While the West continues to court Iran (and Iran continues to snub it), Iran has been deepening friendships elsewhere: in Venezuela, for instance. Tehran recently hosted the third Gas Exporting Countries Forum, attended by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. Maduro was received by none other than Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei himself – the same Khamenei whose spiteful, suspicious rhetoric against the West consistently undermined first the nuclear talks, and then the nuclear deal.
All in all, we can’t really blame these two for becoming buddies: they have a lot in common. For example, we’re sure Maduro and Khamenei bonded over their shared hatred of the US, which seems to be just as strong as their shared disregard for human rights – despite the prominent positions their respective countries fill in international human rights bodies, for which, according to UN Watch, they should have been disqualified. For example, Iran was recently elected to the UN Commission on the Status of Women (laughably enough); Venezuela was also (no less absurdly) recently re-elected to the UN Human Rights Council. In fact, Maduro himself addressed the council earlier this month, blasting the “ongoing harassment of the imperialist powers of the United States” while praising his own government – “shameless self-promotion” slammed by Human Rights Watch for obscuring Venezuela’s “poor human rights record.”
But let’s not speculate, let’s look at the headlines. The Latin American Herald Tribune casually informs us that Maduro and Khamenei “reaffirmed” their “alliance against imperialism” and commitment to “resistance” (which Iran interprets as the violent kind); another Latin American news agency, Prensa Latina, announces that the two leaders agreed “on the need to further strengthen bilateral ties against the greedy US.” The Iranian media reflected a similar perspective, with most English-language outlets highlighting the alliance of “resistance” between Iran and Venezuela against imperialist “humiliation.” As for the international press, the meeting for the most part went under its radar.
The meeting between Maduro and Rouhani, however, yielded different headlines, relating more to cooperation among oil producers, than to “resistance” to “imperialism.” And yet, the near-lack of Western reports on the Maduro and Khamenei meeting (well, beyond including both leaders in a list of “5 world leaders you should follow on Twitter” a few months ago) – and subsequent statements – is baffling. Don’t take it from us, take it from UN Watch, which was quick to point out this week just what might be problematic – not to mention newsworthy – about a meeting between two leaders likely to “compare notes on how they arrest, imprison and brutalize opposition activists” as their countries serve on international rights bodies at the same time.