Hugo Chavez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Bound by their Opposition to Washington
Hugo Frias Chavez and Ahmadinejad have been challenging the U.S every chance they get. Each leader is trying to exert influence in the region in various ways and are bound by their strong opposition to Washington. Ahmadinejad was born on October 28, 1956. He was the fourth child of a poor family who lived in a small village not far from Tehran. A few years later, his father moved the family to Tehran, part of a massive migration of Iranian villagers to cities that began in the late 1950s by policies undertaken under the Shah in response to American pressures. The Shah of Iran was restored to the throne with British and American help in 1953. With heavy pressure from the United States the Shah forced to introduce more progressive ideas rather than to repress his own people. Some policies that he introduced were the right for women to vote and participate in politics and to secularized education. The efforts of the Shah to reform Iran to maintain power backfired, many saw the Shah as nothing more than a puppet of the United States. Ayatollah Khomeini was arrested in 1963 for speaking against the Shah, Khomeini's arrest triggered protest. As discontent increased across Iran he grew more authoritarian. Ahmadinejad was born into a conservative family and was part of a growing number of youth who followed Khomeini's activism. According to the Boston review, in 1977 as Jimmy Carter was pressuring the Shah to open liberalist Iran a lot more Admadinejad was in college. As the Shah got sick, Admadinejad became a foot soldier of Ayatollah Khomeini's Islamic Revolution. In 1979 on the eve of the embassy takeover in Tehran the Islamic Student Association organization sent two representatives of each university to a clandestine plenary meeting, Admadinejad was elected as the representative from the College of Science and Technology. After the revolution Khomeini imposed a series of religious laws; soon after Iraq invaded Iran. During the Iran Iraq war Ahmadinejad was a member of the Iranian revolutionary guard. In 2003 Admadinejad was elected as the mayor of Tehran and 2005 he was elected President of Iran. Hugo Frias Chavez led a failed coup against President Carlos Andres Perez in 1992. The successors of Carlos Perez pardon Chavez which made Chavez eligible to run for office. On May 1998 Chavez was the front runner in the presidential election. On December 1996 he was elected with a 56 % vote. Soon after winning it was clear that Chavez would try to change the constitution and in December 1999 he succeeded. Business man and intellectuals feared that Chavez would try to take their property; the fear was strengthening by Chavez visit to Cuba. Iran and Venezuela are two countries that in the past were friendly towards the United States and in which the U.S had easy access to oil. Even though Hugo Chavez and Ahmadinejad are in different geographical locations they are bound by strong opposition to Washington but diverge in tactics in that Chavez uses anti American rhetoric along with a socialist approach to challenge American hegemony. While Ahmadinejad employs proxy groups like Hezbollah, ever increasing involvement in Iraq along with a continuing nuclear program against American will.
Iranian opposition to the United States started with American embassy workers in Tehran being taken hostage. Since then Iran has tried to exert greater influence in the region. Iran has used its support of proxy groups like Hezbollah to oppose United States interest in the Middle East. Israel is considered by the United States to be an important friend in the Middle East that in recent years has been attacked by Hezbollah from south Lebanon by sending rockets into Israel and smuggling weapons to cells in Gaza and West Bank. As a result, the Israeli Defense Force has had to go in to southern Lebanon to fight Hezbollah. According to some sources Hezbollah has been a recipient of a considerable amount of Iranian assistance and admadinejad’s praise for their attacks on Israel. Hezbollah means party of God according to global security.org. Hezbollah was established in 1982 during the Lebanon War when a group of Lebanese Shiite Muslims declared themselves to be the "Party of God" Upon the realization that the IDF was entrenching itself in south Lebanon, Hezbollah cells began evolving with the immediate desire to resist the Israeli invasion with the influenced and assistance of 1,500 Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Hezbollah began establishing its base in Lebanon in 1982 and has expanded and strengthened ever since, primarily due to its foreign support by Iran and Syria. According to the Heritage foundation Iran provides the bulk of Hezbollah’s foreign support: arms, training, and money. Hezbollah is also blamed for attacking United States soldiers in Lebanon when America intervened in the Lebanese civil war hoping to bring peace. Hezbollah is the extra arm of Iran that is not only capable of hurting our allies and interest but here at home as well. Thus, it is clear that proxy groups like Hezbollah can be used to oppose the United States in the Middle East as Iran continues its attempt to exert greater influence in the region.
