Amid US crippling sanctions, Iran and Venezuela sign 20-year cooperation deal

Dáša Židuliaková

Iran and Venezuela signed a 20-year cooperation roadmap during a two-day official visit by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to Tehran on 10-11 June. At a joint press conference, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and his Venezuelan counterpart expressed that the agreement reflected the two countries’ determination to deepen relations in various fields. Iran and Venezuela, the countries with the largest oil reserves in the world, have been heavily hit by US sanctions. Deepening cooperation is therefore likely to be motivated by efforts to counter American sanctions more efficiently. What chances for success for Tehran and Caracas?

According to the state news agency IRNA, in addition to the cooperation deal, Iranian and Venezuelan political representatives have signed documents on cooperation in the political, economic, cultural and tourism sectors. Both countries also aim to strengthen cooperation in the energy, oil and petrochemical fields. Moreover, Ebrahim Raisi and Nicolas Maduro announced at a press conference that from July 18, as a part of the cooperation roadmap, a direct flight will operate between Tehran and Caracas to promote tourism and facilitate trade and economic relations between the two nations. 

In his speech, the Iranian President said that the “foreign policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran has always been to develop relations with independent countries”. Venezuela embodies “a role model of resistance and steadfastness against the threats and sanctions of enemies and imperialism“,” referring in particular to the United States. Ebrahim Raisi declared that the governments of Iran and Venezuela, as well as their people, are determined to resist the pressure of the US sanctions. In his words, this strategy proves “successful because it forces the enemy to retreat“. From his side, the Venezuelan President praised Tehran’s development in science and technology and expressed an interest in using Iran’s experience in this area. He pointed to Iran’s progress due to technological advances in agriculture marked by historic droughts.

The history of close bilateral relations between Tehran and Caracas dates back to the era of former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. With Nicolas Maduro arriving at the presidential office, ties between the two countries have further strengthened as Iran and Venezuela, both OPEC members, became subject to the US sanctions. Despite US sanctions, Tehran ships crude oil supplies to Venezuela, enabling Caracas to avoid chronic domestic shortages that the country has faced in recent years. Since 2020, Iran has provided technical assistance to several Venezuelan refineries, victims of years of poor management, low investment and sanctions. In this context, the possibilities of offsetting American sanctions dominated the discussions during the official visit of the Iranian Petroleum Minister Javad Owji to Venezuela in May earlier this year.

On the top of the conclusion of the cooperation roadmap, the presidents of Iran and Venezuela participated via video conference in the delivery ceremony of the second of four Aframax oil tankers constructed by the Iranian state-owned company Sadra. The supply of tankers aims to help Caracas achieve independence in maritime transport and the self-sufficiency of its oil industry. Tehran also provides Venezuela with food and medicine supplies. What the Islamic republic receives reciprocally for its assistance to Venezuela remains a matter of debate. According to some analyses, Venezuelan gold, which is also subject to American sanctions, is likely to play a role. However, experts say not only the recent visit of the Venezuelan president to Tehran but the overall relationship between the two countries reflects their mutual solidarity in the fight against US sanctions and hegemony.

Maduro’s official visit to Tehran coincides with the Summit of Americas in Los Angeles. Venezuela, along with Cuba and Nicaragua, was not invited by the Biden administration due to a long-term criticism of the regime and human rights violations. Iran was the third country visited by the Venezuelan President after trips to Turkey and Algeria during his Eurasian tour.

The strategic relations between Iran and Venezuela, united against a common enemy, now seem closer and stronger than ever. However, according to many observers, Iran’s and Venezuela’s strategy against US hegemony can only succeed if they receive the support of larger states such as China and Russia.

Photo credit: AFP-Atta Kenare

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