March 4, 2006

Dangerous Liaisons

Knight Ridder newspaper readers throughout the US woke up today to find this piece by Steven Dudley in their morning paper:
Chavez's wooing of Iran called troubling
They started with an agreement to build tractors, but Iran and Venezuela have quickly moved to oil, cement, homes, auto parts, shipbuilding and perhaps even nuclear energy. The new friendship between the two deeply anti-American governments was further cemented last month as Iranian Parliament speaker Gholam Ali Haddad Adel headed a delegation that visited Venezuela and drew expressions of support from populist President Hugo Chavez.

"It's a natural byproduct of their confrontation with the United States," said Armando Duran, a columnist and former Venezuelan foreign minister. "Chavez looks for an alliance with those who confront the U.S." Iran is not the first or last openly anti-Western Middle Eastern government that has warm relations with Caracas. As an OPEC member, Chavez courted Libya leader Moammar Gadhafi and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, and last month endorsed the Palestinian government of Hamas, which Washington and Europe regard as a terrorist organization.

But few countries are as embroiled in as serious an international controversy as Iran, accused of seeking nuclear weapons. Venezuela joined Cuba and Syria as the only countries to vote in the International Atomic Energy Agency last month against reporting Iran to the U.N. Security Council.

Thing is, when you're dealing with two regimes as opaque as these two, you get the distinct feeling that the public, above-board ties are very much the tip of the iceberg. What do these guys get up to behind closed doors? You can't help but wonder...