Another tool that Iran uses to oppose the United States is augmentation of their involvement in Iraq. Since the United States invasion of Iraq in 2003 Iran has been trying to spread its influence in Iraq by being involved in the all fronts. On the military front according to the council on foreign relations the Quds Force, a special operation branch of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, is charged by U.S. officials of helping Shiite militias with explosively formed penetrators (EFPs), as well as rocket-propelled grenades and Katyusha rockets. The United States alleges that it supports, trains, and finances militias like the Badr Brigade. The estimates for Iranian operatives in Iraq are as many as thirty-thousand. On the Religious front Iran has sent more than two thousand religious students and scholars to the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala. One-third of them belong to Iranian intelligence and some are operatives sent to Shiite shrines to sway voters ahead of elections, writes Mounir Elkhamri, a military analyst for the Foreign Military Studies Office at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. The economic front is even more impressive, Iranian export to Iraq has toppled at 1.8 billion dollars in 2006 up from 800 million in 2004 according to a custom administrator. Iran is also interested in providing rebuilding assistance and opening a branch of its bank in the near future. On the social front since many powerful Iraqi politicians were in exile in Iran, Iranians hoped that once exile politicians got power back Iran would cement ties. Iranians seeks to oppose the U.S in Iraq to curtail U.S influence in the region given that they are surrounded by the U.S. The Iranians are bringing weapons into Iraq yet helping them with rebuilding. It is then clear that Iran is creating enough chaos to eject U.S forces out of Iraq and prevent further democratization of the region but not enough to drag the whole region into a conflict. Eventually the U.S will move out of Iraq and by strengthen their ties to Iraqi, economy, culture, religion and social fronts Iran is poised to have greater influence over Iraq.
The third tool that Iran has used to show opposition to the United States is the nuclear program. Iranian ambitions for nuclear technology go back to the Shah who was given some nuclear technology by the United States. Upon the Iranian revolution in which the Shah was ousted the United States backed off from any agreement that was made with Iran regarding nuclear technology. The U.S has imposed sanctions on Iran and negotiated to stop their nuclear program to no avail. According to the state department, the United States strongly thinks that Iran has a clandestine program to produce nuclear weapons, and has been warning about Tehran’s weapons ambitions for over a decade. U.S knows Iran is developing uranium mines, a uranium conversion facility (UCF), a massive uranium enrichment facility designed to house tens of thousands of centrifuges, numerous centrifuge productions workshops, a heavy water production plant, and a laser enrichment facility. Iran has violated its NPT and IAEA commitments by covertly enriching uranium, by covertly producing and separating plutonium, by secretly converting yellowcake into uranium hexafluoride (UF6), and by secretly producing uranium metal and by not declaring any of these activities to the IAEA. Iran secretly procured P-1 centrifuge components from the A.Q. Khan nuclear proliferation network, as well as P-2 components, developed the means to manufacture centrifuge components domestically (including in military workshops), and contrary to its commitments to the IAEA along with three European governments continues to produce components today. Iran has announced plans to “hot test” its UCF at Esfahan, which will produce UF6, in clear violation of its promises to suspend all enrichment-related activity. In addition, Iran continues with plans to build additional unnecessary nuclear capabilities, such as a heavy-water reactor which is a facility if possible suited to produce large quantities of plutonium usable in a nuclear weapon, which also explains Iran’s secret experiments with reprocessing plutonium behind the back of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The designs for that facility underscore the weapons intent, as do Iran’s experiments to produce polonium-210, a weapons initiator. The costly infrastructure to perform all of these activities goes well beyond any conceivable peaceful nuclear program. The United States argues that since Iran has a lot of oil they can meet their energy needs without resorting to nuclear technology. The United States fear that if Iran develops nuclear technology than Iranians can give nuclear weapons to proxy groups like Hezbollah and that Iran could use such technology to threaten allies in the region. The U.S has imposed sanctions that have not worked mainly because Russia and China still trade with Iran and interact with each other; Iran believes that it is their right to have nuclear technology. According to the Washington Post, in a speech broadcast live on state television, "Ahmadinejad repeated his assertion that Iran would ignore demands by the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council that it suspend sensitive nuclear work or face new sanctions. The United Nations has already imposed two rounds of sanctions that limit international transactions by Iran's financial institutions, restrict travel by certain high-ranking officials and seek to curtail Iran's access to nuclear-related materials". U.S feels that Iran has no business developing such weapon because Iran produces a lot of oil. Iran response is that the oil is not enough to meet the growing demand for energy due to their increase in population. Nevertheless, Iran’s disregard for American feelings towards Iranian nuclear program is a challenge to American leadership and influence in the region. By defying the U.S, Iran is challenging us to do something about it. If Iran succeeds in fully developing their nuclear program it will be a blow to our prestige and could embolden other countries.
