'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Enemies Everywhere 

From the Associated Press:

Venezuela and Bolivia are supplying Iran with uranium for its nuclear program, according to a secret Israeli government report obtained Monday by The Associated Press.

The two South American countries are known to have close ties with Iran, but this is the first allegation that they are involved in the development of Iran’s nuclear program, considered a strategic threat by Israel.

“There are reports that Venezuela supplies Iran with uranium for its nuclear program,” the Foreign Ministry document states, referring to previous Israeli intelligence conclusions.

It added, “Bolivia also supplies uranium to Iran.”

The report did not say where the uranium was from.

There was no immediate comment from officials in Venezuela or Bolivia about the report.

Perhaps, Israel can launch airstrikes against them, too, expanding any war with Iran to South America as well. All in all, it sounds remarkably similar to the Niger forgeries, documents leaked by Italian intelligence in 2002 that purportedly established that Iraq had been attempting to purchase processed uranium from Niger for nuclear weapons development.

By way of background, there is a strong belief among Venezuela leftists and some in the military that Israel was involved in the 2002 unsuccessful coup attempt against Chavez. I was also told during my trip to Venezuela in 2005 that Chavez, sometime after taking office in 1998, removed a number of Israeli operatives providing unspecified services to the Venezuela military and intelligence services. He did it because he believed that they were using these positions to gather information that could be used against him. Recently, Chavez ordered the removal of the Israeli ambassador in Caracas in protest against the assault upon the civilian populace of Gaza.

One should not dimiss the possibility that the hostility towards Israel within Venezuela is coloured by a residue of anti-semitism directed towards Jews generally. Even so, Chavez apparently had good reason to be concerned. After all, Israel supported Somoza in Nicaragua, and subsequently provided military assistance to the contras. Not surprisingly, Israel also provided provided military assistance to El Salvador and Guatemala in their armed struggles with the left during this same period. In the case of Guatemala, Israel assisted the government's brutal campaign of near extermination against its indigenous populace when the US was legally prohibited from doing so. And, as you might have guessed, Israel had good relations with Pinochet in Chile as well, selling weapons to him, despite his flirtation with a notorious neo-Nazi sect.

Closer to home, at least from a Venezuelan perspective, Israel has supplied weapons to Colombian paramilitaries since the 1980s, and continues to do so. Similarly, Israel participated in the dirty war in Argentina. Chavez, and the left throughout South America, understand what many in the US do not, that Israel has been an implacable enemy of leftist movements in South America, violent or non-violent, for decades. Furthermore, it has provided material assistance in their violent suppression by rightist governments and social movements. Such a history lends credibility to the belief of some Venezuelans that Israel, through the Mossad, was involved in the 2002 coup. No doubt the Bolivians are aware of this history as well, and wary about Israeli involvement in their country.

But are Venezuela and Bolivia supplying Iran with uranium? Hard to say, although the report comes across as embarrassingly propagandistic. The Associated Press article states that Venezuela has undertaken no action to mine its estimated uranium reserves, while Bolivia does so. It is, of course, possible that Venezuela is involved in the delivery of Bolivian uranium to Iran. If so, what is the significance? Is it illegal for them to do so? Of course, it is common for countries to sell uranium to other countries for use in nuclear power generation facilities, as Australian does in relation to China, and Russia now does in relation to the US. If Iran is merely involved in the development of nuclear power, consistent with the most recent National Intelligence Estimate and the findings of the International Atomic Energy Agency, one would assume that such purchases, if they ever happened, transgress no international laws. Oh, by the way, did I forget to mention that the report also claims that Venezuela is also a Hizbullah sanctuary?

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