Alwaght- Although administration of Iranian President Sayyed Ibrahim Raisi has adopted ‘pivot to the East’ strategy and since its assumption of power in August 2021 has made substantial success in implementing this strategy by bolstering relations with Asian nations, the principalist government has not ignored other strategic parts of the world. Latin America is one of these parts that has had a specific place in the Islamic Republic’s foreign policy, and Raisi’s administration is seriously following this policy regarding this region. As part of this policy, Foreign Minister Hussein Amir-Abdollahian in recent days visited three Latin American countries of Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua and meet with their senior officials.
Implementing past agreements a priority to FM
Nicaragua was the FM Amir-Abdollahian’s first destination in Latin America and he met and talked with the officials of this country. Nicaraguan officials stressed the need to boost the relations between the two nations, especially in energy and oil diplomacy. The groundwork to these economic ties was laid in October as the two sides agreed on oil products exports to Nicaragua.
During Amir-Abdollahian’s visit, Nicaraguan officials emphasized on the expansion of economic relations and using capacities of Iran’s technology in various areas. Regarding the achievements of his trip to Nicaragua, Iran’s FM emphasized that he recently, together with the Nicaraguan counterpart, signed a comprehensive document on long-term cooperation between the two countries in Tehran. During the recent visit, he went on, an MoU on the mechanism of cooperation and political consultations was signed between their foreign ministries. Amir-Abdollahian further said that the ambassadors of the two countries and the embassies actively follow up the relations and the positions of the two countries on international issues, and the support of the two countries to each other in international organizations is on the right track. By signing this new MoU, the two countries hope for an upgrade in their business and economic partnership in the near future.
Venezuela was the FM’s second stop, with the two sides having discussed bilateral cooperation. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, pointing out to the two countries’ experience of countering common challenges, underscored the need for the two nations to up the level of their ties. The Venezuelan leader described Tehran and Caracas as “brave and anti-imperialist.” It is noteworthy that during Maduro’s visit to Tehran in June, Iran and Venezuela inked 20-year strategic cooperation document, and the Iranian FM’s visit to Caracas is crucial to implementing this agreement.
Cuba was the last stop to the FM in Latin America. The two sides condemned “cruel” American sanctions and interference in their domestic affairs under the ruse of human rights advocacy and emphasized boost to their bilateral ties. The continuation of cooperation between the two countries in international forums and the exchange of high-ranking delegations between the two countries and the increase of economic relations were among the other topics FM Amir-Abdollahian and Cuban officials focused on.
After concluding his visit, Amir-Abdullahian described its results as “positive” and in a Twitter post he wrote: “In Nicaragua, Venezuela and Cuba and in meetings with their senior officials, the strategic solidarity of independent countries in West Asia and Latin America was emphasized. Economic terrorism and instrumental use of human rights with the aim of creating social pressure on the people in independent countries have become ineffective and unilateralism has reached a dead end.”
In their meeting with Iran’s Foreign policy chief, the Venezuelan, Nicaraguan, and Cuban officials very decisively expressed their readiness to cooperate with Iran in all areas. An important issue addressed in these meetings was cooperation to counter the unilateralism and oppressive sanctions of the US, with these countries emphasizing that they can foil these American and Western actions by improving cooperation.
Iran has already signed strategic cooperation agreements with China and Russia and is working to take similar steps with Latin America. Accords have been signed with Venezuela and Nicaragua in pursuit of this strategy, and both sides are showing a growing avidity to expand their cooperation in various areas.
Countering the sanctions, the common aim of Iran and Latin America
Iran and Latin American countries have some points in common, which play an important role in further convergence between the two sides. Like Iran, Latin American countries have been struggling with the US sanctions in recent decades. Washington, which declared Latin America as its backyard since 1823 based on the Monroe Doctrine, has always sought to align the regional countries with its policies and punished with sanctions the non-conforming nations.
However, Iran and Latin American states have vast capacities and they can neutralize the American sanctions by convergence. Iran by itself is a czar when it comes to circumvention of the Western sanctions.
Latin American countries, too, have been fighting against US imperialist policies for decades and consider Washington’s interventions as a threat to their national security. The US has repeatedly plotted military coups against the legal governments of Latin America with the support of the pro-Western pawns in order to install subservient governments. In Iran, Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh’s popular government was overthrown by an American-British coup in 1953, and for this reason, there is a commonality between Iran and Latin American countries. Actually, Latin America is not only no longer the US backyard but also by allowing powers like China and Russia to build presence, it can pose a threat to Washington.
