Columns

June 15, 2023

The United States recurring memory loss in diplomacy, By Owei Lakemfa

The United States recurring memory loss in diplomacy, By Owei Lakemfa

Four archenemies of the United States, US, met variously in its Latin American ‘backyard’ this week. It was the five-day Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi’s to Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba. No, the quartet did not make themselves enemies of the US, it was the latter which at various times had dictated to those countries, that designated them as such.

All four are under the unilateral sanctions of the US which punishes any country that dares befriend them. So only the independent-minded and strong countries maintain trade relations with them.

The US also punishes the quartet if they dare trade among themselves. In 2020 the US ordered the seizure of four Iranian vessels with 1.1 million barrels of fuel bound for Venezuela. The US said the ships must be seized because they violated the unilateral sanctions it had imposed on both countries. It was a show of might over right.

So, the defiant visit this week by the Iranian President and the various sanction-bursting agreements the four countries signed, is a declaration that they are not ready to abide by the dictates of the US.

Raisi was defiant throughout his tour. At the start of his June 12 visit he said the four countries have “a common enemy…common interests and we have common enemies”. He added in reference to the US and its allies: “They do not want the two countries, Iran and Venezuela, to be independent”.

To these declarations, Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro responded: “We are on the right side of history and together we will be invincible.” Both sides signed agreements on various fields, including oil, defence, technology, energy, maritime and medicine.

Raisi on Wednesday told Nicaraguans: “There is a great geographical distance between Nicaragua and Iran and the Latin American region, but our hearts are very close and our goals are also very close (we) share a common history of struggle, of resistance, of revolutions, of combat against a common enemy.”

In Nicaragua, both countries signed agreements, including one on a bi-national commission before the Iranian President flew to Cuba, the country that gave the world unforgettable international radical leaders of the 20th Century like Ernesto Che Guevera and Fidel Castro.

A common thread between Venzuela and Iran with its ends flapping in the US is the case of Alex Saab, a Venezuela Ambassador currently on trial in Miami, USA.

First, Saab, is a moral burden on the US. During the COVID-19 pandemic when virtually all countries in the world, including the US, needed aid, Saab was on a mission to Iran to buy urgently needed food and medicines for Venezuelans. On June 12, 2020, his plane touched down in Cape Verde to refuel. He was abducted by the authorities on the instigation of the USA for the ‘crime’ of trying to buy food for his starving compatriots when the almighty US had ordered that no country carries out any transaction with Iran.

The ECOWAS West African Court, was ashamed of the role of Cape Verde in not only detaining an ambassador with diplomatic immunity but one on an urgent humanitarian mission. It ordered its member country not just to effect the immediate release of Ambassador Saab, but also pay him a $200,000 compensation. But Cape Verde betrayed the African brotherhood and the spirit of its biological son, Amilcar Cabral, who fought for the brotherhood of humanity before being murdered by Portuguese security agents. Under US pressure, Cape Verde handed over the ambassador to the US which flew him to Miami for a controversial trial.

Now, the US is part of the human race that accepts and enjoys diplomatic immunity. In its “Diplomatic and Consular Immunity: Guidance for Law Enforcement and Judicial Authorities”, the Department of State, in accepting diplomatic immunity as sacrosanct, wrote that: “International law, to which the United States is firmly committed, requires that law enforcement authorities of the United States extend certain privileges and immunities to members of foreign diplomatic missions and consular posts.” Its reference is to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.

So the Ambassador Saab case was ordinarily a straight forward one: all he needed was to tell the American court that he is an ambassador which under the American constitution and obligations, grants him immunity from prosecution in any US court.

After long delays, including denying Saab medical treatment for his post-cancer treatment, family and consular visits, he had his day in court. That he had been an ambassador of Venezuela since 2018 could not be controverted but the US Government said it does not recognise the Venezuelan Government headed by President Nicolas Maduro which had appointed Saab an ambassador. For the US, the Maduro government does not exist!

This submission of the Biden administration exposes the American government as either being utterly dishonest or suffering from dementia.

Given the age of the US establishment and its increasing inability to come to terms with the unfolding global reality, it is certain that it is suffering from recurring diplomatic memory loss. Let me demonstrate this with facts of interactions between the Biden and Maduro governments in 2022 alone.

In March 2022, President Joe Biden despatched a top level US diplomatic delegation to Caracas which held meetings with the Maduro government. The White House Delegation composed Juan Gonzalez, the National Security Council Director for the Western Hemisphere, Roger Carstens, the special presidential envoy on hostage affairs and Ambassador James Story, the US Ambassador to Colombia who oversees the American Venezuelan Affairs Unit.

In June 2022, President Biden again sent a special delegation which included Roger Carstens and Ambassador James Story to meet with the Maduro government. President Maduro confirmed the presence of the US delegation and directed it to meet National Assembly President Jorge Rodríguez. Maduro had said the meeting was to “give continuity to the bilateral agenda between the government of the United States and the government of Venezuela”.

Then on Saturday, November 26, 2022, President Biden eased some of the oil sanctions against the Maduro government. Under it, the US Treasury authorised Chevron oil to resume ‘limited’ oil production in Venezuela under the supervision of the Maduro administration.

These are facts. But the Biden government could not seem to recall these events and the US court concurred. It ruled that: “At the time he was arrested, Saab Moran truly was no diplomat at all.”

 Venezuelan Congress head, Jorge Rodriguez, said of the ruling: “If the United States, or in this case, this judge, takes that decision, which is an atrocity, no diplomat in the world will be safe from now on.”

But who cares; at least not the American establishment that is striving so hard to stand the world on its head.