Both Iran and Russia are in the world’s doghouse. Both countries have been slapped with international sanctions.
Venezuela is in the same boat, but to a lesser extent. Probably because Venezuela is simply not occupying space in the world of media.
Venezuela is not in the news the way Iran and Russia are. In order to survive the burden of heavy sanctions against them, they are all banding together to work together.
And Iran is providing all kinds of goods and services to Venezuela.
Satellite tracking of oil tankers show images of ships picking up Iranian oil. The ships are tracked and followed all the way to Venezuela. Sometimes, satellite GPS trackers on a tanker is turned off for a time. In the case of Venezuela, however, the trackers stay on most of the time.
Iran and Venezuela are taunting the West.
The question begs asking: Venezuela is a member in good standing of OPEC, why do they need Iranian oil?
They need it because Venezuela cannot pump or refine its own oil. They need it because the sanctions have successfully crippled them.
The majority ownership of CITGO oil and gas is Venezuelan. We all recognize the CITGO logo splattered around the country, a red diamond with blue letters spelling out CITGO.
Officially, CITGO is called Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A or PDVSA. PDV stands for Pertoluem of Venzuela. S.A. are initials for Sociedad Anónima which means limited company.
And sanctions have prevented CITGO from making money on sales of gas form CITGO stations in the United States.
China would be a perfect partner for Venezuela, but the Chinese have become shy, even trepidatious about dealing with them. If China wanted, they could fill in everything lacking in Venezuela — both in purchasing and in sales. In investments and in technology.
But when it comes to Venezuela, and even to Iran and Russia, China has become slow to move, and even scaling back.
China is worried that they might be caught up in what is referred to as secondary sanctions. That means being caught helping a country break their sanctions. When that happens that country — even China, could be sanctioned for helping out.
China was Iran’s largest trading partner in 2021. That number is less than half the $32 billion recorded in trade between the two countries in 2018, only three years earlier.
Russia, which also needs help fighting sanctions, is getting small bits of help from both China and from Iran. Iran and Russia have now bonded and they are working together in unparalleled ways.
We know that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov paid an official visit to Iran. We know because Tass, Russia’s official news agency, told us of the visit.
But that’s all we know from Russia. The news agency did not divulge any further details.
However, Iribnews, an official Iranian news outlet reported that: "Upon his arrival in Tehran, Lavrov met with President (Ebrahim) Raisi.”
According to Iribnews, during his visit, which lasted two days, Russia's top diplomat and Iranian diplomats discussed the 2015 "nuclear deal, the situations in Ukraine, Syria and Afghanistan, and boosting commercial and energy cooperation.”
And according to Iran’s official news agency IRNA, Lavrov also met with his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.
Last month Moscow announced that Russia and Iran — which sit on some of the world's largest oil reserves — had discussed swapping supplies for oil and gas. They also discussed setting up a logistics hub.
Russia is looking toward Iran, but not in the same way it is looking toward Venezuela. They are certainly not looking in the same way Iran and Venezuela are partnering.
Russia is, in essence, looking to Iran for guidance. Iran is experienced when it comes to sanctions — they have been under serious international sanctions since 2018.
And Russia views Iran as the model for how to function through long-haul sanctions. By observing their behaviors and by speaking to Iranian leadership, Russia can create a strategy for the long term if international sanctions against them should continue for years to come.
That is why they are signing mutual agreements.
Slowly, bit by bit, we are learning more and more about this budding friendship, a reliance born out of necessity.
The Washington Post reported that “There is some history of distrust between Tehran and Moscow — but common ground is expanding.”
Russian State TV acknowledged that they were told by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak that the two countries have discussed swapping oil and gas. And Reuters reported that: “Iran has lived [under sanctions] for years, and we have discussed the Iranian experience.”
TASS has laid out part of the plan, reporting that “in late March, Russia’s transportation minister said Moscow 'was studying the case of Iran' for insight into maintaining its fleet of foreign aircraft. The following week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Russian outlets that Moscow and Tehran could work together to circumvent Western restrictions. In early May, Iran’s car parts syndicate said a Russian carmaker had reached out.”
Russia will learn from the Iranians.
Iran is masterful at moving their oil across the world by way of tankers. The most significant reason for their success is that the international community is unlikely to intervene on the high seas — especially after Iran turns off their satellite GPS monitors.
Once a ship goes dark and stops transmitting a signal, that ship is free to transfer oil to other ships or to change course. Everything becomes speculation from there.
These are events we need to carefully monitor and follow.
Russia, Iran, Venezuela, China and yes, even North Korea, will all team up in the near future. That does not bode well for the Western world.
Micah Halpern is a political and foreign affairs commentator. He founded "The Micah Report" and hosts "Thinking Out Loud with Micah Halpern," a weekly TV program, and "My Chopp," a daily radio spot. Follow him on Twitter @MicahHalpern. Read Micah Halpern's Reports — More Here.
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