Posted by Doreen Higgins on Jun 08, 2017
On Wednesday morning, May 24th, Dr. Jose da Cruz told us, “Iran cannot be ignored, like it or not.” Dr. da Cruz is the Professor of International Relations/Comparative Politics at Armstrong State University. He teaches courses in Latin American and African foreign policy, Third World National Security and Insurgency/Counterinsurgency. He is an Adjunct Research Professor at the US Army War College and Research Associate of the Brazil Research Unit at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs in Washington. He emphasized that the views he expressed to us are his own, and do not necessarily reflect official the policy or position of the Departments of Defense or the Army, nor of the US Government.

Iran must not be ignored, Dr. da Cruz said; it is a country with important and long established ties with the countries of South America. In an inaugural speech at the beginning of his presidency in 2013 Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said that an important objective of his foreign policy was to continue “Iran’s policy of proximity” to Latin America. His objective was to diminish Iran’s isolation from much of the world and most particularly from the United States. Dr. da Cruz said that Iran’s search for partnerships in South America are not driven so much by need for economic opportunity as a “military and ideological imperative.” The region, with its many anti-American regimes, offers “Tehran a safe haven” for the propagation of its Islamic viewpoint as well as a source of economic, military and idealistic support.

Iran is a country of young people, who do not want to be isolated in the world; Iran has opened several diplomatic missions and education centers in Latin American countries. Bolivia and Ecuador, among others, have sent some of their young students to Iran. Many young Iranians have been not only to Latin American countries but also to the US; some of them have been educated here and are familiar with the US way of life. Iran’s South American “partners” are united by a strong anti-American sentiment supporting a policy of ‘soft balancing’ against the US, a non-military resistance to US military policy.

Giving us some examples of relationships with individual countries, Dr. da Cruz named Venezuela as the strongest representative of this type of policy towards the US and as Iran’s ‘gateway to the region.’ Brazil actively pursues relations with Iran in ‘politics, economy and culture,’ and Bolivia has called for greater economic cooperation with Iran. Nicaragua, he said, has always been a strong supporter of Iran. Ecuador has publicly and recently expressed its willingness to continue relations with Iran – and then there’s Cuba. This country, Dr. da Cruz said, “has been a darling of Iran for years,” there has been cooperation between Iran and Cuba in nanotechnology, pharmacy and other scientific areas, and in economics. The easing of US relations with Cuba in the last months of President Obama’s presidency inspired Iran to propose closer ties between themselves and Cuba.

So what is to be done about Iran in South America? There are three choices for the US: rapprochement, hindrance, or ‘wait and see.’ None is ideal, and at the present time it is not clear what the US government’s policy will be. But, Dr. da Cruz said, whatever happens, Iran will be involved; most likely, Iran will work with us, perhaps seeing the current conflict as its current strategy. We have to be patient, he said, and, like it or not, Iran cannot be ignored.
Below is President Bill with Dr. da Cruz