Over the past couple of months I’ve been keeping an eye on what might eventually evolve into a more well defined “Axis of Evil” in the modern era. Much of this has centered around Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s recent moves to establish himself as a dictatorial autocrat and build a new alliance with Vladimir Putin. Another would-be member of this nasty little club appears to be Kim Jong-un. And while relations between Putin and Iran suffered some recent PR stumbles, it looks like they may be renewing their military agreements in short order. As all of this was going on I wondered if this revised Axis of Evil might be recruiting more members from authoritarian nations around the world and one of the possible candidates on my list was Venezuela. With the news coming out this week, all I can say is that sometimes I really hate it when I’m right.
As Fox News reports, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro isn’t making direct overtures to the Russians just now, but he is building bridges with the leadership in Iran, and that’s a relationship that doesn’t bode well for anyone.
Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro made room in his high-pressure agenda to receive Iran’s foreign minister over the weekend, and he made sure the meeting was broadcast on national TV.
Maduro gave Mohammad Javad Zarif a warm welcome in the Presidential Palace of Miraflores. They shook hands as they announced an alliance to stabilize oil prices.
“We continue to build common ground and a new consensus on stabilizing oil markets, strengthening industries, strengthening OPEC, to strengthen the closeness and alliance with the production countries of OPEC,” said Maduro as he greeted Zarif, the highest-ranking Iranian official that has visited Venezuela since 2013.
This toxic relationship should be alarming to the west for a number of reasons. It’s an alliance which actually offers significant benefits to both nations, unlike North Korea’s efforts to butt in on Putin’s social club. Kim Jong-un has little to offer anyone beyond his possession of nukes, but Venezuela is still sitting on vast crude oil deposits and has the technology to produce them. This makes them of tremendous interest to OPEC in general and Iran in particular, as they all struggle with sagging energy prices in an American dominated market. For his part, Maduro has a huge problem in the fact that his people are literally starving and there are food riots going on in the streets. He could use not only a serious influx of cash and resources, but a strong ally with military capabilities in case the going gets particularly rough.
Maduro makes little secret of his disdain for the United States and his admiration for socialist powers. He’ll do business with us if he has to (and they still export to the United States massively) but he would clearly prefer to be a leader more in the mold of Hugo Chavez. Setting up a more formal alliance with Iran puts Venezuela in an uncomfortably powerful position and they are geographically located where they can be far more of a nuisance to us. This authoritarian boys’ club seems to be spreading in an era where America’s dominance and influence abroad is waning. If we’re not careful, we’ll be in a brand new cold war with enemies more powerful and influential than we might have envisioned only ten years ago.