever Iran and Venezuela are trying to do, but shows that attention is warranted.
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