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Panel Looks At Influence of Iran, China in Latin America

Experts last week at a GWSB panel on extra hemispheric influences in Latin America included, from left to right, moderator Doug Lovelace, director of the U.S. Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute, and Cynthia Watson, Doug Farah and Antonio Jose De La Cruz.

Iran’s growing trade with Venezuela has resulted largely from the personal relationship forged between Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez – and the future of that alliance will depend, in part, on those leaders’ futures.

That was one conclusion voiced at a Nov. 27 panel, “Extra Hemispheric Influences in Latin America,” sponsored by GWSB’s Center for Latin American Issues and the U.S. Army War College Strategic Studies Institute.

Doug Farah, adjunct fellow of the Americas Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center, who has written about Iran’s growing influence in Latin America, said that the Iran-Venezuela relationship “began very much as a personal relationship,” unlike the public one that has developed, for instance, between Iran and Brazil.

If the presidents stay in power, the alliance can continue. However, if one leaves, the relationship between the countries would have to become more institutionalized.

Early this year, Ahmadinejad, who has sought allies in the face of international economic sanctions, laughed and joked with Chavez while visiting Venezuela on a tour of Latin American countries sympathetic to his regime’s anti-western position.

Farah also said that, while “multiple hundreds” of young Latin American students have gone for Islamic instruction to Venezuela’s Margarita Island, radical Shi’a websites continue to tout every individual conversion as a major victory.

“That tells me they’re not getting thousands at a time,” he said.  “I just don’t think it’s going to stick.”

Antonio Jose De La Cruz, an energy expert who studies how international terrorists use Latin American countries, traced the complex financial ties between Iran and Venezuela. For instance, the countries have entered into 262 agreements, covering areas such as energy, agriculture, trade and manufacturing, since 2005.

De La Cruz, president and CEO of ICS Group SA, which provides maintenance plans for the oil and gas industries, said Chavez has found support in Iran’s regime for his anti-U.S. views.  The U.S. has long regarded Iran as a sponsor of terrorism, including providing as much as $200 million annually for the Shiite military and political organization Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Iran, meanwhile, has found an economic lifeline in Venezuela’s oil industry. This summer, Iran reportedly finished building one of four oil tankers to be sold to Venezuela.

Cynthia Watson, professor of strategy at the National War College of the National Defense University, who has published nine books on security issues and is currently working on how China’s modernization affects security relations, predicted that China’s trade with Latin America will lessen if its economic growth lags or its government becomes preoccupied with domestic issues such as rooting out corruption.

“Latin America is not high enough a priority for them to sustain the kind of commercial relationship we see,” she said.





Posted by gwsb on December 4, 2012 | Filed under: GWSB News.

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