March 11, 2005 | NPR


Now let’s get back to that business about Iran. You’ve heard President Bush talk about Iran’s mullahs. Just for giggles here, if one of those mullahs were to pay a state visit to the Americas, maybe stop in for dinner with some left-leaning leader, just imagine the fits that would give the White House, huh? Perhaps that’s what Mohammad Khatami has in mind. Iran’s president is visiting Caracas, Venezuela. From the Americas desk at WLRN, Dan Grech tells us it’s officially a business trip, with perhaps a little pleasure on the side.

DAN GRECH reporting:

Tractors. Iran’s president supposedly traveled 7,000 miles to inaugurate a plant that will build tractors for Iran. The two leaders also reportedly talked about sharing technology in oil, mining and manufacturing. Of course, Khatami’s three-day visit with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez isn’t really about tractors. Both Chavez and Khatami have stormy relationships with Washington.

Professor JERRY HAAR (Florida International University): Any nefarious power that is at odds with the United States, Chavez will bend over backwards to invite as a way of thumbing his nose at the United States.

GRECH: That’s Professor Jerry Haar at Florida International University. He says it’s a stretch to think that these two nations have much hinged on these deals. Across Latin America, Chavez’s anti-US crusade has been treated as something of a side show, but Middle East expert Walid Phares says Chavez is getting some real traction in the Persian Gulf. Chavez reinforced that today when he expressed support for Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Mr. WALID PHARES (Middle East Expert): Back in the Middle East, there was this new perception that it’s possible that they could get an ally very close to the southern shores of the United States, and that would be Venezuela.

GRECH: Is this something that the United States is worried about?

Mr. PHARES: This is something that the United States is monitoring. This visit is coming at a time where Iran wants to strike in the back yard of the United States, politically of course, telling them that, `If I am under siege, then there will be a lot of spots around the world that will be perturbing your stability.’

GRECH: Experts say these two oil-producing nations do share one overriding economic goal: cripple the US by sending oil prices sky high. I’m Dan Grech for MARKETPLACE.