FRESH AIR

Iran expands its military presence in South America

Aug 3, 2023 | Oved Lobel

Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro meets Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei in 2016
Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro meets Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei in 2016

Approximately one year ago, I warned that the rise or return to power of left-wing governments across Latin America would lead to an expansion of Iran’s military presence on the continent, noting that “Iran wishes to eventually establish the full array of asymmetric capabilities it possesses… in the region.”

Bolivia, which moved back into Iran’s orbit in 2020, reportedly inked a memorandum of understanding on defence and security with Iran following the Bolivian Defence Minister’s visit to the country on July 20 that may result in the delivery of Iranian drones to the country. Iran’s Defence Minister Mohammad Reza Ashtiani declared the defence agreement with Bolivia “has the potential to serve as a pioneering model for other nations in South America.”

This would make Bolivia at least the second South American country, after Venezuela – wholly controlled by Cuba, which has been the fulcrum of Iran’s regional presence since 1998 – to host Iranian military capabilities. It’s unlikely to be the last.

Reports and video footage also recently emerged indicating that Venezuela has somehow received and is employing Iranian fast-attack boats equipped with Iranian cruise missiles. Iran controversially tried to deliver such boats in 2021 to Venezuela, and it seems it eventually succeeded.

Cuba and Nicaragua are almost certainly next on the list to expand security cooperation with Iran. Given Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi’s tour of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua last month, nobody should be surprised if reports soon emerge of Iranian drones, missiles and other capabilities turning up in these countries.  Leaked documents, apparently based on CIA signals intelligence, suggest that Iran and Nicaragua began discussing such military cooperation in February during the Iranian Foreign Minister’s visit.

Brazil, too, under leftist and staunchly anti-American President Lula da Silva, is likely to begin deepening cooperation with Iran. In late February, two Iranian warships were allowed to dock in Rio de Janeiro despite US pressure, and Iran reportedly plans to send a large delegation to Brazil in a month.

How quickly Iran can proliferate its presence and capabilities across South America will depend primarily on whether the US is willing and able to apply effective diplomatic and financial pressure on pro-Iranian governments. Unfortunately, Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua – not to mention Iran itself – are already extensively sanctioned, yet continue to increase cooperation. Bolivia has now shown it won’t be deterred by US sanctions regarding Iran, either, while Brazil has openly shown contempt for all US-policy priorities, from Ukraine to Iran, and has ignored US pressure and entreaties.

Thus far, the situation does not look promising, and there is little evidence that the Biden Administration is prepared to make deterring South and Central American military deals with Iran a significant priority.

RELATED ARTICLES


(Credit: Shutterstock)

Emboldened Iran is still seeking nuclear capacity

Apr 18, 2024 | Featured, Fresh AIR, In the media
Large anti-Israel protest in Washington, DC, in October. No other issue turns out so many protestors so consistently and globally (image: Shutterstock/ Volodymyr Tverdokhlib)

Where is everybody when Israel isn’t involved?

Apr 15, 2024 | Featured, Fresh AIR
A destroyed section of Al-Shifa Hospital (image: screenshot)

The tragic history of Gaza’s al-Shifa Hospital

Apr 10, 2024 | Featured, Fresh AIR
Crocus City Hall Sign After Attack

What recent ISKP attacks reveal about US, Russian and Iranian intelligence agencies

Mar 27, 2024 | Featured, Fresh AIR
Aid trucks at the Kerem Shalom crossing (Image: Shutterstock)

Contrary to news stories, aid is getting to north Gazans without UNRWA’s help

Mar 26, 2024 | Featured, Fresh AIR
Screenshot 2024 03 15 At 6.19.20 pm

Four Corners “Forever War” episode reflected the endless crusade of its creator, John Lyons

Mar 15, 2024 | Featured, Fresh AIR

SIGN UP FOR AIJAC EMAILS

RECENT POSTS

(Credit: Shutterstock)

Emboldened Iran is still seeking nuclear capacity

Ma60tyfA

Move to recognise Palestine comes at the worst possible time

Screenshot 2024 04 16 At 3.14.28 Pm

‘Flipping of the narrative’: Israel ‘depicted as victim’ after Iranian attack – Ran Porat on France 24 television

Large anti-Israel protest in Washington, DC, in October. No other issue turns out so many protestors so consistently and globally (image: Shutterstock/ Volodymyr Tverdokhlib)

Where is everybody when Israel isn’t involved?

Image: Shutterstock

AIJAC calls on Government to join coordinated international efforts against Iran in wake of attacks on Israel

(Credit: Shutterstock)

Emboldened Iran is still seeking nuclear capacity

Ma60tyfA

Move to recognise Palestine comes at the worst possible time

Screenshot 2024 04 16 At 3.14.28 Pm

‘Flipping of the narrative’: Israel ‘depicted as victim’ after Iranian attack – Ran Porat on France 24 television

Large anti-Israel protest in Washington, DC, in October. No other issue turns out so many protestors so consistently and globally (image: Shutterstock/ Volodymyr Tverdokhlib)

Where is everybody when Israel isn’t involved?

Image: Shutterstock

AIJAC calls on Government to join coordinated international efforts against Iran in wake of attacks on Israel

SORT BY TOPICS