Iran and Venezuela have signed a 20-year cooperation plan “united by a common vision” to “stand up to American hegemony,” according to the agreement, while undermining the United States’ security in its own backyard. Venezuelan President Maduro met with Iranian President Raisi earlier this month and drafted the agreement to counter “threats and sanctions by enemies and imperialism.” As Iran and Venezuela upgrade their bilateral relationships to the ‘strategic’ status, the U.S. and Israel grow increasingly wary of the geopolitical message the two authoritarian leaders are promoting.
Iran has supplied light crude oil to Venezuela in recent months to address Venezuela’s growing energy crisis, while Venezuela processes the Iranian oil in its refineries, thus creating a new market for Iran’s energy despite strict sanctions imposed by the U.S.
Iran’s regime has sold drone technology to Venezuela since 2007 but is now looking to increase arms sales to the country and region. Last summer, a report noted that Venezuela was considering purchasing long-range missiles and fast-attack boats from Iran. Biden strongly discouraged it by threatening to eliminate any long-range missiles. Today, it seems as though Biden’s warnings were insufficient as two Iranian Navy ships are seen crossing the Atlantic.
This is just the last notch on Tehran’s belt as its rogue regime grows its anti-Western authoritarian axis. Last year, Iran signed a 25-year cooperation agreement with China, and is currently in negotiations with Russia, slowly expanding into strategically pertinent areas.
This week, Argentinian officials grounded a suspicious plane whose flight path included Iran, Russia, and Venezuela. The plane is part of a three-plane fleet belonging to Emtrasur, the cargo division of Venezuela’s state-owned airline, Conviasa, sanctioned by the U.S. government for involvement in illegal political uses. Even more suspicious is the fact that the entire fleet was purchased from Mahan Airlines, Iran’s state-owned airline that is designated as a supporter of terrorism by the U.S.. The unusually large 19-man crew of the Venezuelan cargo plane included five Iranians. While no weapons were found aboard, the undeniable links to Iran’s regime and the Iranian crew are plenty to cause suspicion.
Mahan Airlines has previously been used to transport weapons, ammunition, and mercenary fighters to the frontlines of Syria, to Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and to Hezbollah in Lebanon. The airline is also closely connected with the Quds Force, the terror wing of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Iranian dissident groups and Israel are urging the U.S. to recognize this impending threat and take immediate action as Iran is exporting weapons, technology and state-sponsored terrorism to expand its sphere of influence into the U.S.’ backyard.