The New Role of Latin America in Iran’s Foreign Policy



The present article intends to explore discernible shift in Iran’s foreign policy toward Latin American countries in recent years. Iran’s relations with Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Peru, and more recently, Brazil, have grown warmer in recent years. The ever-increasing scale and scope of diplomatic ties and bilateral economic cooperation agreements between Iran and these Latin American states, most of whom pursue generally radical, anti-US policies, demonstrate the changing orientation in the Iranian policy as well as in the dynamics of the Latin American politics. The emergence of an Iranian president in 2005 with a populist outlook and pronounced anti-US/Anti-Western rhetoric has facilitated the closer ties between Iran and the leftist Latin American governments. This aspect of the Iranian policy has drawn both domestic criticism and outside opposition, particularly from the United States. Given this, a major question that could be raised is whether the new trend will be a long term feature of Iranian foreign policy or a temporary, transient one, especially taking into account the major role played by the personality of these countries’ leaders in their policymaking. A related question is whether these heads of states will be able to create the necessary institutions, processes, and coordination mechanisms to remain in place even after they leave office. The author looks at the recent developments in these politico-economic relations, and tries to examine the degree of long-term resilience of Tehran’s current involvement in Latin America. The main conclusion of the paper is that for as long as the Islamic Republic of Iran feels the need to look for countervailing force in its ongoing conflict with the US and the West, the current policies in seeking close political and economic ties with the anti-Western and radical Latin American states, as part of a larger coalition of like-minded developing countries, will continue.