The head of the US Southern Command, General Douglas Fraser, said - in a hearing at the US Senate Armed Services Committee on April 5th - the US is concerned about the weekly direct flights between Iran and Venezuela. There are good reasons to worry. Since 2007, the Venezuelan airline Conviasa covers the Caracas-Damascus-Tehran route, better known as the "Axis of Evil Express."

There main reason for concern is that there is a total lack of transparency on what and who is on board these flights. They could well be transporting terrorists and illicit weapons; Washington has reasonable doubt that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is building nuclear weapons and violating international sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program.

It was also reported recently that Venezuela is acquiring a serious arsenal from Russia and China. According to news items, Chavez has purchased weapons for the value of between $12 billion and $15 billion between 2005-2010.

In a hearing at the US House of Representative Armed Services on March 30th, Fraser said he was worried that the automatic weapons sold to Venezuela could end up in the wrong hands. "My biggest concern as for the supply of Russian weapons is the amount of automatic weapons provided to Venezuela and their potential use elsewhere," he stated.

Hypothetical scenarios of war could be against Colombia: pro-Chavez government spokespersons shave been saying that the "empire," the United States, could attack Venezuela through a third country, Colombia. "We have to guarantee peace, because the Yankees have a plan to generate a war between Colombia and Venezuela, of course, to get rid of Chavez, and then the intervention," Chavez said during a television broadcast. In the meantime, the pro-Chavez media outlet, Aporrea, writes that Fraser's comments can be defined as pre-war statements between the US and Venezuela.

From the press:

  • US apprehensive of Iran-Venezuela ties
  • US concerned over relations between Iran and Latin America
  • Cooperation with Latin America is Iran's top priority
  • US concerned about lack of transparency in Iran-Venezuela flights
  • Venezuela, a major arms purchaser from Russia and China
  • Weapons' purchase from Russia
  • Weapons' purchase from China and Europe
  • Lack of transparency in arms purchases
  • "The United States can attack Venezuela through Colombia"
  • Iran's eagerness to further develop relations with Caracas
  • US Department of State to monitor energy agreements between Venezuela and Iran

April 7, 2011

US apprehensive about Iran-Venezuela ties

The head of the US Southern Command, General Douglas Fraser, said the US is concerned about the weekly direct flights between Iran and Venezuela. Fraser also alleged that those could be an opportunity for making military connections, after accusations made by Washington to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez that he is building nuclear weapons and violating international sanctions against Iran's nuclear program.

The flights began in mid-2006, under an agreement between Venezuelan Conviasa and Iran Air. At the beginning, Iran Air operated the service, but only for two months. Then Conviasa took over, and since then it has continued flying from the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, to Tehran.

Relations between the two countries have tightened under Chavez and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who are united in their antagonism to the U.S. government. Venezuela and Iran plan jointly to produce everything from bricks to bicycles, and are also cooperating in the development of Venezuela's oil fields.

The oil-rich nations have announced a $2 billion joint fund to finance investments in Venezuela and Iran, as well as projects in other countries seeking to help thwart US domination. There are also plans to boost joint investments in infrastructure, social and energy projects.

Since 2007, Venezuelan airline Conviasa has been covering the Caracas-Damascus-Tehran route. At the end of 2009, a direct flight between the capitals of Venezuela and Iran was announced, which the Venezuelan government says is a leap forward in the growing relations between the two countries. Press TV (Iran)

April 6, 2011

US concerned over relations between Iran and Latin America

The United States has expressed concerns over the increasing relations between the Islamic Republic of Iran and Latin American countries. General Douglas Fraser, the head of the US Southern Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee […] that Iran has expanded its ties in Latin America beyond its close relationship with Venezuela, AFP reported.

Fraser said that Iran has nearly doubled the number of embassies and cultural centers in the region, adding that the number of Iran's embassies has gone up from six in 2005 to ten in 2010, and that it is also building cultural centres in 17 countries. He further pointed out that Iran hosted heads of states of three countries, Bolivia, Guyana and Venezuela, in the last year. […]

Last month, Washington warned Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez against "violating" sanctions on Iran; however, US officials noted that there was no evidence Venezuela had violated the sanctions.

