Tehran signs trade deals with Cuba and Venezuela

Israel is concerned about Iranian expansion in Latin America.

Iranian officials confirmed on Wednesday the signature of two protocols to boost trade with Cuba and Venezuela, after recent visits of Commerce Minister Masood Mir-Kazemi to the two Caribbean nations. Deputy Commerce Minister Mehdi Ghazanfari told reporters that based on one of the contracts, Iran and Cuba would charge 15 to 30 percent preferential tariff on their capital, intermediary and consumption goods.

The Iranian official also commented that as per the protocol signed with Venezuela, the partners would charge a preferential tariff of 25 percent on average on 100 exported items. Mr Ghazanfari said Venezuela wants Iran to host the ALBA exhibition wherein to showcase products of Ecuador, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Haiti and Cuba.

The announcement comes as a result of a new approach between the Islamic nation and some countries in Latin America, with which Iran intends to develop political and commercial ties. Earlier this year, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attended to the inauguration ceremonies of presidents Rafael Correa –Ecuador- and Daniel Ortega –Nicaragua- after paying a ostentatious visit to Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez.

The Iranian approach to Latin America concerns Washington and Tel Aviv. Two weeks ago, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz published an article remarking “concern” of the Israeli government about the foreign policy of some Latin American nations.

According to Haaretz, Tel Aviv experiences some hostility coming from some Latin American nations. Israeli officials mentioned the six visits of Chavez to Tehran and bilateral projects aimed at boosting cooperation in sensitive issues as nuclear development.

The report also mentions that the Israeli Foreign Ministry is concerned about Iranian and Venezuelan money funding armies around the region. In fact, Venezuela cooperates with the armies of Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua, but there is no evidence about Iranian meddling in bilateral agreements between those nations.

Israel also believes there is an overrepresentation of the Iranian diplomacy in the region. According to Haaretz sources, Tehran has more personnel in its embassies in Latin America than the number needed to operate normally. The exceeding diplomats could be acting as “intelligence agents”, sources commented to Haaretz.

According to the same sources, Israel warned these countries about that situation, but they showed little interest in such reports.

There is an important Jewish community in Latin America with close links to Israel. The largest lives in Argentina, where two terrorist attacks against Jewish targets left over 100 killed in the past decade. Argentina has formally accused Iran of being behind the attacks, but Tehran rejected allegations saying that evidence was biased by the CIA and the Mossad, which cooperated in the investigations.

Hernan Etchaleco

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Author`s name Alex Naumov