Posted by Wordsmith on 26 September, 2009 at 6:35 am. 7 comments already!

IRAN
Love at First Sight
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (R) greets Venezualan President Hugo Chavez in Tehran July 29, 2006. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi (IRAN)

Last November, MataHarley mentioned about how Russia was planning to help Hugo Chavez build a nuclear energy program. Of course, like the typical power-hungry dictator that he is, all he claims to want is to acquire nuclear power for clean energy and peaceful medical purposes.

At this point, they are still in the planning stages, with Chavez explaining, “not to worry, folks”:

“I say it before the world: Venezuela is going to start the process of developing nuclear energy, but we’re not going to make an atomic bomb, so don’t be bothering us afterward … (with) something like what they have against Iran,” Chavez said Sunday.

The socialist president is closely allied with Iran and defends its nuclear program while the U.S. and other countries accuse Tehran of having a secret nuclear weapons program.

What, what, whaaaat?! Countries accusing Tehran of ambitions to deceive the “international community” on nuclear programs? No way!

Iran’s deception (no surprises there) and the failure of the international community to curb its nuclear ambitions, is inspiring the Viper of Venezuela to emulate the defiance of Iran. Equally troubling, is news of nuclear collaboration by this budding “Axis of Unity“:

the label that Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez have themselves chosen for their alliance. The rise of this partnership, according to Morgenthau, dates from Ahmadinejad’s election as president of Iran in 2005. At that point, said Morgenthau, what had been relatively routine ties between the two countries “changed dramatically.”

Over the past four years, the two despotic rulers have exchanged multiple visits, struck extensive military and business deals between their two countries, supported each other in cultivating policies and practices hostile to the U.S. and introduced each other to like-minded actors in their respective regions of Latin America and the Middle East.

Morgenthau cited reports that Iran has been building and running mysterious factories in parts of Venezuela so remote that they lack such basic amenities as restaurants and grocery stores. He added that since 2006, Iran has been embedding advisers with the Venezuelan military–which has thrown out its old U.S. army field manual and replaced it with instructions in asymmetric warfare as taught to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps and Iranian-backed terrorist groups Hezbollah and Hamas.

Iran has also opened a bank in Venezuela, the Banco Internacional de Desarrollo, or BID. With Iran already under a long list of U.S. sanctions, as well as under a number of targeted sanctions by the United Nations, the U.S. Treasury last October added the BID to its blacklist. But Venezuela itself is under no broad sanctions. Its banks enjoy access to the U.S. financial system. Morgenthau warned that this is a “perfect” sanctions-busting setup for Venezuela to help Iran process dollar-denominated purchases of materials needed for making missiles, nuclear weapons and roadside bombs.

Morgenthau highlighted two investigations, publicly announced by his office this past year, that have uncovered “a pervasive system of deceitful and fraudulent practices employed by Iranian entities to move money all over the world without detection.”

One of these investigations, for which Morgenthau said further results may be announced within the next 30 days, already led to a deferred prosecution agreement this January. In that instance, a British bank, Lloyd’s TSB, agreed to $350 million in fines and forfeitures for stripping out details that would have identified as illegal more than $300 million worth of Iranian transactions running through the U.S. financial system. Another investigation led to the indictment this spring of a Chinese company, LIMMT, and its manager, Li Fang Wei, for using aliases and shell companies to get around U.S. sanctions meant to block payments involved in “shipment of banned missile, nuclear and so-called dual-use materials to subsidiaries of the Iranian Defense Industries Organization.”

Morgenthau warned that “based on information developed by my office, the Iranians with the help of Venezuela are now engaged in similar economic and proliferation sanctions-busting schemes.”

The international body seems adept at issuing “serious threats”, “harsh warnings”, “strong reprimands”, with military action (although unstated) off the tables. The IAEA appears inept at preventing illegal nuclear proliferation. Sanctions did not deter the nuclear ambitions of Saddam; nor have they deterred North Korea or Iran- the other two nations in President Bush’s “Axis of Evil” triumvirate. Nations undermined sanctions against Saddam by doing business with the Butcher of Baghdad.

The most chilling line in Morgenthau’s talk is hypothetical. But set amid a wealth of detail about mysterious factories, disturbing shipments, covert illicit finance and shared interests of “two of the world’s most dangerous regimes”–by which he meant Iran and Venezuela–it sounds like no idle comment. Morgenthau noted that Venezuela’s location “Is ideal for building and storing weapons of mass destruction far away from Middle Eastern states threatened by Iran’s ambition and from the eyes of the international community.”

