Tags: chavez | nuclear

Hugo Chavez: Will He Go Nuclear?

Wednesday, 28 Jan 2009 07:47 PM

By David A. Patten

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Turkey’s recent discovery of an explosives lab hidden among 22 containers labeled “tractor parts” en route from Iran to Venezuela has renewed fears that strongman Hugo Chavez harbors dangerous nuclear ambitions.

No nuclear materials were detected in the Turkey shipment, and an Iranian embassy official in Ankara told the Associated Press that the shipment contained “nothing important.” But it was the latest in a series of reports linking Chavez with secret international arms deals.

Last month, for example, Newsmax reported that Tehran was using Conviasa Airlines, the national airline of Venezuela, to ship missile parts to Syria.

[Editor's Note: Watch Author Douglas E. Schoen discuss the Chavez threat to America - Go Here Now]

Iran and Chavez have been increasingly friendly ever since the Venezuelan strongman defended the nuclear-development activities of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The two countries jointly produce tractors and cars. Some experts are concerned, however, that as Iran moves ever closer to enriching the uranium it needs to build a nuclear weapon, the two rogue nations could be tempted to cooperate on other, more deadly ventures.

There have been reports in recent years that Chavez shipped uranium to Iran for its nuclear program. Chavez denies them, but there’s no denying he has been a staunch supporter of Iran’s nuclear endeavors.

Most observers agree it would be naïve to think the assistance doesn’t flow both ways. The question is whether Chavez would be so reckless as to try to initiate a nuclear weapons program of his own.

“I wouldn’t rule it out and I would say if he had the opportunity, he would almost certainly want to pursue those ambitions,” says former Clinton administration official Douglas E. Schoen.

Schoen’s latest book, The Threat Closer to Home: Hugo Chavez and the War America, urges U. S. officials to begin taking the threat of Chavez seriously. Not doing so, he warns, could be a “terrible, terrible mistake.”

Schoen concedes there no hard evidence Chavez is moving to develop a nuclear weapons capability. But he compares America’s attitude toward Chavez today to the perceived threat of Osama bin Laden prior to the 9/11 attacks.

“Now I can’t sit here today and say he’s going to provoke a serious incident on our shores,” Schoen tells Newsmax, “but I sure can’t rule it out. And I can give you statement after statement he’s made where he supports those very goals and objectives. So I think it’s an appropriate comparison, and one that I hope is not realized.”

Among the developments most worrisome to U. S. officials:

  • Chavez has fostered a close relationship with Russia, and has publicly sought Russian assistance in developing nuclear power. “We certainly are interested in developing nuclear energy, for peaceful ends of course,” he told his citizens upon his return from visiting Russia.

  • He has engaged in joint military maneuvers with Russia in the Caribbean. “Go ahead and squeal, Yankees,” he said. “Russia’s naval fleet is welcome here.”

  • Chavez has bought over $4 billion in Russian weaponry, including Sukhoi jet fighter aircraft. Countries interested in developing nuclear weapons also typically focus on acquiring or developing delivery systems.

  • Iran has sent 10 senior members of its elite Quds force to Venezuela, to act as advisers. It is believed they are advising Chavez on how to preserve his domination over an increasingly restless citizenry.

  • Chavez announced in November that Russia would help Venezuela build its first nuclear reactor. He said it would be used “to produce energy for peaceful purposes.” The Russian government later confirmed that it would help Chavez develop a nuclear energy program.

    There is serious doubt whether U.S. intelligence would detect a Chavez bid to develop weapons of mass destruction.

    “American intelligence is not omniscient,” Frank Gaffney, founder and president of the Center for Security Policy, tells Newsmax. “The reality is we don’t know everything going on, particularly things closed totalitarian societies seek to keep secret.”

    Gaffney adds he “wouldn’t be surprised at all” if Chavez is already undertaking some WMD-related activities.

    Schoen and Gaffney tell Newsmax that, rather than negotiate without preconditions, the Obama administration’s first move with Chavez should be to designate Venezuela as a state sponsor of terror.

    [Editor's Note: Watch Author Douglas E. Schoen discuss the Chavez threat to America - Go Here Now]

    [Editor's Note: Get Doug Schoen’s new book, “The Threat Closer to Home: Hugo Chavez and the War Against America” - Go Here Now]

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