For several years now, some individuals in Washington, D.C. have warned relentlessly that the alliance between Iran and Venezuela constitutes a clear and present danger to the security of the United States.
Hugo and Mahmoud, Iran’s missile capabilities + nuclear weapons program and Venezuela’s uranium resources, their shared furious anti-American and anti-Israel views all conjugate into persistent warnings from some Latin America-focused “policymakers” and “experts” on the right in Washington DC that if the US government doesn’t act immediately to end the Iranian-Venezuelan terror threat the land of Lincoln risks being hit by Iranian terrorists based in Venezuela.
Invariably, these warnings from the right in Washington criticize, deplore and lament the indifference, incompetence, and generally poor Latin America policy management of President Barack Obama’s administration.
Of course, if the White House today happened to be in Republican hands, we’d be seeing Washington’s left-leaning Latin America “policymakers” and “experts” attacking the Republican administration’s indifference, incompetence and generally poor Latin America policy management.
The truth is that Washington has a very sad post-Cold War bipartisan track record of consistently screwing the pooch in Latin America. But that’s grist for another post.
For the record, I know most of the individuals in Washington who are warning about the potential threat to the US of the Iranian-Venezuelan alliance. They are intelligent, well-intentioned persons who care deeply about the Americas, having focused on the region throughout much of their careers. I respect them, and am privileged to count several as good friends – which is why it pains me somewhat to pen this first post after a year’s absence from active blogging.
The Iranian-Venezuelan “alliance” cannot be dismissed as unimportant. The formal alliance, forged in 2005 by Hugo Chavez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, institutionalizes the strong anti-US and anti-Israel hatred of both leaders. However, the alliance is sustained basically by Hugo and Mahmoud, and likely will dissolve very quickly when either one (or both) is no longer in power.
I can’t speculate on what Mahmoud’s eventual successor might do. But I do have direct, in-country knowledge about Venezuela’s armed forces, including the hundreds of officers who serve in government posts and nominally call themselves “chavistas” so that they can continue in business for themselves.
The generals that will rule Venezuela for some time after Chavez perishes or is too incapacitated to remain in power have no interest in pursuing or allowing any overt or covert aggression against the US from inside Venezuelan territory. It would be bad for their diversified criminal and quasi-legitimate business interests.
The Iranian-Venezuelan energy, financial and economic relationship exists mostly on paper. Hugo and Mahmoud have signed countless bilateral agreements since 2005 covering everything they can dream up, from farm tractors to nuclear research. On paper, the agreements add up to anywhere from $30 billion to $50 billion of joint investment, mainly in Venezuela.
But most of these planned investments have never taken flight from mere words on paper. The Iranian auto company established in Venezuela has been a bust. My Venezuelan friends in agriculture tell me the Iranian tractors assembled in Bolivar are useless scrap.
Over the past several years there have been persistent reports of nefarious Iranian schemes in Venezuela supposedly aided and abetted by President Chavez.
One report had Iranians secretly mining uranium in Bolivar and Amazonas. The allegation has never been confirmed or disproven, so it’s still floating out there. But I know that the original sources of this claim are private and based in Washington, DC.; and also, that the State Department is skeptical of its accuracy because US intelligence services haven’t found any evidence to substantiate the allegations.
A second report claimed that the Iranian tractor plant in Bolivar actually is a secret facility guarded by Iranians where uranium is processed, or explosives are manufactured, or weapons are assembled, or Iranian WMD components are hidden. This claim also has never been confirmed or disproven officially by the US government. But, again, the original information came from the same private sources in Washington.
A third report by German daily Die Welt a couple of years ago had Iranians building a missile base on the Paraguana Peninsula with the capacity to strike Miami and other targets like the Panama Canal. Once again, the original sources of information for Die Welt’s sensational report were private and in Washington.
Die Welt’s very detailed article on alleged Iranian missile launch pads on the Paraguana Peninsula grabbed my attention immediately. It made no sense at all. Pdvsa has its Paraguana Refining Complex on the peninsula, a 950,000 b/d-capacity behemoth that includes the Amuay and Cardon refineries. Chavez may be virulently anti-American, but he’s not a fruitcake.
Chavez, and even more so Venezuela’s generals, would never allow an Iranian missile base on the Paraguana Peninsula – or anywhere else in Venezuela, for that matter. Chavez loves to insult Washington’s power elites at every opportunity, but he would never risk anything that could possibly justify a US airstrike against Venezuela.
