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FP: Dumb and Dumber

Author: Andy Webb-Vidal
October 11, 2007



This Foreign Policy article discusses Venezuela's President Hugo Chávez, stating what really ought to concern us about Chávez is not his strident anti-Americanism, his burgeoning friendship with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, or his flirtation with nuclear technology, but his dangerous incompetence.


Unlike the security-weary Venezuelans queuing at Caracas’s Simón Bolívar International Airport for a regular American Airlines connection to Miami, travelers booked on the weekly Iran Air Flight 745 to Tehran enjoy a refreshingly different experience. On Saturday afternoons, the Iran Air passengers are whisked past the X-ray machines and immigration control straight to their seats. Similar consideration is provided to those on the Friday inbound flight, the so-called “ghost plane”: no passport stamps, no baggage checks.

Among the inbound luggage there might be the odd flying carpet bought by the more outlandish visitor to Tehran’s Grand Bazaar. But Venezuela’s main international airport is buzzing with rumors that the “ghost plane” comes and goes laden with artifacts that would make a TSA official throw a fit: automatic weapons, electronic gadgets, and suspect lead crates.

The mystery that shrouds the Caracas-Tehran air link is symbolic of the sinister but also bizarre relationship that is being swiftly cemented between Hugo Chávez, Venezuela’s quixotic president, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran’s anti-American leader. Last month, during a fleeting visit by the Iranian president to Caracas, Chávez heaped praise on Ahmadinejad and described him as “one of the greatest anti-imperialist fighters.”

Why are Chávez and Ahmadinejad striking such a cozy relationship, and why, if at all, should it be of concern in Washington?

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