Cooperation with Latin America is Iran's top priority

Last week, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his Paraguayan counterpart Fernando Lugo Mendez discussed ways to expand relations between Tehran and Asuncion, and called for more cooperation between the two states.

President Ahmadinejad has expanded Iran's cooperation with many Latin American countries since he assumed office in 2005. The promotion of all-out cooperation with Latin American countries is now among the top priorities of the Islamic Republic's foreign policy.

According to statistics released by the International Monetary Fund, Iran's trade with Latin America has witnessed a considerable rise since 2008. Brazil is Iran's leading trade partner on the continent, followed by Argentina. Peru is also a major importer of Iranian products to the region, and the Islamic Republic's trade with Ecuador has soared. Tehran's trade with Venezuela is also on the rise. Iran has made significant gains in trade with other partners in the region, including Chile, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay. Press TV (Iran)

April 5, 2011

US concerned about lack of transparency in Iran-Venezuela flights

Since 2007, Venezuelan airline Conviasa covers the Caracas-Damascus-Tehran route. At the end of 2009, a direct flight between the capitals of Venezuela and Iran was announced The lack of transparency in the flights between Venezuela and Iran is a matter of concern for the United States, said […] Gen. Douglas Fraser, the head of the US Southern Command.

"I am concerned about the fact that there are flights between Iran and Venezuela on a weekly basis, and that visas are not required for entrance into Venezuela or Bolivia or Nicaragua," Fraser told the Senate Armed Services Committee, as reported by AFP. […] Fraser said that "close ties" between Venezuela's President Hugo Chávez and Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are still largely for diplomatic and commercial purposes. El Universal (Venezuela)

March 23, 2011

Venezuela, a major arms purchaser from Russia and China

Venezuela has been a major arms purchaser from Russia, China and other suppliers in the last five years, but has failed to acquire the necessary competence to deal with hypothetical conflicts, says a non-governmental organization specialized in security and defense.

This oil-producing country is one of the "big four" arms buyers in the region, along with Brazil, Colombia and Chile. "Venezuela has to maintain and renew obsolete weapons systems," Rocío San Miguel, head of Citizen Control for Security, Defense and the Armed Forces, told IPS.

To this end, the country may have spent or committed between $12 billion and $15 billion in the period 2005-2010. Purchases and orders from Russia alone have amounted to some $8.5 billion, according to San Miguel.[…]

[In March] the [Venezuelan] opposition in parliament sought to call Defense Minister General Carlos Mata to answer questions about arms acquisitions and other military issues, but the initiative was blocked by the lawmakers of the governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), who have a majority in Congress.

Ministers with responsibility for political and economic areas did appear in parliament to account for their actions, but they did not answer lawmakers' questions about military spending.

Weapons' purchase from Russia

Among the weapons systems bought in the last five years from suppliers in 14 countries for the 117,000 members of the armed forces in Venezuela, more than 30 were purchased from Russia and half a dozen from China. Purchases and orders from Moscow included 100,000 Kalashnikov 103 and 104 assault rifles, rifle and munitions factories, 5,000 Dragunov sniper rifles, 36 Sukhoi Su-30 fighter aircraft, 48 Mi-17 multi-purpose helicopters, 10 Mi-35 attack helicopters and five transport helicopters.

Also, 1,000 85mm RPG anti-tank rocket launchers, 1,000 IGLA portable anti-aircraft missile launchers, 92 medium T-52 tanks and 137 BMP and BTR infantry combat vehicles were bought. Acquisition of cannon, mortar, rocket and missile launcher systems have been announced, as well as submarines, more combat helicopters and amphibious aircraft.

Weapons' purchase from China and Europe

China supplied Venezuela with 25 K8 tactical training planes, 10 long-range mobile radar systems, and field and communications equipment. The acquisition of J-10 fighter planes has been announced.

