Merchant of Death
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Press Releases

Iran (and its Latin American Ambitions) Move to the Forefront
Iran's somewhat outsized global ambitions are finally getting some of the scrutiny they deserve. The decision to test fire its most advanced mid-range missile as pressure mounts because of hidden nuclear facilities is the most visible action.

But less noticed was Venezuela's surprise acknowledgment that Iran is helping it find uranium, of which Venezuela may have a good deal. Such help from Iran had previously been announced as possible, but not recognized as currently underway.

Mining Minister Rodolfo Sanz said Iran has been assisting Venezuela with geophysical survey flights and geochemical analysis of the deposits, and that evaluations "indicate the existence of uranium in western parts of the country and in Santa Elena de Uairen," in southeastern Bolivar state.

"We could have important reserves of uranium," Sanz told reporters upon arrival on Venezuela's Margarita Island for a weekend Africa-South America summit. He added that efforts to certify the reserves could begin within the next three years.

The announcement came as revelations that Iran has secretly been building a uranium-enrichment plant provoke concerns among countries including the U.S., Russia, France, Britain, Germany and China.

The announcement comes as Venezuela, which had been rebuffed at several turns (particularly by Brazil and Argentina) in trying to get nuclear technology because of its insistence of including Iran in any deal, has undertaken to build a nuclear village with Iran. Russia is willing to work with the rogue coaltion.

Brazil and Argentina rebuffed Venezuelan overtures in 2005 because of the insistence of Chávez that Iran be allowed to participate, despite international sanctions.

This is hardly the repudiation by an anti-Chavista bloc. After all, Chávez helped finance the successful election of the president of Argentina and Lula has more credible credentials with the Latin American left than Chávez ever could or should.

But they realized that any help of to Iran's nuclear program would be a violation of UN sanctions. In addition, Venezuela, although Venezuela is a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and has signed a safeguards agreement with the IAEA, has refused to sign the Additional Protocol, which would give the agency broader inspection powers and obligate Venezuela to provide "the location, operational status and the estimated annual production capacity of uranium mines."

An expansion of Iran-Venezuela ties are necessary "given their common interests, friends and foes," Ahmadinejad said after a meeting with Chávez last month in Tehran, according to Iran's semiofficial FARS news agency.

Unfortunately, their common interests are the destruction of the United States, Israel, Colombia and other, their common foes are the same and their common friends are Hezbollah and other non-state terrorist and criminal organizations such as the FARC.

Given that Iran has lied at every step on its nuclear program and Chávez has gone out of his way to avoid any semblance of transparency in his dealing with Iran, one cannot assume that this is simply an alliance for the good of humanity, or for the peoples of either nation. Venezuela does not have an energy deficit, nor the ability to easily build nuclear power plants.

It can, with Iranian help and oil money, acquire nuclear technology. But it is among the least economically viable methods for generating power, as Chávez claims.

Which leads one to wonder why the insistence on spending scarce resources for the least viable option. Or could it be there is something Chávez is not disclosing? I would be shocked, shocked I say.

However, the Wall Street Journal-available here for a limited time only) has a story today which shows the limits of such an alliance, at least for now.

It is clear that, unless the deal is directly related to the diplomatic recognition of Iran and the building of mechanisms to bypass international sanctions, Iran is hard pressed to fulfill its obligations.

Its bicycle plants don't receive needed parts, a car factory produces only 20 cars in three months, rather than several thousand. Angry Nicaraguan's drive visiting Iranian dignitaries away etc.

The vast promises of Venezuelan aid (unless it is to the FARC) are also largely only in the imagination of Chávez. Yet Iran is able to make functional missiles and Venezuela is able to purchase sophisticated weapons, trainers and training. When the system chooses to be efficient and productive, it can be. And that is the danger.
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