Iran-Venezuela Pact Made Possible By Tehran’s Sustained Investment In Ideological Expansion

(New York, N.Y.) — On Sunday, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro signed a 20-year pact that will help both Iran and Venezuela evade and resist U.S. sanctions. Within the last year, Iran and Venezuela have increased their alliance, particularly regarding the energy sector, with an increase in oil trade. According to data compiled by United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), Iran exported more than 9 million barrels of oil to Venezuela last year. More than a decade of friendship between Iran and Venezuela, forged by former Presidents Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hugo Chavez, underpin this trade and the increasingly warming ties. Nowhere in Latin America has Iran’s influence been more effective and pronounced than in Venezuela.  

Iran has invested in Venezuela’s petrochemical and small-arms ammunition factories, expanded its diplomatic missions, dispatched Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force members, and forged a joint intelligence program. Iran has also built a network of educational institutions to propagate its anti-American message in Venezuela, including a think tank, the Samuel Robinson Institute (SRI), and the Cátedra Libre Qassem Soleimani (The Qassem Soleimani Chair for Sociocultural and Geopolitical Studies in Latin America and the Middle East) at the Universidad Bolivariana de Venezuela. The latter was inaugurated by Iran’s Al-Mustafa University in November 2020, one month after the launch of SRI.

SRI reliably disseminates Iranian propaganda. Created in October 2020 with direct ties to the Iranian regime, there is still not much publicly available information about its influence in Venezuela. Nevertheless, research indicates that the think-tank utilizes an information strategy geared toward “building goodwill, sympathy, cultural affinity, and commonality” with Iran. The well-funded organization does this in a number of ways, including telling stories about Shia Muslims, Iranian goodwill, and cultural outreach.  

SRI’s parent organization, Misión Verdad (Truth Mission), tows a similar line. Misión Verdad’s research focuses on the demise of U.S. global hegemony and Venezuelan-Iranian ties. The media outlet ran a story in October 2021, emphasizing Venezuelan-Iranian cooperation in the petroleum sector. The story describes how Iranian gas condensate is blended with Venezuelan heavy crude oil to make the product more attractive to refineries worldwide. The distinct worldview of the Iranian political establishment has clearly permeated the SRI and the Misión Verdad; they serve as microphones for Iranian propaganda.  

To read UANI’s resource How Iran Exports Its Ideology: Venezuela, please click here.