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Iran’s Oil Minister Visits Venezuela To Coordinate on Energy
Insets (L-R): Iranian Oil Minister Javad Owji, 3 June 2021. (Mohammad Hassanzadeh/CreativeCommons) and Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, 25 September 2019 (Press Service of the President of the Russian Federation/Creative Commons)

Iran’s Oil Minister Visits Venezuela To Coordinate on Energy

The timing suggests Tehran is not counting on renewal of the nuclear deal, expert says

Javad Owji, the Iranian oil minister, met with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in Caracas this week to examine ways to overcome the economic sanctions imposed on both their countries by the United States, officials said.

Maduro on Twitter described Monday’s session as “a productive meeting to deepen the ties of brotherhood and cooperation in energy matters.”

The visit comes amid heightened uncertainty in energy markets worldwide.

The Russo-Ukrainian War has dealt a serious blow to Europe’s energy security and driven oil prices higher. The United States is also seeking alternatives to Russian oil and Venezuela seems to be one of them. And the talks in Vienna on reviving the Iranian nuclear deal seem to be nearing a climax, with the outcome uncertain.

Ali Ahmadi, a research fellow at the Vocal Europe think tank in Brussels and an analyst at the Gulf State Analytics geopolitical risk consulting firm in Washington, told The Media Line there is a lot of geoeconomic activity happening around oil as global energy lines are redrawn by the Ukraine crisis and the possible resumption of the Iran nuclear agreement.

Venezuela and Iran have been subjected to similar sanctions and they have experience in bypassing them.

“Both had to master ways of getting around the sanctions and they are likely to continue sharing expertise on this issue,” Ahmadi said.

Jacopo Scita, a doctoral fellow at the School of Government and International Affairs at Durham University, told The Media Line that Iran is interested in showing it has allies.

“More than a statement about seeking alternatives to overcome sanctions, this seems to be an Iranian attempt to reinforce the idea that it is not internationally isolated. Even more significant considering that Venezuela is in the US backyard,” said Scita.

Ahmadi believes that one of the messages of the visit is directed to the US. “It would be that Iran is going to do business with or without the JCPOA [the nuclear accord],” he said.

Dr. Reza Khanzadeh, the author of an upcoming book on human capital failures inside the Islamic Republic, told The Media Line the visit “further showcases Iran’s foreign policy agenda in face of a seemingly failed negotiation on renewing the JCPOA, by way of appearing to be self-reliant and not being dependent on sanctions relief.”

He added that it helps the Iranian regime to look strong for its domestic audience by exhibiting defiance against the US and Europe.

The visit came a few weeks after a US delegation met with Maduro, noted Scita, and it was important for the Iranians to show the world that Caracas and Tehran are aligned in their energy policy despite the American attempt to influence Venezuela.

Khanzadeh agrees and said Owji’s visit also aimed to exacerbate the Biden administration’s domestic troubles by highlighting that countries Washington is seeking to cooperate with regarding oil are allied to enemies of the US.

Still, Ahmadi believes that the real motivation behind the visit is the desire of President Ebrahim Raisi’s administration to boost revenue from the export of refined petroleum.

“Expanding cooperation with Venezuela, which is hard-pressed for partners, is one path to that goal,” he said.

Scita added that Venezuela – like Iran – is an OPEC member, and both countries benefit from the current high oil prices.

“So some coordination between Iran and Venezuela, especially regarding energy, is not surprising,” he said.

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