As the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has dominated world headlines, Iran has participated in the mourning of the departed leader. Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Chavez became close over their mutual hatred for the United States.
The nature of the bond stems from the classic “my enemy’s enemy is my friend” rationale. While Washington may have a temporary surge of relief that Chavez will no longer haunt its foreign relations, Iran still presents several concerns to Capitol Hill and will carry on Chavez’s anti-American campaign.
Both Ahmadinejad and Chavez have collaborated on several occasions for various inter-regime economic and social programs. In January 2012, the leaders held a press conference and shared in their negative sentiments toward the U.S. At the event in Venezuela’s capital city of Caracas, Chavez remarked on American skepticism of Iran’s alleged nuclear program.
“That hill will open up and a big atomic bomb will come out” Chavez said on mocking the U.S.
Washington has feared that the Venezuelan government has provided financial aid to Iran’s nuclear technology. Another area of concern expressed by U.S. officials is speculation that Iran-sponsored Hezbollah members are residing in Venezuelan territory. The extremist Shiite Muslim group has made a name for itself after the Iranian revolution and has since called for U.S. military intervention on several occasions.
Back in 2007, Chavez urged the European Union (EU) to discontinue support to the United States on sanctions against Iran for its active role in nuclear development. Chavez was open about his shared animosity with Iran towards the U.S.
"I'm sure the Iranians would be willing to withstand an attack by the U.S. and ... counterattack. Here are two brother countries, united like a single fist. Iran is an example of struggle, resistance, dignity, revolution, strong faith. We are two powerful countries. Iran is a power and Venezuela is becoming one. We want to create a bipolar world. We don't want a single power,” Chavez said.
Americans’ increased dependency on oil certainly comes at a disadvantage for attempting to improve relations with both Iran and Venezuela. Now that Chavez’s successor will most likely be Venezuela’s current vice president, Nicolas Maduro, Maduro will most likely not extend a friendly hand to Washington.
The same goes for Iran in that efforts will be made to harbor oil away from U.S. consumption. Although Chavez’s death may appear beneficial for improving U.S. relations abroad, he has left behind prevalent anti-American sentiments that will be difficult to shake.