Is Chavez helping Iran build the bomb?

September 14, 2009


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.

REGULATION-SUMMIT/MORGENTHAUThe ambassador said the DA’s suspicions about Iranian factories were “particularly irresponsible” because they produce food, farming equipment, plastic goods, bicycles and dairy products.

“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)


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If both Iran and Venezuela have plenty of oil, why the rush to develop atomic energy? Is it not cheaper and safer to produce energy out of oil? The doubts as to their plans and intentions seem reasonable.

Posted by Jaime | Report as abusive

Lets send Oliver Stone and the other Chavez groupies from Hollywood to V and Iran to fix the problems. They can’t come back to USA until it is solved.

Posted by M. Sullivan | Report as abusive

why do you need any proof?

do it like Bush : deceive, lie, half trues…or just make what ever you want despite if you are violating the law.

Posted by Yuri | Report as abusive

Perhaps that’s why there have been some reports in the Venezuelan media of unclassified flights leaving the Venezuelan Guayana region with unknown cargo flying to Iran.

Posted by Speaker | Report as abusive

Jaime, the oil you pump out of the ground doesn’t exactly meet the requirements of car, truck, or generator engines. You’d probably be surprised to find that Iran actually imports a lot of fuel, and what they produce themselves is dependant on imported chemicals. Nuclear generators, once fueled, run for much longer without the need for imported items.

Posted by Richard Pearce | Report as abusive

Nuclear energy should be fully utilized.

Posted by Jim Welsh | Report as abusive

hmm, so let me get this straight. we are the only country in the world to ever actually use an atomic weapon on another country and we have the right to go and tell someone else that they can’t have it. oh and that someone else just happens to be a country where our CIA overthrew a democratically elected leader, and that someone also happens to be a country that fought an 8 year war where we supported the other side who just happned to be led by dr. evil himself sadaam hussain. that someone also happens to be a country who we continue to threaten with bombings and invasion. yea its no wonder they act the way they do and are doing the things they are doing

Posted by sidney | Report as abusive

Morgenthau has zero expertise in this area, and no special access to any relevant information. His beliefs and opinions about foreign affairs mean no more to me than the opinions of a random person on the street. It’ll be a pity if he ruins the fine reputation he’s built up over decades as a DA, by wandering into areas that are totally unrelated to what he excelled at.

Posted by Scott | Report as abusive

Latin America has been on the ‘US backyard’ for quite some time being that ‘little’ neighbor that is easy to forget due to other bigger priorities in International affairs; however, for how much longer can the US afford to look on the other side while Mr. Chavez gains power by using Venezuela’s oil revenues to favor his personal and political preferences in detriment to even its own people and domestic economy? though, this is a very serious allegation I wonder if Mr. Chavez will ever run out of money to buy other Governments’ support and silence. I just wish Mr. Oliver Stone spend a week out of his luxury hotels in one of the ‘barriadas’ of Caracas to live the real consecuences of Chavez Revolution.

Posted by Mariela | Report as abusive

Obama,s appeasement approach has been tried before and it caused the second world war.The leaders of these anti American collations are prepared to call Obama,s bluff because his hands are tied by the extreme left wing of his party.

Posted by brian lee | Report as abusive

“Without hard evidence to show, is Morgenthau fear-mongering? What do you think?”

I’m wondering why unsubstanciated comments from a known opponent to the socialist state of Venezuela are newsworthy material? The Venezuelans are correct, this kind of speculation is as irresponsible as putting it to print without investigating the story first. This shows a very unprofessional relationship between the DA and some in the press.

Both Venezuela and Iran have nuclear reactors already, Iran even has one that was supplied by the US in 1967.

Though I would probably agree that both states would be interested in developing nuclear weapons, because it makes perfect sense to restore the balance of power in both regions and create a defensive capability in response to the extremely aggressive and currently threatening states of USA, and Israel in the Mid-east. Both nuclear powers (Israel illegally) and notorious for attacking their neighbors.

I think its a bit rich to expect another country (that you are threatening) to not develop an effective deterrent under the guise of non-proliferation when your country currently has enough weapons of mass destruction to destroy civilization itself, has used them before, has threatened to use them recently, and shows no signs of diminishing their apocalyptic stockpiles..

I think the US needs a lot more credibility in weapons of mass destruction before they can instruct the world on who can have them, and I think the world needs to treat EVERY country with weapons of mass destruction equally to earn our own.

Posted by brian decree | Report as abusive

Starting to invent some story to invade Venezuela? now with 7 military bases in Colombia could be easy, telling the world that Chavez and Ahmadinejad are devil and they have weapons of mass destruction? come on… Venezuela is rich, oil, gas, uranium. It is very atractive, so let the media write nice stories, the only people who believe it are americans, sorry northamericans…

Posted by Cris | Report as abusive

Both Iran and Venezuela have cause to distrust and be angry at the USA. Venezuela has every right to buy arms all it wants, Fine. And Chavez has deep insecurities because he doesn’t get to sit at the “Big Kids’ Table”. Fine. But Chavez is playing a dangerous game, trying to ally his people with another people whom they have absolutely no historical or cultural ties with whatsoever. Things like this could quickly spin out of control for President Chavez. To whit, if a nuclear weapon from Iran detonates in Israel, Europe or North America and it is “discovered” that Venezuela is even slightly, indirectly, kinda-maybe, involved in any way (materially, finacially, etc), Venezuela will be attacked by the United States, Caracas will be reduced to smoking ruble, Chavez will be dead in a week along with thousands of his countrymen and nobody in Latin America or the world will come to his aid. Our pudgy, loud-mouthed friend is playing with fire and he has everything to lose and very little to gain.

Posted by Mark L | Report as abusive

Are we off chasing shadows and running toward another mud hole that we cannot get extracted from. Sounds like the weapons makers must want more business and are not happy that they lost the business to Russia. We sure know how to stir up things. Just what does a former DA know about Venezuela?

Posted by f belz | Report as abusive

Some pretty extreme theories there Mark L, on what evidence are you (or the US DA) extrapolating these hypatheticals from?

Today ‘Target Chavez’ continues with press relays comparing Venezuela to Myanmar as states that are not doing enough to fight drug trafficking, conveniently failing to mention the worlds worst offenders – Columbia and Afghanistan or the worlds largest narcotics market, the US.
Concern is also being propagated that Venezuela could spark an arms race in the region even though its military spending is still much less than its neighbors who might care, Colombia, Chile and Brazil..

It’s a worry when investigative reporting has degraded to such a low level that these easy to find comparisons that put the whole situation in perspective are missing.

It would also be worth mentioning, for those concerned about Chavez’s use of oil revenues that the US is still Venezuela’s biggest customer..

Posted by Brian | Report as abusive

Oh and for those of you who didn’t get to the irrelevant little details at the very end of the article, on page 2.. The US themselves (Venezuela’s old arms supplier) would no longer sell parts necessary to maintain their existing military equipment. Hardly relevant though right?

Posted by Brian | Report as abusive

To Jaime
No doube both of them got plenty of reserves but if they dont built something to keep their defence proper then went expecially us/uk will come running with excuses like (wmd) to steal that oil.
see iraq
makes sense

Posted by xavi | Report as abusive