This is a different picture from the congeniality implied by President Barack Obama’s handshake with Chavez in April at a Summit of the Americas.

So why is Morgenthau going out on a limb to sound the alarm? He’s no Republican cowboy. He’s a Democrat, whose credentials include a ringing endorsement of President Obama’s pick of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor when he testified at her confirmation hearings in July. Now 90 years old, still spry, but planning to retire at the end of December, Morgenthau as New York District Attorney has spent 34 years pounding one of America’s most vital law enforcement beats.

What this legendary DA has discovered about growing ties between Iran and Venezuela has evidently left him so concerned that he specifically asked for a Washington venue to deliver his public briefing on the subject. He spoke at a lunch at the Brookings Institution, hosted by a think-tank program called Global Financial Integrity, and The American Interest magazine. The full text of his remarks is now posted on his office’s Web site.

Morgenthau noted that his office and other law enforcement agencies “can play a small but important role” in trying to stop the flow of illicit funds, which he called “the lifeblood” of Iran’s nuclear and weapons programs. But he also spelled out that “Law enforcement in the U.S. alone is not enough to counter the threat effectively.”

That sounds like a plea to federal authorities, all the way up to President Obama, to get serious about stopping the rise of the Iranian-Venezuelan “axis of unity.” If this is to be tried via sanctions, then the going has evidently been far too slow and erratic. Morgenthau did not make a direct call for broad sanctions on Venezuela, but he certainly made a terrific case for doing so before the clock strikes midnight.

While Morgenthau was speaking in Washington, Chavez was continuing an 11-day tour that further underscores Venezuela’s fast-growing role as a hub in Latin America for interests deeply hostile to the U.S.

This included Chavez’s stopover last weekend in Iran; this was his eighth visit there since Ahmadinejad became president. This time, making no secret of a shared interest in nuclear technology, the two tyrants declared their intention of setting up an Iranian-Venezuelan “nuclear village.”

And while the U.S. administration has been pondering options such as more stringent efforts to squeeze Iran’s regime by way of sanctions on its imported gasoline, Venezuela and Iran have been forging ahead on ways to counter such measures. From Iran, Chavez announced a deal in which Venezuela later this fall would start exporting 20,000 barrels of gasoline per day to Iran.

AP News:

Iran is helping Venezuela to detect uranium deposits and initial evaluations suggest reserves are significant, the South American government said Friday _ the same day world leaders criticized the Islamic republic of secretly building a uranium-enrichment plant that could be used to make an atomic bomb.

The Economist:

The foreign-policy section of Venezuela’s “First Socialist Plan—2007-2013” (dubbed the “Simón Bolívar National Project”) assigns an “integral political alliance” with Iran, Syria, Belarus and Russia the highest priority outside the Latin American and Caribbean region. The rationale for this curious hotchpotch of alliances is the “common anti-imperialist interests” of those five countries—the imperialist in question being America.

Among the scheme’s aims is the strengthening of national defence and sovereignty. Not only the tanks but sophisticated anti-aircraft systems make up the order to Russia. Mr Chávez, a former lieutenant-colonel in Venezuela’s army, says these weapons will make it “very difficult for foreign aircraft to come and bomb us”. Having already spent at least $4.4 billion on Russian weapons, he has now secured an additional $2.2 billion credit-line from that country to lavish on more military hardware. Three submarines are among other possible purchases, press reports say.

In pursuit of his goal to “break North American imperialist hegemony”, the Venezuelan president has deployed to the full his prime asset—the country’s oil reserves. Thus Iran was promised 20,000 barrels of petrol a day, in potential defiance of sanctions advocated by America and despite Venezuela’s current problems supplying its own markets with fuel. Russia’s national oil consortium was also assigned a patch of the Orinoco heavy oil belt.

~~~

His avowed calculation is that by helping to stir up trouble for America in many places simultaneously, he can bring about the collapse of “the empire”. The regimes he is so assiduously cultivating are, by this account, the nucleus of a new world order. Although this seems far-fetched perhaps the world should start to take him a little more seriously.

Chavez clearly wants to play in the big leagues and as a counter-force to the United States.

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