US Allies on Alert After Lithium-Rich Bolivia Inks Defense Deal With Iran

Orinoco Tribune, July 27, 2023 —

Washington’s allies have raised alarms about Iran’s growing cooperation with leftist governments in Latin America

Members of Bolivia’s far-right opposition and the Argentinian government are demanding that La Paz disclose the details of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on defense and security affairs signed between Defense Ministers Edmundo Novillo y Mohamad Reza Ashtiani in Tehran last week.

“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,” said lawmaker Gustavo Aliaga, who belongs to the Comunidad Ciudadana (CC) party.

In 2019, CC leader Carlos Mesa supported the US-orchestrated coup that forced socialist leader Evo Morales to flee Bolivia, leaving it under the control of a far-right dictatorship that conducted multiple massacres of Morales supporters and sought to surrender the country’s massive lithium deposits to western transnationals.

The Argentinian foreign ministry also demanded explanations from La Paz on Monday under pressure from the Delegation of Argentinian Israeli Associations (DAIA), who said the MoU “risks for the security of Argentina and the region” due to Tehran’s ties with Lebanese resistance group Hezbollah.

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

Buenos Aires blames Hezbollah and Iran for the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center that left 85 dead. Both Tehran and Hezbollah deny the accusation.

The statements by the CC and DAIA came on the heels of a report by the neoconservative Institute for the Study of War (ISW), which claims that the deal between Tehran and La Paz includes the delivery of Iranian drones for the South American nation.

Last week, Iran agreed to help Bolivia combat drug trafficking along its borders and boost 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 following his meeting with the Bolivian defense minister last week.

For his part, Novillo said Iran is a “role model” for nations that seek freedom, highlighting the Islamic Republic’s “remarkable progress in science and technology, security, and the defense industry despite sanctions.”

Bolivia is the latest Latin American nation to ink a security agreement with the Persian nation, following in the footsteps of Nicaragua and Venezuela. Over the past year, the Islamic Republic has also made significant inroads with Brazil.

Iran and Bolivia also hold two of the largest lithium deposits in the world, with the Islamic Republic earlier this year announcing the discovery of a massive deposit holding a reported 8.5 million tons of the rare element. On the other hand, Bolivia has the richest known lithium deposits in the world, with an estimated 21 million tons.

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