I have been posting about the close ties between Iran and Venezuela for years now, and last month Welt Online published this report,
Iran plant Bau einer Raketenstellung in Venezuela" ("Caracas-Tehran Axis: Iran plans to build a missile base in Venezuela." You can read the Google translation here).
The article refers to an agreement signed on October 19 this year:
According to information received by Welt on Line, Iran's Supreme Security Council had proposed a joint military facility on Venezuelan soil to increase the deterrent power of Iran against the West. The cooperation would be a way for Iran to build a strategic base in South American - in the backyard of the United States.
Barack Obama, coincidentally, has already stated that a nuclear-powered Venezuela is fine by him.
Anna Mahjar-Barducci at Hudson New York has more on the Iran-Venezuela missile agreement,
Iran Placing Medium-Range Missiles in Venezuela; Can Reach the U.S.:
At a moment when NATO members found an agreement, in the recent Lisbon summit (19-20 November 2010), to develop a Missile Defence capability to protect NATO's populations and territories in Europe against ballistic missile attacks from the East (namely, Iran), Iran's counter-move consists in establishing a strategic base in the South American continent - in the United States's soft underbelly.
According to Die Welt, Venezuela has agreed to allow Iran to establish a military base manned by Iranian missile officers, soldiers of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and Venezuelan missile officers. In addition, Iran has given permission for the missiles to be used in case of an "emergency". In return, the agreement states that Venezuela can use these facilities for "national needs" – radically increasing the threat to neighbors like Colombia. The German daily claims that according to the agreement, Iranian Shahab 3 (range 1300-1500 km), Scud-B (285-330 km) and Scud-C (300, 500 and 700 km) will be deployed in the proposed base. It says that Iran also pledged to help Venezuela in rocket technology expertise, including intensive training of officers.
Of course, considering the flights between Iran and Venezuela, Iranian personnel may be manning the technology in Venezuela.
Venezuela has also become the country through which Iran intends to bypass UN sanctions. Following a new round of UN sanctions against the Islamic Republic, for example, Russia decided not to sell five battalions of S-300PMU-1 air defence systems to Iran. 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.
Novosti reports the words of Igor Korotchenko, head of a Moscow-based think tank on international arms trade, saying that if the S-300 deal with Venezuela goes through, Caracas should pay cash for the missiles, rather than take another loan from Russia. "The S-300 is a very good product and Venezuela should pay the full amount in cash, as the country's budget has enough funds to cover the deal ," Korotchenko said. Moscow has already provided Caracas with several loans to buy Russian-made weaponry, including a recent $2.2-mln loan on the purchase of 92 T-72M1M tanks, the Smerch multiple-launch rocket systems and other military equipment.
If Iran, therefore, cannot get the S-300 missiles directly from Russia, it can still have them through its proxy, Venezuela, and deploy them against its staunchest enemy, the U.S..
And Iran may have the missile technology:
According to Reuters, Iran has developed a version of the Russian S-300 missile and will test-fire it soon, as declared by the official news agency IRNA, two months after Moscow canceled the delivery to comply with United Nations sanctions. Iran, in fact, has its own capabilities for constructing missiles that could carry atomic warheads. According to a study recently released by the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London, Iran is presently aiming to perfect the already existing solid-fuel, medium-range missile that can carry a nuke to hit regional targets, such as Israel. If a missile base can be opened in Venezuela, many US cities will be able to be reached from there even with short-medium range missiles.
The Hudson article goes on to say that the Obama administration has a lax attitude. Don't I wish the attitude was "lax"; as you can see from the link above, Obama's given his blessing to a nuclear Venezuela.
The deadline on this? According to the Welt article, "both sides want to start building the project's infrastructure by 2011."
Cross-posted at Fausta's blog.