The Hugo Frias Chavez is the Ahmadinejad of the Latin America. From the beginning of Chavez's presidency it was clear that he was going to oppose the United States. Chavez has used his anti American rhetoric and his Bolivarian revolution to oppose the U.S. On a state run television show Chavez stated that “the world is full of Vietnams today facing up to the tyrannical power being exercised over the world," Castro said in a clear, strong voice. The Chavez show was broadcast on Cuba's state-run television and radio"(The Sydney Morning Herald). It is his anti American rhetoric that makes him appear as if he is a hero standing up to the big bully in the block which is the United States. According to the New York Times "It is the kind of public adoration that brings to mind another Latin American leader, Fidel Castro, who for more than 45 years has drawn accolades wherever he has gone, much to Washington's chagrin. Now, it seems, the torch is being passed, and it is Mr. Chavez who is emerging as this generation's Castro - a charismatic figure and self-styled revolutionary who bear hugs his counterparts on state visits, inspires populist left-wing movements and draws out fervent well-wishers from Havana to Buenos Aires". By speaking against U.S Chavez seeks to highlight the mistakes of the U.S plus many years of U.S intervention that has spurred a lot of anti-American sentiment due to the fact that many in Latin America see it as the actions of an egocentric imperialistic nation. Chavez has called for the destruction of the U.S, Bush the devil and the biggest terrorist alive. He has accused the CIA of trying to kill him and the U.S for supporting a coup which temporarily ousted him from power. Chavez has also warned against U.S attacking Iran which would result in Venezuela cutting oil to America. His anti American rhetoric is especially appealing to the poor in Latin American who see the U.S consensus of democracy and open markets as the cause of their problems; open market takes jobs away and U.S style of democracy has created corruption alongside with no alleviation for the poor. Chavez is trying to oppose the U.S throughout Latin American by spreading his Bolivarian revolution.
Chavez's Bolivarian revolution also known as socialism. According to BBC news upon his inauguration Chavez called on the National Assembly to give him the power to rule by decree for a year and replaced his Vice-President, Jose Vicente Rangel, seen as a key figure in his previous administration. He has also stated that the new era would be backed by 'five engines', which would allow him to rule by declaration for 18 months, lead to socialist constitutional change, strengthen popular education, change the ‘geometry of power’ or the way political, social, economic and military power is distributed across the country which would lead to the ‘explosion of communal councils’. Chavez also announced he would nationalize key businesses, declared himself a Trotskyism and cited the ideas of Marx and Lenin. Chavez backers, or Chavistas, say the revolution will lead to social equality. On May 1, 2007 Chavez made good of his promise to nationalize key business when he nationalized the last privately own company in Venezuela. Another business sector being nationalized are the phone companies, Chavez has stated that the state will take control of the firm, turning it, according to Chavez, from a commercial private company to a state run socialist venture ; electricity and Banking are also in sight of Chavez's nationalization. He wishes to nationalize business and have greater control over the economy to alleviate poverty in Venezuela. Chavez desire to spread socialism in Latin America is a direct challenge to the United States because Chavez's revolution is an Alternative to capitalism and democracy considering that he has concentrated the power in him. Chavez revolution could create more socialist presidents that are not friendly to the U.S. Chavez is using the revenue from the nationalist oil company to spread his influence in other countries. He has already has bought several hundred million dollars of Argentine bonds and offered similar financial support to Ecuador along with getting closer to Fidel Castro. By trying to spread his revolution he wishes to diminish or eradicate U.S influence in Latin America and create a powerful bloc to oppose the United States.
Chavez and Ahmadinejad are bound by their opposition to U.S and are viewed as destabilizing forces in their respective regions. Iran has used their desire for nuclear technology to oppose our leadership and influence in the region. Chavez has used anti American rhetoric along with his socialist revolution to oppose the United States. Each wants to exert its power in the region and use petro dollars to buy weapons and spread their influence. They see each other as David standing up to Goliath. This would explain why Chavez and Ahmadinejad have become even closer to the loathing of the United States.
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