United States Allies Are Frightened with Bolivia Signing Defense Deal With Iran

Opposition members of the Bolivian government and the Argentinian demanded that the Bolivian government publish the details of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on defense and security matters signed between Bolivian Defense Minister Edmundo Novillo and Iranian Defense Minister Mohamad Reza Ashtiani in Tehran in the second half of July.

“They say that [Iran] will give us drones. Others say they will give us missiles. All of this sounds strange, even more so considering it involves Iran … I can’t understand why Bolivia is getting involved in such a complex and difficult relationship,” declared elected official Gustavo Aliaga, who is a member of the Comunidad Ciudadana (CC) party.

In 2019, CC leader Carlos Mesa supported the coup that compelled socialist leader Evo Morales to leave the country. The regime that took Morales’ place aimed to allow foreign transnationals to take control of the country’s enormous lithium deposits. 

On July 24, 2023, the Argentine foreign ministry also called for explanations from Bolivian authorities who faced pressure from the Delegation of Argentinian Israeli Associations (DAIA), who declared that the MoU poses“risks for the security of Argentina and the region” owing to Iran’s connections with Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

In a press release, DAIA urged the Argentinian government “to condemn this agreement and demand Bolivia reconsider its decision.”

Argentinian authorities blame Hezbollah and Iran for the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center that resulted in the killing of 85 people. However, Iran and Hezbollah have rejected these allegations. 

The statements made by the CC and the DAIA came after the publication of a report by the neoconservative Institute for the Study of War (ISW), which asserted that the deal between Iran and Bolivia includes the delivery of Iranian drones to the South American nation.

Iran recently agreed to assist Bolivia fight drug trafficking along its borders and increase cooperation with the Bolivian army.

“[Due to] Bolivia’s critical needs in terms of border defense and the fight against drug trafficking, we will establish collaboration in equipment and specialized knowledge,” Ashtiani said after his meeting with the Bolivian defense minister.

Novillo labeled Iran as a “role model” for nations that pursue freedom, highlighting Iran’s “remarkable progress in science and technology, security, and the defense industry despite sanctions.”

Bolivia is the most recent Latin American nation to sign a security agreement with the Middle Eastern nation, following the likes of Nicaragua and Venezuela. In the last year, Iran has also made strengthened ties with Brazil.

On top of that, Bolivia and Iran hold two of the largest lithium deposits on the planet. Earlier in 2023, Iran announced the discovery of a large deposit containing a reported 8.5 million tons of lithium. For its part, Bolivia has the largest known lithium deposits on the planet, with a projected 21 million tons.

Bolivia’s lithium deposits are very much a resource of interest for great powers such as the US and China. Both countries will be jockeying for influence in Bolivia throughout the 21st century. 

As for Iran, it’s one of the most sanctioned countries on the planet. Naturally, it’s going to respond to the US’s geopolitical and geoeconomic encroachments against it by poking the US in the eye by forging ties with anti-American countries in the Western Hemisphere. One can argue that as Iran builds ties with more Latin American nations, it could be laying the groundwork for carrying out major geopolitical blowback later down the line. 

At some point, US policymakers will need to realize that their actions abroad have consequences. A humble foreign policy of realism, restraint, and non-intervention is needed to avoid any further geopolitical calamities.

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