Can a new Iran-Venezuela pact end either country’s economic woes?

Analysis Can a new Iran-Venezuela pact end either country’s economic woes?
The Iranian and Venezuelan political leadership have found a common enemy in Washington. (AP)
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Updated 14 June 2022

Can a new Iran-Venezuela pact end either country’s economic woes?

Can a new Iran-Venezuela pact end either country’s economic woes?
  • Agreement aims to provide stimulus, but experts say ‘two unsuccessful economies do not make a successful one’
  • Iranian drone tech, Venezuela’s uranium reserves could pose risk to Middle East, South America and elsewhere

LONDON: A newly inked cooperation deal between Iran and Venezuela will see the two pariah states further integrate their economies, but one oil-rich and legitimacy-poor state cannot fix the woes of another, according to experts.

On Saturday embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro appeared on Iranian state media in north Tehran to sign a 20-year “cooperation agreement” with his Iranian counterpart, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.

The deal, according to Raisi, will see the two countries cooperate in the oil, petrochemicals, defense, agriculture, tourism and culture sectors. But more than economics, looming large in the signing of the deal — an unlikely covenant between a Shiite theocratic regime on one side and a communist dictatorship on the other — was the US and its sanctions regime against each country, as well as the two nations’ relationships with the wider international community.

“Venezuela has shown exemplary resistance against sanctions and threats from enemies and imperialists,” Iran’s Raisi said. “The 20-year cooperation document is testimony to the will of the two countries to develop ties.”

“Sanctions and threats against the Iranian nation over the past 40 plus years have been numerous, but the Iranian nation has turned these sanctions into an opportunity for the country’s progress.”

But to Yossi Mekelberg, an associate fellow with the MENA Program at Chatham House, the deal fails to address the fundamental problem in both countries: “Bad governance.”

“Iran and Venezuela could be two of the richest countries in the world, and they are not,” he told Arab News. “If you look at their natural resources, not to mention Venezuela with their natural reserves, their oil industries are falling apart.”

Now, when demand for oil and gas is skyrocketing, both Venezuela and Iran should be flourishing — but their governments have prevented the “gold rush” other energy-exporting countries are now experiencing and using to prepare for the post-fossil-fuel age.

“Iran and Venezuela are countries that could prosper — their problem is bad governance. Whether from the left or the clerical parties, regardless, they are failed states,” Mekelberg said.

He pointed out that both countries also have confrontational relationships with the US and wider international community.

“Their alliance is the alliance of those who, under sanctions, can’t really deal with their own domestic issues, then fell foul with their own regions, so they are trying to find a way out of it by supporting each other,” he said.

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“There is an internal logic to all of it, but I don’t think this is going to help them much. They need to deal with the world. Two unsuccessful economies do not make a successful one.”

With regard to energy specifically — each country’s main export — does the deal signed in Tehran do anything to help grow their economies?

Both Iran and Venezuela being major oil and energy producers, “they are not going to export to each other,” said Mekelberg.

The two countries have, however, made some progress in exchange of expertise. Iranian engineers have been involved in the repair of rundown Venezuelan facilities, and will soon start work on Venezuela’s largest refinery.

“But what they really need is investment,” said Mekelberg — something that he does not believe either country is able to do in the volumes required.

While the economic aspects of the deal are likely to raise few eyebrows — the two have cooperated for years in the illegal exchange of oil and other commodities — the potential for further defense cooperation is perhaps of more concern to those in South America, the Middle East and the US.

As early as 2006, Venezuela and Iran cooperated militarily. In a speech given to the Brookings Institution in 2009, a district attorney for New York raised the alarm about Iran’s training of Venezuelan fighters into Hezbollah-style terrorists.

“It has been reported that since 2006 Iranian military advisers have been embedded with Venezuelan troops,” the late Robert Morgenthau had said. “Asymmetric warfare, taught to members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, Hezbollah and Hamas, has replaced US army field manuals as the standard Venezuelan military doctrine.”

And perhaps of further concern is the potential for nuclear cooperation. According to a 2008 report by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Venezuela has an estimated 50,000 tons of uranium deposits ready to be mined.

While warnings of the potential for nuclear cooperation have persisted for years, the stalled progress in the Iran nuclear talks ongoing in Vienna, accompanied by ever-lower breakout times predicted by experts, means that the new agreement could play an outsized role in the development of Iran’s nuclear weapons.




The new deal will see the two pariah states further integrate their economies. (AFP)

“Venezuela’s support for Iran’s nuclear program has fluctuated in recent years, with intelligence sources previously indicating that (the late President Hugo) Chavez discussed purchasing uranium from Iran at the same time as entering talks to buy a nuclear reactor from Argentina,” Rhiannon Phillips, associate analyst MENA at political risk consultancy Sibylline, told Arab News.

