The regime is relishing a sense of undermining its arch rival, the US, as Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi tours fellow sanctioned nations Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, flexing its muscles on Washington’s doorstep.
In a show of unity with the regime allies who also share the anti-US animosity, a raft of so-called economic agreements were announced as a show of force as Iran rattles its saber.
IRNA, the Iranian government official news agency, published an article on the eve of Raisi’s visit, titled “Why Iran's president is welcomed with open arms in America's backyard?”, a celebration of what it hailed as a diplomatic coup de force.
“The political atmosphere and political attitude of the people of this geographical area can be defined in opposition to the US,” read the article, citing Raisi as saying: “The common position between us and these three countries is standing against the regime of domination and unilateralism."
Although Iran and Venezuela signed over two dozen memoranda of understanding during Raisi’s extravagant visit to his comrade Nicolas Maduro’s land and voiced willingness to increase bilateral trade to $20 billion, up from a self-proclaimed figure of $3 billion, both countries are so broke that can hardly keep themselves afloat.
“The level of economic cooperation was at a level of $600 million two years ago but today this has increased trade and economic cooperation to more than $3 billion,” Raisi said in Caracas.
During the signing ceremony, Maduro said the countries had signed a whopping 25 agreements “during this historic visit of President Raisi” stating there was more to come with investments in the pipeline across industries from oil and gas to gold and iron, though no details were provided regarding the agreements.
In a hopeful spirit, he said: “We are signing an agreement to establish a joint shipping company Iran-Venezuela that allows us to raise trade to the levels that President Raisi is pointing out.”
On a more serious note, there is concern over The Monroe Doctrine, a foreign policy position that states any intervention in the political affairs of the Americas by foreign powers is considered a potentially hostile act against the United States.
Raisi’s two-day visit to Venezuela this week along with a huge entourage and scheduled trips to Cuba and Nicaragua -- all sanctioned by Washington – seems like an effort to encroach on the region, especially following similar inroads by Tehran’s allies China and Russia.
Over almost two centuries, the Monroe doctrine has protected the US from unwanted foreign influence in the region. Most recently, it was invoked in the 1962 Cuban missile crisis when Kennedy gave an ultimatum to the Soviets to pull out their missiles. The last time the doctrine made headlines was in March, when two Islamic Republic’s warships docked in Brazil.
Experts wonder if such a historic foreign policy principle could be the answer to the threat of Iranian encroachment.
In an opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal this week, Walter Russell Mead, a fellow in Strategy and Statesmanship at Hudson Institute, said that Raisi’s visit is also a chance for Latin American politicians to gain solace from fellow opponents to the US, blaming capitalism and the US for the otherwise inexplicable failure of their policies, and roll out the red carpet for America’s opponents.
He pointed out that ties with Russia and China are booming, as Moscow has resumed its Cold War efforts to subsidize a Cuban economy and China is offering Cuba billions of dollars in exchange for the construction of a sophisticated intelligence facility to be used against the US.
“But Moscow’s efforts are dwarfed by Beijing’s. Chinese trade with Latin America and the Caribbean rocketed from $18 billion in 2002 to $450 billion 20 years later and is projected to reach $700 billion by 2035,” he said.
“The steady incursions of US rivals into the Western Hemisphere would have touched off a political firestorm at any time since James Monroe issued his famous doctrine,” Mead argued, adding: “But Latin America and the Caribbean are the last remaining places where the American foreign-policy establishment appears to cling to post-Cold War complacency about America’s rivals.”