His [Hugo Chávez’s] foreign affiliations are more important to him. The Iranian news agency MEHR said last year that the two countries have signed contracts valued at more than $1 billion. In sum, Iranians, presiding over an economy that is itself crumbling into disrepair, are going to build Venezuela 10,000 residential units and a batch of manufacturing plants, if MEHR can be believed. Chávez reportedly says these deals — presumably financed with revenues that might be better employed repairing the vital bridge — include the transfer of “technology” from Iran and the importation of Iranian “professionals” to support the efforts.
Details on the Iranian “factories” — beyond a high-profile tractor producer and a widely publicized cement factory — remain sketchy. But what is clear is that the importation of state agents from Hugo-friendly dictatorships hasn’t been a positive experience for Venezuelans. Imported Cubans are now applying their “skills” in intelligence and state security networks to the detriment of Venezuelan liberty. It is doubtful that the growing presence of Iranians in “factories” across Venezuela is about boosting plastic widget output. The U.S. intelligence agencies would do well to make a greater effort to find out exactly what projects the Chávez-Ahmadinejad duo really have in mind. Almost certainly, they are up to no good.
Update, Monday Jan. 16 Article now available at Opinion Journal