“Cooperation on ‘defense projects’ may allude to Iranian partnerships on offensive and combat drone technology, prompting a significant concern for Western allies. This again is not a new trend, with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz outlining his concern about Iranian MoHajjer UAVs in Venezuela earlier this year, with reported ranges of up to 200 km.”

Phillips added: “Iranian support for terrorism is already a key driver of geopolitical hostilities in the Middle East, namely between Tehran (on the one hand) and Saudi Arabia and Israel (on the other hand). But it could elevate concerns among Latin American countries if Venezuelan capabilities exceed or violate the threshold of regional security.

FASTFACTS

• Agreement covers political, cultural, tourism, economic, oil and petrochemical fields.

• Iran has delivered the second of four vessels it is contracted to build for Venezuela.

“Notably, Diego Molano, Colombia’s defense minister, has already expressed concern over the presence of Iranian proxies in Venezuela, namely Hezbollah militants, and the likelihood of these groups seeking to utilize Iranian military technology to carry out domestic attacks.”

Phillips also said that Iran has long been implicated in terrorism in the Middle East — the specter of which the Iran-Venezuela cooperation agreement threatens to resurrect.

The 1994 AMIA suicide bombing of a Jewish cultural center in Argentina killed 85 people and injured hundreds more. In 2006, Argentinian prosecutors formally accused the Iranian government and Hezbollah of carrying out the bombing. And it appears that Argentina has not forgotten that attack.




Both sides are major energy and oil producers and will support each other’s projects. (AFP)

On Sunday, Argentinian authorities grounded a Boeing 747 that was sold to Venezuela by Iran’s Mahan air — an airline closely linked with the IRGC and sanctioned by the US government.

According to an Argentinian Interior Ministry document shared with Reuters by Argentine lawmaker Gerardo Milman, 14 Venezuelans and 5 Iranians were traveling on the plane. Milman warned: “Our information is that this is a plane that has come to conduct intelligence in Argentina.”

It is not clear what the agents were investigating. What is clear, though, is that Argentina, acutely and tragically familiar with Iranian terrorism, is unwilling to take the risk of waiting too long where national security is involved.


New launch date floated for UAE’s moon mission

New launch date floated for UAE’s moon mission
Updated 12 sec ago

New launch date floated for UAE’s moon mission

New launch date floated for UAE’s moon mission
  • Initial launch date was delayed several times to allow for additional pre-flight checks

DUBAI: The UAE’s moon rover is set to blast off “no earlier than Dec. 11” after a series of tests were conducted on the SpaceX rocket.

In a statement, ispace inc., the Japanese firm that built HAKUTO-R Mission 1 lander carrying the UAE’s Rashid rover, said the initial launch date was delayed several times to allow for additional pre-flight checks on the rocket.

The Emirati-made Rashid rover will launch from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, US, at 7:38 a.m. GMT on Dec. 11, embarking on a five-month journey to the moon in the Arab world’s first lunar mission.

 

 

“ispace’s Mission 1 lunar lander was integrated into the SpaceX Falcon 9 fairing and battery charging operations for the lander will continue,” said the firm.

“No issues with the lander itself have been identified. As of today, no major operational changes are planned, with lunar landing scheduled for the end of April 2023.”

If the rover lands successfully, the UAE will be the fourth country to reach the moon.


Somalia praises UAE for its relief efforts in the country

Somalia praises UAE for its relief efforts in the country
Updated 58 min 27 sec ago

Somalia praises UAE for its relief efforts in the country

Somalia praises UAE for its relief efforts in the country
  • Abdul Shakour’s comments were made on the sidelines of a conference held on Wednesday at the Arab League headquarters

DUBAI: Abdul Rahman Abdul Shakour, Somalia’s special envoy for the President for Humanitarian Affairs and Drought, praised the UAE on Wednesday for its relief efforts in the drought-stricken country. 
“The UAE is a pioneer in providing the necessary support to Somalia in this crisis, as it was the first country to respond to the appeal launched by the Somali government to provide urgent relief to those affected by drought,” said Abdul Shakour.
He noted that the UAE fulfilled the needs of approximately 2.5 million people after it airlifted supplies and sent a ship carrying more than 1,000 tons of food and relief items to Somalia. 
Abdul Shakour’s comments were made on the sidelines of a conference held on Wednesday at the Arab League headquarters, which was jointly sponsored by the Arab League and United Nations.
The conference included several of senior officials from Arab philanthropic organizations and UN humanitarian bodies that aim to coordinate actions plans that will help address the worsening food situation in the African nation.


