Iran's growing relationship with Venezuela is a cause for concern, U.S. Southern Command head Gen. Douglas Fraser said on Tuesday (see GSN, April 6).
"My concern, as I look at it, is the fact that there are flights between Iran and Venezuela on a weekly basis, and visas are not required for entrance into Venezuela or Bolivia or Nicaragua," Fraser said during a hearing on Capitol Hill. "So we don't have a lot of visibility in who's visiting and who isn't, and that's really where I see the concerns."
The United States in March warned it would retaliate against potential breaches by Venezuela of U.N. penalties against Iran. Government sources said no proof pointed to such breaches, though Washington was assessing whether Caracas had contravened the sanctions by collaborating with Tehran on electricity initiatives.
The U.N. Security Council has adopted four sanctions resolutions aimed at pressuring the Middle Eastern nation to halt atomic activities that could support weapons development. Iran has insisted its nuclear program is strictly nonmilitary in nature.
Some observers have also expressed concerns about Venezuela's nascent atomic energy plans, which have reportedly been largely shuttered in the wake of the continuing nuclear crisis in Japan (see GSN, March 16).
"Growing opportunities" exist "for military-to-military connections" between Iran and Venezuela, though such ties have yet to clearly emerge, Fraser said (Agence France-Presse/Google News, April 5).
"Iran continues expanding regional ties [throughout Latin America] to support its own diplomatic goal of reducing the impact of international sanctions connected with its nuclear program," the Associated Press quoted the general as saying in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee (Donna Cassata, Associated Press/Google News, April 5).