Senior Iranian leaders have been scouting around for homes in Venezuela, hedging their bets should the ruling regime in their homeland collapse, a new report says.
In December, the Iran International media outlet said it had learned that a delegation of four senior Iranian officials had travelled to Venezuela to reach an agreement.
Venezuela reportedly agreed to allow high-ranking Iranian officials and their families to take refuge if the Iranian regime falls.
Iran International also quoted an analyst as saying the request for refuge "reportedly came directly from Iranian leader Ali Khamenei's office".
Rumours that Iranian officials have been buying beach-side villas in Venezuela, prompting an increase in real estate prices, have been circulating in recent months.
It is certainly true that the Iranian regime is weakened, bankrupt and isolated, a Europe-based Iranian analyst told Al-Mashareq, asking that his name not be used.
If the report about Iranian officials seeking refuge in Venezuela is true, he said, it further proves the regime's instability.
"If the regime falls -- which it might -- where else could Iranian officials go?"
"Venezuela is an equally isolated country under US sanctions, and one of the few countries that Iran has relations with, so it may take in regime officials, particularly given the amount of money Iran spends in Venezuela," he said.
If the report is factual, the visit has been kept under wraps.
A Venezuelan Foreign Ministry source, who declined to be named, denied that Iranian officials have visited Caracas to discuss asylum.
The two governments are enjoying "the best relationship", he told Al-Mashareq.
Ample support for Iran is reflected on the official Twitter account of the Iranian Embassy in Venezuela, where users point to the United States as Iran and Venezuela's "common enemy" in their posts.
Iran's spending spree in Venezuela
Meanwhile, Iran is spending millions of dollars that it does not have on Venezuela, while its own people are grappling with an economic crisis.
The Iran-Venezuela Binational Bank has spent billions of dollars of Iranian taxpayers' money on loans to Venezuela, which are unlikely to be paid back anytime soon, Iranian website Aftab News reported in November.
Caracas has not made its committed payments toward projects Tehran has launched in Venezuela, including in oil, construction and agriculture.
Last month, a few expatriate Persian media outlets reported that Iran has vowed to allocate up to $7 billion to funding various projects in Venezuela.
This is while, according to the Central Bank of Iran (CBI), Iran's foreign debt exceeded $7.2 billion as of its May estimate.
Iran's state TV has said 60 to 70% of the capital of the "Iran-Venezuela market" will be dedicated to Venezuelan oil projects.
In addition to providing Venezuela with refined fuel to supply its deteriorating energy market, Iran sells it weapons, provides military training and reportedly provides guidance on ways to avoid US and European sanctions.
In return, Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Lebanese Hizbullah are smuggling Venezuelan gold to raise funds for their activities, facilitated by the sale of Iranian oil, according to a confidential document from London-based Lloyds Marine Insurance Company obtained by Iran International.
Lloyds further stated that flights from Caracas to Tehran via Mahan Air are being used as an illicit channel to ship gold to pay for Iranian oil, in breach of applicable sanctions, Iran International reported on December 12.
The recent bilateral drone development project is another aspect of the two countries' co-operation.
At a July 5 military parade, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro unveiled "Venezuelan drones with attack capabilities".
Venezuela is the only Latin American country that has this type of weapon. It is a well-known fact, observers say, that Caracas enjoys Tehran's military support.
Maduro and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi signed a 20-year co-operation pact in Tehran on June 11, to boost ties in various areas.
The two pariah countries, both isolated and heavily sanctioned, will "work together on financial, energy and defence projects", Raisi said.
But so far, economists say, the co-operation has been rather one-sided.
Iranian media in October reported that El Palito, the refinery built by Iran in Caracas, is operational after Tehran signed a contract worth $116 million with Caracas in May to repair and relaunch the dilapidated refinery.
Iran has been swapping Venezuelan heavy oil and other commodities for gasoline, condensate, refinery parts and technical assistance while providing the country with lighter oil to be used as diluent.
On December 6, Reuters reported that an Iranian tanker carrying about 2 million barrels of ultra-light oil arrived that week in Venezuelan waters.
As part of a contract negotiated between the two countries in 2006, Iran delivered the first of four advanced oil tankers to Venezuela in May 2020, and the second vessel was delivered on June 11.
A third oil tanker was delivered to Caracas in September, while a fourth will join Venezuela's state-owned oil and natural gas corporation (PDVSA) in 2024.
The deliveries come as the United States has imposed severe economic sanctions on Iran and Venezuela.
Many Iranian economic and political analysts accuse the Iranian regime of "selling the country", as it has done with its other allies, Russia and China.
"Regime authorities would do anything to gain power, remain in power and ensure they have a place to go if they fall from power," said an Iran-based political scientist.
"Selling the country is the only way for Islamic Republic officials to buy themselves a safe haven, and that safe haven appears to be Venezuela at the moment," he told Al-Mashareq.
Marisela Luzardo contributed to this report from Caracas.
Death to Iran Death to Israel Death to America Death to China Death to Russia Death to England death to france Death to Pakistan Death to India... But what is the purpose of this? Does that mean that a person must die? Why? for what person, who is the best of creation, why should he die? Person should not die. A person must survive. A person must work. A person should develop life and life facilities and equipment. Humans should do things that are useful to other humans. A person should try to improve his life facilities. Please, those who have enmity against other people, correct their thoughts. Please do not accept Satan's gossip. A person who lives in Afghanistan, a person who lives in America, Russia, China and Japan, a person who lives in France, Germany and Canada, all of them are the creation of the eternal creator. All these are the deposit of Allah the Almighty who were created in the world and the purpose of their creation is to worship God and bring good to each other. Almighty God says in the holy Quran that He has not created anything without benefit. So in this case, please avoid negative feelings against the others. I read Salaam Times. Many times it presents reports and writings that are good for mankind. Please help each other. Help together in science, technology, science, medicine. Avoid killing and fighting and harming each other. With respectsReply
Some individuals/nations are always trying to work in a new ways to make the world's life easier and safer so that the people of the world can live in harmony and peace along with economic prosperity. The only framework for this change is the holy religion of Islam. The blessed religion of Islam is the last religion of all the heavenly religions. This blessed and pure religion has always shown its followers how to live in peace, brotherhood, human peace, and equality. But for the time being, leave the non-Muslims alone; Most Muslim leaders do not follow Islam's pure and holy path. Whatever rights Islam has given to the people, the current Muslim leaders have taken them from their people. These rights and the lack of services lead to chaos and foreign interference in the country, and finally, the senior officials are forced to flee because of their mistakes. It leaves the nation in a bad situation. The Prophet of the blessed religion of Islam, Hazrat Muhammad Mustafa (peace be upon him), is the best painter of good morals and peace, security, and good life in human society for the whole world. Still, Mullah, who considers himself his heir, created problems in the communities because he left the path of his beloved Prophet Muhammad Mustafa (peace be upon him) and followed his desires. Mullahs want a good life for themselves but a bad and useless life for others. Pakistani Mullahs want a better life for themselves and their families in their homeland, but if Afghans ask for it, tReply
A news was published on Radio Ashna [Voice of America] that Iranian investors are looking to invest in Afghanistan and Iraq. This means that the government of the Iranian Mullahs is about to fall. If the leaders of the Islamic government of Iran flee or invest in Venezuela and think that they will feel happy there, it is not true. Leaders who play with the fate of their country's people cannot live peacefully anywhere. How can their conscience accept to abandon their nation and live a peaceful life together with their families? These leaders of Iran should learn from the fate of the leaders of Afghanistan. Iran's leaders forced their country into a severe economic crisis due to unnecessary pressures.Reply