Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has just completed his visit to South America and the Caribbean, having stopped in Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba. The four countries have in common vicious dictatorships that hate the United States.
Predictably, nothing came of the Managua stop because the Ortega regime has nothing to offer and Raisi won't throw good money after bad. This stop was symbolic of their common political and global stance. Venezuela is different, because it is now exporting about 500-600,000 barrels of oil each day. Given the apparent weakening of U.S. sanctions on Venezuela by the Biden administration, that number may rise. This gives the Maduro regime a commodity with which to pay for Iranian help (such as aid keeping refineries working, weapons, or intelligence assistance). Moreover, given the very visible weakening of U.S. sanctions on Iranian oil exports, Iran can disguise Venezuelan oil as its own and sell it in international markets.
The Cuba stop was full of anti-American rhetoric; the Cuban regime has been at it since 1959, twenty years before the Islamic Republic got started. But the Cuban regime is bankrupt. It appreciates the speeches but wants help that Iran will be loathe to give. Five years ago Iran stopped its lines of credit to Havana. Though the two regimes announced six new agreements, the only really credible one is the strengthening of exchanges between their respective “Ministries of Justice.”
What is perhaps more interesting is where Raisi did not go. No invitation from leftist governments in Brazil, Colombia, or Chile? Did Raisi ask and get turned down, or did his diplomats tell him that asking would only lead to tension and disappointment? Did Lula in Brazil face a large enough blowback for his embrace of Maduro in Brasilia in May to persuade him that a Raisi visit was just too risky? And what about Mexico? I assume Raisi would have loved showing up in America's neighbor, where his denunciations of the gringos would have attracted attention on both sides of the border. Did AMLO recognize how much damage that would do to him, and to Mexico? Again, did Raisi try it and get shot down?
Having no access to the relevant intelligence information I can only keep guessing. And my guess is that Raisi took quiet soundings, and was disappointed to visit only 3 countries and miss out on regional powers like Brazil, Chile, Mexico, and Colombia. So toxic is Iran's vicious internal repression and its support for terrorism that even democratic leftists in good standing will not allow its president to visit. Only the ones that share brutal levels of repression with Iran gave him the photo ops he sought.