U.S. Special Representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams warned on July 10 that Iran might be purchasing weapons from Russia or China to sell them to the Nicolás Maduro regime.
“Iran […] might, in theory, buy or sell from Russia or China and then sell them to Venezuela at a higher price,” the diplomat said in a teleconference, where he also highlighted that Tehran manufactures “some products” that it might offer to Caracas.
“We are watching that closely,” said the U.S. State Department official, adding that the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump “has imposed major limitations on the type of weapons that Iran can send to the western hemisphere.”
Relations between Iran and Venezuela have strengthened in recent months, causing tensions with Washington after Iran sent several tankers with gasoline to the South American nation.
At an event organized by the Heritage Foundation think tank, Abrams said that the diplomatic isolation that the United States has imposed on the governments of Venezuela and Iran has made them turn to each other to find economic and ideological support.
“These are states without friends; they are looking for a way to show that they are not really isolated,” Abrams said.
Both the United States and the interim government of Venezuela, led by Juan Guaidó, have accused Maduro of paying Iran with gold extracted “illegally” in exchange for gasoline, which has recently become scarce in the country with the largest oil reserves in the world, because its production has drastically declined.
“Maduro has only one thing to sell, oil, and he desperately needs gasoline, because nobody is buying crude,” Abrams said. The diplomat said that the United States has been “very successful” with its policy of sanctions — hardened during the Trump administration — and has managed to “deprive the regime of resources.”