Anti-riot trucks and light aircraft were also bought from Austria; command centers and electronic warfare control systems from Belarus, and pistols from Brazil. Anti-riot equipment, ships and launchers are being ordered from Spain, Cessna planes from the United States, gunpowder factories from Iran and naval cannons from Italy.

Hovercrafts have been ordered from the U.K., RBS-70 portable missile systems from Sweden (before the Swedish government imposed an arms embargo on Venezuela in 2006), and naval anti-aircraft systems from Switzerland.

Venezuela's traditional strategy has been to maintain diversified sources for military procurement. But left-wing President Hugo Chávez has changed the purchasing pattern, preferring China and Russia to traditional suppliers like the United States, France and Israel, as part of what he calls a new "multi-polar" geopolitical strategy.

Lack of transparency in arms purchases

In San Miguel's view, "the most serious issue is the lack of transparency in arms purchases; the amounts spent and the payments made; and the inconsistency between these acquisitions and the defense concept favored by the present government: a prolonged people's war."

She said the branches of the armed forces (army, air force, navy and national guard) compete for arms purchases, and that the army, where Chávez served until 1992, when as a lieutenant colonel he headed a failed military coup, nearly always wins. "Dysfunctional military purchases and allocations," San Miguel said, "translated into seriously questioned operational capacity, could have a historic cost if the nation turns out to be incapable, in spite of its substantial oil revenues, of providing itself with an adequate defense system."

"The United States can attack Venezuela through Colombia"

In her view, for Venezuela's traditional conflict hypotheses -- such as a possible war with neighboring civil war-torn Colombia -- the operational capacity of the armed forces and its relative combat power are at a low ebb. The expert stressed that "although Venezuela has shaken hands with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, the doctrine and discourse espoused by many pro-government spokespersons continues to be that the empire, the United States, can attack us through a third country, in this case Colombia. […] IPS, by Humberto Márquez

March 16, 2011

Iran's eagerness to further develop relations with Caracas

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a meeting with the Venezuelan Ambassador to Tehran, David Velasquez Caraballo, stressed Iran's eagerness to further develop relations with Caracas in all fields. "Expansion of Iran-Venezuela ties in all domains helps peace, stability and security in the world," Ahmadinejad said […]

During the meeting, he also said that independent nations and governments would not be deceived by Imperialism's plots. "Independent and justice-seeking nations and governments have been vigilant against Imperialism's plots and will not be deceived by them," Ahmadinejad added.

The Venezuelan ambassador, for his part, stressed boosting the bilateral ties, and said, "The Islamic Republic of Iran's Revolution and Venezuelan Revolution can put imperialism aside and design the clear future for the whole humanity."

Since taking office in 2005, the Iranian President has expanded Iran's cooperation with many Latin American states, including Venezuela, Bolivia and Cuba. But the strong and rapidly growing ties between Iran and Venezuela have raised eyebrows in the US and its western allies since Tehran and Caracas forged an alliance against the imperialist and colonialist powers and are striving hard to reinvigorate their relations with the other independent countries that pursue a line of policy independent from the US.

US Department of State to monitor energy agreements between Venezuela and Iran

The US Department of State has announced that it would closely monitor the recent energy agreements between Venezuela and Iran. The US State Department's announcement came after Chavez, on a visit to Iran, signed a number of agreements focused on energy cooperation with Ahmadinejad.

Among the agreements signed were pacts for the formation of a joint oil shipping company and joint construction of petrochemical plants, as well as Venezuela's participation in the exploitation of Iran's South Pars gas field.

Under the shipping agreement, PDV Marina, Petroleos de Venezuela SA's shipping subsidiary, and Iran's IRISL Group, plan to create a maritime oil transport firm that will enable Caracas to sell more than 500,000 bbl of crude in Europe and Asia.

The two sides also reaffirmed an earlier agreement to build a refinery in Syria, Iran's main ally in the region. An agreement to build the refinery was first signed in 2007 with Iran, Venezuela, and Malaysia as partners. Fars News Agency (Iran)

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