Tyrants in arms: Tehran and Caracas

Nicolas Maduro

The economic incompetence of the Nicolas Maduro administration in Venezuela – whose ability to hang on to power through to the end of 2019 and into 2020 has, as we noted the other day, surprised and impressed many observers – is matched only by its moral iniquity. The other day the Powerline blog drew the attention of readers to the following news report from Iran’s FARS news service:

The Venezuelan government offered condolences to the people of Iran for the assassination of Iran’s top general by a US airstrike in Baghdad and praised Iran’s resistance with this poster.

Qasem Soleimani,

The poster in question depicted Hugo Chavez, the late Venezuelan leader; Simon Bolivar, the early nineteenth century hero of Latin American liberty; General Soleimani, the bloodthirsty thug taken out by the US strike; and the two fathers of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. Accompanying this bizarre gallery was the statement: “Faces, times and countries change, but the goal is the same.” If nothing else, this poster provided a degree of insight into the chavista mentality. Yes, the Communist Revolution in Cuba and the chavista revolution in Venezuela were of a piece: both of them took affluent, relatively free countries and subordinated their peoples to brutal dictatorship and an economic program that plunged them into poverty. It’s not surprising, of course, to see the Maduro regime equating these revolutions with Simon Bolivar’s democratic revolt against Spanish imperialism: it was part of Chavez’s conceit that he was following in the footsteps of Bolivar, and when he rose to power he even changed his country’s name to “the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.”

Ayatollah Khomeini

What’s striking here, though, is the equation of these Communist revolutions with the revolution to which Soleimani dedicated his life – namely, the radical Islamic revolution that toppled the Shah in 1979 and subjected the Iranian people to a radical Islamic theocracy under the absolute control of the Ayatollah Khomeini. Yes, the result of that revolution was much the same as in Cuba and Venezuela: an affluent and relatively free country was transformed into a brutal dictatorship whose people have increasingly suffered economically. Needless to say, Communism and Islamic theocracy could scarcely be further apart ideologically; but to the chavista mind, that’s not what matters. What matters is that pre-revolutionary Venezuela, Cuba, and Iran were nations that looked to the West, and especially to the United States, as a social, economic, and political model, and central to the revolutions in those countries was the rejection of American power, friendship, and influence. For chavistas, the U.S. will always be the evil empire to the north, much as Spain was the evil empire for Bolivar, and this view of America is, needless to say, fully shared by the Iranian regime, for whom the U.S. is the Great Satan. This deep-rooted hostility to America is a central, defining factor in all these contemporary regimes, and makes possible the otherwise utterly counterintuitive alliance between the radical left and radical Islam that has been called the red-green axis.

As Powerline put it: since the wardrobes of several generations of misguided post-sixties American youths – youths who have been either ignorant of or indifferent to Che Guevara’s real legacy – have included t-shirts bearing the image of that murderous monster, will American students someday walk around “with pictures of Soleimani on their t-shirts?”

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