I’ve traveled the Paraguana peninsula many times over the years on business and beach trips. It’s mostly rugged but flat terrain with a lot of low trees and scrub brush because of the strong Caribbean Sea winds that blow incessantly across the peninsula.
One of my Venezuelan gigs is with a local private security company that operates in 14 states including Falcon. When I showed the company’s CEO the article in the Die Welt, he immediately ordered two of our Falcon-based security personnel to conduct an extensive search of the peninsula, with cameras and GPS devices in case they found anything out of the ordinary. These men are former Army infantry officers with combat experience during the 1990s on the border with Colombia, who left active service in 2003. They did not find anything to substantiate Die Welt’s claim.
Most recently, Spain’s ABC reported on 23 January that President Chavez had less than one year to live, according to the latest medical exams done in December. ABC also reported that Chavez had sent his physicians to Brazil to consult with a Shaman recommended personally by President Dilma Rousseff. But the following day, 24 January, Nelson Bocaranda reported on his RunRunes site that the ABC articles contained false information. Bocaranda also said that Washington “once again” was the source of this false information.
Bocaranda lives in Venezuela and is respected internationally as one of the top investigative reporters in Venezuela. The Washington-based original sources of all the false information mentioned so far in this post reportedly have never been in Venezuela.
Oddly, the Washington-based sources that disseminated the above inaccurate information reportedly also are the sources of legitimate documents like the Venezuela-China cash-for-oil loan agreement documents that were disseminated late last year by National Assembly Deputy Miguel Angel Rodriguez.
Real documents mixed with false documents, all originating from the same sources in Washington, DC. From where I’m sitting in Venezuela, the real threats to this country – and the US – are not Iranian at all, but this is another topic that merits a separate post.
So I reached out to my Washington friends, men I respect and admire, with a single question: “Que vaina es esta?”
Without getting too specific for now, I learned that some Venezuelans are supplying the real and false documents to certain gringos in DC. There appears to be some degree of business or political association, and/or friendship, between some of the Venezuelans who fund La Patilla and those who are supplying documents to the gringos.
I also learned, first-hand, that anyone with the temerity to question the accuracy of some of the information is attacked ferociously in turn. Highly inappropriate and unprofessional words like “smear campaign” and “Cuban mole” and “scum” have been uttered.
A “Cuban-style Venezuelan exile community dynamic” has flourished in Miami over the past decade, particularly in places like Weston and Doral. Meaning? The large Venezuelan community now living in Miami and determined to rid their country of the scourge of Chavez and his Bolivarian revolution are making more robust efforts to raise awareness in Washington that Chavez is a truly major threat to US national security. These efforts are mostly positive and legitimate.
But the names of some notorious Venezuelan bankers-in-exile also were mentioned as possible sources of funding for certain… initiatives currently under way in the US capital.
The problem, for this Caracas Gringo, is that almost without exception every Venezuelan banker-in-exile currently residing in Miami, or New York, and points in between, is arguably crooked.
Of course, the US lawyers and lobbyists retained by many of these corrupt bankers will insist that their clients have never been convicted of anything in the US and under US law one is innocent until found guilty in a court of law. That may be true, but there’s a saying in Venezuela, “Dime con quien andas y te dire lo que eres.”
Why is some of the information about the Chavez regime that is coming from private sources in Washington, DC demonstrably or arguably false? Who or what is behind what appears to be a sophisticated disinformation campaign? What is the campaign’s purpose, and who is the target audience?
Two possibilities: Someone is setting up the gringo originators of the false or questionable information for a big fall in the future; or else, the intellectual architects of this disinformation campaign are trying to foster panic inside the Chavez regime.
Chavez hasn’t given any information about his health, except to say he is cancer-free. Even chavistas close to the president aren’t really sure, but they fear the worst given the ministerial and militarist reshuffle under way since December.
How to drive home in Washington that Chavez is a really BIG threat to US and global security? Mahmoud’s nuclear ambitions are the key, because Chavez by himself doesn’t threaten the US at all. Google the topic and it’s clear that the Iran-Venezuela threat meme is gaining traction among Republicans in this presidential election year.
But overstating the alleged Iranian-Venezuelan threat to US security has focused Washington’s always limited attention span re Venezuela away from the real internal threats to the country of Simon Bolivar as Hugo Chavez advances to his last sunset. Stay tuned.