Tehran’s Quest to Expand its Diplomatic Frontiers in Latin America

Credit: Al-Jazeera

While the West continues to read Iran as a threat to world peace, the Middle Eastern nation aggressively seeks non-traditional friends and markets elsewhere in an often stress-driven attempt to prove that the country is not as isolated, feared and despised as many in Europe and the United States make it out to be. To fight the sanctions that have been imposed on them from the outside, its leaders furiously attempt to enter into new allegiances is an imperative to boost the Iranian economy and support the ruling government’s self-interest.  Once labeled as a charter member of the ‘Axis of Evil’, Iran has recognized the survival strategy of forging new partnerships while retaining old ones.

In 2009, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Brazil, becoming the first Iranian head of state to visit it since the early 1960’s.  Iran’s involvement in Latin America is, without a doubt, widening and deepening. Many in the West, especially the United States see this as a security threat in their own backyard.

Since President Ahmadinejad came into power seven years ago, Iran has built six new embassies in Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Uruguay. The emergence of these embassies shows the strength of Iran’s enhanced influence in the region. Prior to 2005, Iran had five embassies operating in Latin America; and in a span of seven years, they have managed to double that number.

Credit: Patdollard.com

is Iran’s involvement in Latin America strategic, or is it simply a publicity stunt meant to prove Tehran’s diplomatic prowess or the new economy? The answer to this question is bound to vary, depending on the ideological orientation of the respondents. Venezuelan political power brokers would likely disagree with the notion that Iranian diplomacy in Latin America is mainly more than just a publicity stunt, citing that Iran and Venezuela’s important partnership as founding members of Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). On the other hand however, the American perspective believes Iran’s actions appear to be a destabilizing threat to Washington’s diplomatic overtures in the U.S. sphere of influence.

Venezuela and Iran have developed a unique friendship mainly based on mutual distrust towards the U.S, embodied in Hugo Chavez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s similar views on perceived abominating Western imperialism.  The same is true for the Castro government in Cuba, which has welcomed, Ahmadinejad with open arms.  Many argue that Iran’s involvement in the area is mainly political and lacks economic viability. However, one can easily recognize the benefits of a Tehran-friendly South America that refuses to comply with international economic sanctions imposed against Iran.  Likewise, Iran’s burgeoning economic involvement in the region could potentially divert Latin American bound trade away from the U.S., which currently serves as the largest, or near largest trading partner for the vast majority of these countries.

On the political side of this discussion, Iran’s saber rattling rhetoric has been met with suspicion and skepticism in various parts of the world community.  By targeting long-term alliances in Latin America, Iran is hedging its vulnerability to further isolation and global mistrust regarding its supposedly peaceful nuclear program.  Tehran is not about to supersede Washington’s predominance in Latin America, but by encouraging anti-American sentiments amongst its newfound friends, Iran presumptively poses an irritating and complex foreign policy problem for the United States that by no means is readily solvable.

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2 thoughts on “Tehran’s Quest to Expand its Diplomatic Frontiers in Latin America

  • March 23, 2012 at 3:08 am

    Capriles indeed has a chance to defeat Chavez because of the unity of the opposition and the deep concerns about governance issues in Venezuela. Chavez's health is also a wild card. (He has kept secret the kind of cancer he has, but his latest trip to Cuba was not "surreptitious".) However, this article fails to mention Chavez's sizable lead in virtually all polls, the advantages he has as a result of higher oil income, and the image problem that Capriles has as scion of one of the country's wealthiest families. We must acknowledge that the polls could be considerably off, due to the polarization and possible reluctance of some respondents to speak freely in some locations, but it is unlikely that the margin of error is 20 or 30 points. Finally, yes, Capriles says he will maintain social programs, but for better or worse, the social programs of Chavez are not just social democratic welfare programs. They are linked to social mobilization. I would like to add that all commentators are looking only at the presidential election. Of course that is the most import pending contest, but two months later will come important state and local elections. Chavez, health permitting, may win in October because many Venezuelans will not risk their social gains of the last decade, but the December elections will test the true degree of institutionalization of the Bolivarian Revolution, especially of PSUV.

    • April 26, 2012 at 3:10 pm

      Chavez said it 'agrees with all the people of Venezuela, should it be necessary, movement to legalize drugs because' the way of life people of Venezuela and 'uniform. When there are disputes are unified by a single people, even if they fight, their way of life and 'unique. Their consumption and 'standard throughout and' popularly recognized.


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