5 years, 10 months ago
The German paper Die Welt reported on May 13th that construction teams associated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards have made at least an initial survey for what is believed to be an intermediate-range missile base on the Paraguana Peninsula in Venezuela.
An English summary of the article is here.
Alarming aspects of this development:
Note that Venezuela is about 2000 km from Florida. And according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, Iran is making “robust strides” in its attempts to manufacture longer-range ballistic missiles “with the apparent aim of being able to deliver nuclear warheads.”
Citing “Western security insiders,” Die Welt claims that Iran is building the launching pads on the Paraguaná Peninsula, which is on the coast of Venezuela about 75 miles from Colombia. This would appear to be the first stage of a larger project to establish a military base that will eventually be manned by Iranian missile officers and soldiers of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, as well as Venezuelan missile officers who are to receive intensive training from the Iranians.
It is completely unacceptable, under the Monroe Doctrine, for Iran to be placing any sort of strategic missiles in Venezuela, regardless of whether or not the U.S. can be directly threatened at this point.
The intentions of this base are neither benign nor without severe ramifications:
The missile base, when armed, will constitute a multi-level threat. Chavez agreed at the 2010 meeting in Teheran to fire on Iran’s Western enemies if Iran is itself attacked, and Iran agreed to allow Venezuela to use its missiles for “national needs” — a phrase that should cause some sleep to be lost in Bogotá and elsewhere in the region.
The base will also, as the Hudson Institute notes, represent a means by which Iran and its suppliers can sidestep UN sanctions. After the latest round of sanctions, “Russia decided not to sell five battalions of S-300PMU-1 air defence systems to Iran,” the Institute wrote in December 2010. “These weapons, along with a number of other weapons, were part of a deal, signed in 2007, worth $800 million. Now that these weapons cannot be delivered to Iran, Russia is looking for new customers; according to the Russian press agency Novosti, it found one: Venezuela.”
Given the prospect of sophisticated Russian AA defenses being introduced in the region, a line in the sand needs to be drawn and quickly. Even more worrisome: if the U.S. allows the construction of the missile silos to go forward to anything like completion it could prove far more difficult to detect the substitution of long-range missiles for the intermediate range missiles. Moreover, the precedent set by allowing Venezuela a strategic missile capacity could set off a chain reaction in the region. Colombia, for one, would feel compelled to have its own missile capacity. Brazil and Argentina as well. Even smaller regimes like Ortega’s in Nicaragua might be tempted if the Iranians offered some inducements.
In short, the U.S. cannot afford to allow this project to get off the ground. All Latin American eyes are on Obama at this point. Will there be any sort of reaction from the Obama Administration on this provocation? Given the repeated timidity of the Administration to recognize American interests abroad, don’t hold your breath.
UPDATE: here is an article from Hot Air Green Room that provides additional details and indicates that the situation may be far more serious than it first appeared.