By Owei Lakemfa
THE last of five Iranian ships carrying petroleum products to Venezuela berthed safely this week after repeated United States, US, threats to militarily stop them. The first ship, Fortune, had arrived on Saturday, May 23, escorted by Venezuelan Navy to ward off possible American attacks. It was followed by the vessels, Bella, Bering and Clavel.
Apart from threatening the ships as they sailed from Iran, America had dispatched destroyers, littoral combat ships, Poseidon maritime planes and Air Force surveillance aircraft off the Venezuelan coast ostensibly to check drug smuggling but making it clear it could use them against the Iranian ships. But Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had warned: “Any pirate-like action by the U.S. Navy against the Iranian fuel shipments to Venezuela would trigger a harsh response.”
The US was willing to spark off an international conflagration on the bizarre basis that it does not approve trade between the two sovereign countries. Secondly, the Americans claim that since they have imposed sanctions on both countries, they have lost the legitimate right to trade even between themselves. Thirdly, it says the Iranian supply of petroleum products to Venezuela amounted to an intervention in that country which is against its 19th Century Monroe Declaration under which US rejects outside intervention in the Western Hemisphere, a region it regards as its “backyard”.
This, the Trump administration says, gives it the right to militarily attack the ships. The Commander of U.S. Southern Command, Admiral Craig Faller, in buttressing this inane position claimed Iran’s objective was to “gain positional advantage in our neighbourhood in a way that would counter U.S. interests”. Fourthly, America says it is angry that Iran is trying to help Venezuela restart its 310,000 barrel-per-day Cardon refinery, a claim Iran denies. But what is criminal in Venezuela working to end fuel shortages and bringing relief to its people?
Fifthly, the US childishly wails that the petroleum products were stolen by the Iranian government from the Iranian people and given illegally to Venezuela. If this weird claim was true, how is it America’s business? How is it in America’s place to cry for Iranians who in the first place have not reported their oil stolen? How can it be America’s business to take analgesics for the headache it claims Iranians have? If America was a human beign, I would have suggested it sees a psychiatrist because its actions and postulations do not make any sense.
Elliott Abrams, the U.S. Special Representative to Venezuela – the elegant title given to the man charged with overseeing the overthrow of the democratically elected government of President Nicholas Maduro – says America is opposed to the fuel supply because: “You have two pariah states finding that they are able to exchange things they need for things they have.”
Mr. Abrams, an ex-convict might have been chosen for that role because he has a sordid past of being lawless and having little or no regard for human lives. He was appointed in January, 2019, thirty years after exiting the American State Department.
In December 1981, American-trained special units of the Salvadorian military entered the village of El Mozote and massacred almost 1,000 men, women and children. When the massacre became public knowledge, the American Senate decided to probe it. The CNN in its January 26, 2019 report quoted the Human Rights Watch Report of the massacre which said Abrams at the Senate hearings “artfully distorted several issues in order to discredit the public accounts of the massacre”, insisted the numbers of reported victims were “implausible” and “lavished praise” on the military battalion behind the mass killings.
The Reagan administration from August 20, 1985 to March 4, 1987, sold arms to Iran which was ostensibly under American sanctions, and used the money to fund Nicaraguan terrorist campaigns which included blowing up civilian ships at that country’s ports, and killing civilians, especially in the rural areas.
When the US Congress probed what became known as the Iran-Contra Scandal, Abrams lied to Congress. In order to escape multiple felony counts, he agreed to a guilty plea and was sentenced to two years probation and 100 hours of community service. The President George Herbert Walker Bush government later granted him pardon.
The American establishment in resurrecting such a man three decades later is a clear statement that the American interests in Venezuela is neither democracy nor human rights but Venezuela’s oil and gas which it has been unable to exploit since the election of Hugo Chavez twenty-two years ago. The Venezuelan refineries might not start running soon, and these Iranian supplies might soon be depleted necessitating more purchases which the Iranians might oblige. So, soon, there might be another round of American threats to go to war because two sovereign countries decide to buy and sell legitimate goods to each other.
It is this type of incomprehensible diplomacy America displayed in warning coronavirus-wracked countries not to accept medical aid from Cuba. With 1.87million infections, 421,000 recoveries and 108,000 deaths, as at Wednesday, America has clearly been unable to withstand the virus onslaught.
So it has been in no position to assist other countries. In contrast, tiny Cuba with its sophisticated healthcare system built on prevention and community-based fights against viruses, is able to send medical personnel to fight COVID-19 in countries like Italy, South Africa, Jamaica, Grenada, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Suriname.
In fact, it is trying to keep up with aid requests from 22 countries. But in a curious move, the American State Department issued a statement demanding countries to reject Cuban medical aid, claiming that it is “an abusive programme” that engenders “end labour abuses” in Cuba. No country has responded to the odd American request as they are more interested in saving the lives of their people than be distracted by an administration locked in queer Cold War battles.
A major headache of the American government might be campaigned by appreciative groups calling for the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize to be awarded to Cuba’s Henry Reeve International Medical Brigade which is fighting COVID-19 in various countries.
America had exhibited a similar diplomatic attitude when it asked African countries to reject Chinese development loans which have favourable repayment terms and spread in contrast to those of the International Monetary Fund, IMF. Ironically, while Africa’s total loan from China is less than $140 billion, the US alone is owing China $1.1 trillion.
The US is a busybody interfering in the internal affairs of various countries, dabbling in many issues it has no direct, and sometimes even indirect stake. All the while, it claims to be all-knowing and omnipresent across the globe and even the planetary system. The universe will be a better place if the US stops playing god in world affairs.