Is Chavez helping Iran build the bomb?
Veteran Manhattan DA Robert Morgenthau is on Hugo Chavez’s case.
Morgenthau warned last week at Washington’s Brookings Institution that Iran is using Venezuela’s financial system to avoid international sanctions so it can acquire materials to develop nuclear weapons and missiles. He urged more scrutiny of the “emerging axis of Iran and Venezuela” in an op/ed article in the Wall Street Journal, in which he said a number of mysterious Iranian factories had sprung up in remote parts of Venezuela.
Chavez’s man in Washington, Venezuelan Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez, called the allegations “outrageous … unfounded and irresponsible” in a letter to the district attorney seen by Reuters.
True, leftist President Chavez has done little to endear himself to Americans. A fierce critic of the United States, his foreign policy rule of thumb is my enemy’s enemies are my friends. His last trip abroad included visits to Libya, Algeria, Syria, Iran, Belarus and Russia. He loudly announced plans to buy Russian tanks and anti-aircraft missiles.
But Chavez maintains the weapons are needed to defend Venezuela, which he says is threatened by a growing U.S. military presence in neighboring Colombia. And he swears he has no intention of developing an atomic bomb.
Besides vast oil reserves, Venezuela has large deposits of uranium, though there are no signs of any plans to mine them.
“Venezuela would never participate, directly or indirectly, in any project to help any country produce weapons of mass destruction,” Alvarez wrote to Morgenthau.
“Sadly, your claims bring to memory the allegations of weapons of mass destruction that were said to exist in Iraq and led to that country’s invasion and the consequent loss of many Arab and American lives,” Alvarez wrote.
The diplomat said the district attorney was feeding “an unfounded and dirty campaign” against Venezuela.
Without hard evidence to show, is Morgenthau fear-mongering? What do you think?
Photo credit: Reuters/handout (Chavez speaks next to Iran’s Ahmadinejad in Tehran), Reuters/Brendan McDermid (Morgenthau at Reuters Financial Regulation Summit in New York, April 24, 2009)