The Iranian influence just around the US
Although economic goals were the main driving force behind Amir-Abdullahian’s visit, its achievements are not limited to economic matters. The powerful presence of Iran in the US backyard indicates that the policy of isolating the Islamic Republic has met its failure and Tehran has managed to challenge the hegemony of the US around the American borders, and it is a threat to Washington that Iran will closely monitor its movements from now on. Latin American countries are not intimidated by Washington’s threats and are eager to cooperate with the Islamic Republic and are not afraid to declare solidarity with Iran, something demonstrating that the US dominance in the Caribbean has ended.
The international changes over the past year and rise of new global polarizations all signal a transition from the unilateral international order. Iran, meanwhile, has chosen the right path diversifying its foreign relations with the East and Latin America. Diversification of the allies blocks easy American implementation of sanctions on Tehran and Latin America would provide a considerable help to the Islamic Republic in this policy. In August last year, Iran, along with Russia and China, held major naval drills in Venezuela, sending a message to the US that days of hit and run are gone and the rivals have the power to hit back at the American interests.
Significance of Latin America
Caribbean states have vast capacities that will play an important role in economic alliances and polarization in the future. Fertile lands, along with advanced industries and huge mines, have turned Latin America into a precious gem that grabs attention of all countries.
The fact that Russia, China, and Turkey have sought to deepen their ties with Latin America and sign many economic deals with them is indicative of paramount place of this region in the future global developments. These countries, majorly on the anti-US front, seek to end the US dollar dominance and their push for membership of China and Russia-lee BRICS group is part of this agenda whose arrangements and infrastructures are being made.
Data suggest that 25 percent of world’s forests and arable lands are located in Latin America and two-thirds of Latin American countries have access to rich mineral resources. 65 percent of global lithium reserves, 42 percent of silver reserves, 38 percent of copper reserves and 21 percent of global iron reserves make Latin America one of the richest regions in the world. These huge capacities are a good opportunity for Iran to upgrade its global position by expanding partnership with these nations.
30 million hectares of arable land in Venezuela are a good opportunity for Iran to strengthen economic interactions by this country by investing in this vital sector. Even though Venezuela is among the countries with the largest oil reserves in the world, it faces difficulties producing oil. Tehran has provided a lot of assistance to Caracas in recent years in this sector. The agreement to revamp Venezuela’s largest refining complex, officially called Paraguana Refinery Complex, by Iranian experts, if implemented, can meaningfully take to the next level their cooperation. When Venezuela was facing a fuel shortage, Iran helped solve this crisis by sending fuel shipments in May 2020, and cooperation in energy sector between the two countries is unfolding.
Iran’s non-oil exports to Venezuela last year were around $40 million and Venezuela’s exports to Iran were about $20 million. New deals and the 20-year strategic cooperation document are slated to increase this volume to worth of $500 million annually by 2025. Iran has previously ventured with Venezuela in areas such as car production, a cement factories, a dairy factory, and housing, and if this partnership is applied to other Latin American countries, it will mark a great victory for Iran.
Cuba like other Latin American countries has been grappling with the American sanctions for over two decades. Still, it is a global forerunner in medical science and pharmaceuticals and actually can neutralize many of the restrictions imposed by the US sanctions. Experts suggest that Iran-Cuba partnership in biotechnology and pharmaceutical products has a high potential for expansion. Also Cuban market is a good destination of Iran’s petrochemical products, fertilizers, food, dairy products, and fisheries. Iran’s investment in Cuba’s energy sector and the imports of minerals, especially nickel and zinc, tobacco and special and supplementary medicines from Cuba can meet Iran’s needs.
A country of huge oil and gas reserves, Iran can export its products to Latin America and meet part of its need for energy. Iran has considerable technological, industrial, and trade capacities that can help Tehran establish its foothold close to the rival US using investment in Latin American industrial sectors and non-oil exports to the region. The Iranian investments in Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua with a cheaper cost is a win-win equation for the two sides.
Aligned stances on the world stage
Iran and the Latin American states have almost similar positions in the UN and they have always denounced the US’s unilateral policies and interference in other countries, something showing how aligned Iranian and Latin American policies are. Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba along with Iran are members of the Group of Friends in Defense of the Charter of the United Nations that held a meeting in Tehran in November. The group is meant to eliminate the US unilateralism by means of cooperation of developing countries and to instate a new world order.
In addition to political and economic drivers, cultural ones can bring Iran and Latin America closer. As observers put it, anti-imperialism, fight against oppression, rejection of foreign hegemony, and reliance on historical and cultural originality all can shape a framework driving Iranian-Latin American cultural and historical interaction expansion.
The US has always worked to foist its culture on other countries and create a global coexistence resting on beliefs swayed by Washington. But Iranian-Latin American cultural synergy can beat this American arrangements, and this a universal demand. Iran’s deep approach to culture and achieving success against West’s cultural invasion can set an example for Latin American states, and the tighter this alliance, the more successful it will be. In recent years, the Latin American leaders have well figured out this fact.