UAE leaders meet Afghanistan’s acting minister of defense

UAE leaders meet Afghanistan’s acting minister of defense
Updated 07 December 2022

UAE leaders meet Afghanistan’s acting minister of defense

UAE leaders meet Afghanistan’s acting minister of defense

DUBAI: UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan and Vice President Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum met with Afghanistan’s acting minister of defense during his official visit to the country.

The leaders discussed bilateral ties and areas of potential cooperation with Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob in two separate meetings in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, reported state news agency (WAM).

They also reviewed issues of mutual interest.


Usufruct rights granted for Egypt’s natural reserves to boost ecotourism

A tourist is seen jet skiing at Porto Marina in Alexandria, Egypt. (REUTERS)
A tourist is seen jet skiing at Porto Marina in Alexandria, Egypt. (REUTERS)
Updated 06 December 2022

Usufruct rights granted for Egypt’s natural reserves to boost ecotourism

A tourist is seen jet skiing at Porto Marina in Alexandria, Egypt. (REUTERS)
  • Highlighting “full transparency through the information and data that is published,” Fouad also talked about the government’s nationwide afforestation program, which will see the number of trees reach 2 million next year

CAIRO: In a significant move, Egypt’s government has granted usufruct rights to investors to expand ecotourism in nature reserves for up to 10 years, provided that the local population is employed in the projects involved.

Yasmine Fouad, minister of environment, announced that the program would begin with the Nabq and Ras Mohammed reserves in South Sinai, where restaurants and cafeterias have been set up.

She highlighted the ministry’s efforts to support the local community by enabling them to sell handicrafts and provide food services to visitors at the nature reserves.

Fouad said that 70 percent of the employees at the Wadi El-Gemal Reserve were from the local population.

The number of stations to monitor air pollutants has been increased to 116 nationwide, she said, adding that the ministry publishes a report every three days on air quality and issues alerts if any concentration of pollutants is detetcted in an effort to protect people’s health, especially those with allergies and respiratory issues.

Highlighting “full transparency through the information and data that is published,” Fouad also talked about the government’s nationwide afforestation program, which will see the number of trees reach 2 million next year.

She revealed plans to rehabilitate Egyptian lakes and stop direct sewage flow into them.

The total number of nature reserves in Egypt currently is 31. Natural reserves are estimated to make up more than 15 percent of the country’s total area.

The idea to establish natural reserves stems from Law 102, passed in 1983.

 


Turkish missiles used in Syria include Europe-produced parts

Turkish missiles used in Syria include Europe-produced parts
Updated 06 December 2022

Turkish missiles used in Syria include Europe-produced parts

Turkish missiles used in Syria include Europe-produced parts
  • An analysis of the components of the wreckage found that the missiles were manufactured by Roketsan, a Turkish defense manufacturer
  • The missiles included components made by US, Chinese and European companies

BEIRUT: Commercial brakes produced by a Dutch company to be used in ambulances in Turkiye instead ended up in missiles used by Turkiye in attacks in northeastern Syria, a report released Tuesday said.
Between September 2021 and June 2022, field investigators with London-based Conflict Armament Research analyzed the remnants of 17 air-to-surface missiles used in strikes in northeast Syria, the report said. An analysis of the components of the wreckage found that the missiles were manufactured by Roketsan, a Turkish defense manufacturer.
The missiles included components made by US, Chinese and European companies, among them electromagnetic brakes with “markings and characteristics consistent with production by (Netherlands-based company) Kendrion NV,” the report said.
Representatives of Kendrion told researchers that the company had agreed in 2018 to supply 20-25,000 brakes to a Turkish company called FEMSAN, with the stated purpose of using them on blood analysis machines fitted to ambulances, the report said. After being notified that the brakes were being used in military applications, Kendrion said it had cut off its business relationship with the Turkish company, the report noted.
FEMSAN did not immediately respond to a request for comment, while representatives of Roketsan could not be reached for comment.
The research was carried out before the most recent round of Turkish airstrikes in northeast Syria, launched last month in response to a deadly Nov. 13 bombing in Istanbul that Ankara blames on Kurdish groups based in Syria — an allegation that the groups deny. Turkiye’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also threatened a ground incursion.
The report did not allege that the sellers of the components used in the missiles had violated any laws, noting that “while the EU has had an arms embargo related to Syria itself since 2011, (Turkiye) has never been subject to sanctions at the multilateral level.”
It added that the case “highlights both the critical importance and the relative complexity of commercial due diligence for material of these types” which “may serve multiple purposes, some of which the manufacturer may not even be aware, and which may be extremely sensitive.”