Overview of Diplomatic History

Formal diplomatic relations between Iran and Venezuela were established in 1947. Both countries were also founding members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in 1960. Venezuela and Iran both experienced turbulent years in the 1980s. At the start of the decade, Iran entered a war with Iraq which lasted until 1988. In 1983, Venezuela suffered a prolonged debt crisis following the rapid devaluation of the Venezuelan currency against the U.S. dollar. Close cooperation only took place from 1999 after Venezuela’s socialist revolution brought Hugo Chávez to power.

Much like the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran that ousted the Shah, Venezuela’s revolution had an anti-American ideological underpinning that immediately soured relations with the U.S. This shared antipathy towards the U.S. remains an important, but far from the only, factor shaping the Venezuelan-Iranian partnership today. When the socialist revolution unfolded in Venezuela, Iranian “reformist” President Mohammad Khatami was pursuing a more non-confrontational approach to the West, like his predecessor Akbar Rafsanjani, compared to the hardline policies of Ayatollah Khamenei, who was president of Iran during the Iran-Iraq War.