Iran Review: Interview with Mohammad Rouhisefat, Iran’s Former Ambassador to Mexico
The Main Goal Is to Depict Iran as Threat to US
Reasons behind adoption of ‘Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act of 2012’
The United States Congress has recently passed a new law which calls for the US Department of State to offer its plan to develop a strategy within 180 days to “address Iran’s growing hostile presence and activity” in Latin America, Canada, and the Central America. The law has also appropriated a total of one million dollars to the Department of State to report on Iran's diplomatic and economic activities in Latin America, make sure that there will be no disruption in the US and global energy flow, and offer proposals for counteracting the assistance provided to Iran by a number of regional countries to bypass international sanctions. What is the main reason behind the United States’ new sensitivity over Iran's activities in Latin America? What kind of activities Iran is carrying out in Latin America? How the passage of this law may possibly harm Iran's activities in Latin America? The Iranian Diplomacy has discussed these and other relevant issues in the following interview with Mohammad Rouhisefat, Iran's former ambassador to Mexico.
Q: Why is the United States so sensitive over Latin America?
A: Iran is naturally engaged in intense economic rivalry with the United States in Latin America. The US Congress is trying to restrain Iran in that region as much as possible. I, however, welcome this development because the United States will gradually come to know that Iran is pursuing no other goal in that region. The US boundaries are not a zone of influence for Iran. The United States has only one land border to its south, which is with Mexico. My experience of being ambassador to Mexico tells me that Iranians have no influence or activity along that border. The southern border with Mexico is mostly controlled by drug cartels. Therefore, it can be said without any doubt that Iran has never intended to take advantage of the situation along the southern borders of the United States. As a result, appropriation of this budget for discovering such activities should raise no alarms in Washington because subsequent investigations will clearly reveal that Iran has never had a plan to increase its influence in that region and exploit the situation.
Q: One of the uses that the approved budget will be put to is to help the United States make sure that the American energy market in that region will be never disrupted. Does Iran have any activities related to energy or energy investment in that region?
A: The only energy-related activity by Iran in that region is very limited and has been launched in recent years in Bolivia and Ecuador. Iran's limited investment in Bolivian gas reserves is not such an important issue to alarm the United States. The United States imports its needed crude oil from Venezuela and Mexico and Iran's energy cooperation with these countries is quite limited. Therefore, it would be of no interest to Iran to tamper with the United States’ energy market in Latin America. Iran, on the opposite, has been striving to find a new energy outlet where it can sell its oil. Such accusations are far from the realities and it is really surprising how the Congress, with all its capacities and resources, can be so ignorant of the realities. It seems, however, that the US Congress’ measure is actually propaganda hype.
Q: “Proposing how to address efforts by Latin American governments to help Iran evade economic sanctions” has been mentioned as another instance where that budget will be consumed. Are relations between the United States and Latin American countries such that Washington would be able to force them to cooperate in this regard?
A: Oil sanctions are among the most important sanctions imposed against the Islamic Republic. We do not export much crude oil to Latin American countries because there are important countries in that region which also produce crude oil. We have trade relations with countries in that region and that trade is at a rational level and is based on free trade.
Iran's cooperation with countries in that region is more of technological and technical nature. For example, Iran has been implementing housing projects in Venezuela since 2000. These projects are being carried out by Iranian private companies which have been able to win tender bids in that country.
One of the reasons why the US Congress passes such laws is that Latin America has been Washington’s political backyard for many long years and the United States has been increasingly losing control over that backyard during past years. Iran has not been the sole reason for the loss of control. Overthrow of military regimes in Latin America followed by free elections which swept nationalist groups to power as well as rivalry over the regional market have been more important reasons. It is difficult for the United States to idly stand by and watch that big market being wrenched out of its control by countries like Iran which have become active in that region. Otherwise, Iran has been engaged in no military cooperation with countries in that region and there is no reason why it should show interest in that sort of cooperation.
Q: Therefore, the United States will not be able to stall Iran's activities in Latin America by imposing possible restrictions on Iran?
A: That is true. Iran's trade and industrial cooperation in that region involves a few countries like Brazil, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador. I am certain that the Americans are well aware of the extent and nature of Iran's activities in those countries because they have been under the US influence for many years and the United States still sways influence on those countries. Such plans are just examples of the pressures that the US Congress aims to put on Tehran under pressure from the Zionist lobby in order to depict Iran as a major threat and work to further isolate the Islamic Republic in the world.
Of course, the sanctions have dealt blows to us one way or another. However, Latin American countries cannot make a considerable change in this respect. Experience has proven to those countries that Iran is committed to fulfiling its technical and technological contracts with them. Therefore, they have decided to let us play in their competitive market. Iran has been successful in this regard, but this does not mean that its activities in Latin America have anything to do with the US security interests. If the day comes when the existing wall of distrust between Iran and the United States collapses, all parties will see how baseless and illogical the anti-Iran propaganda is