Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi concluded on Friday his first Latin American tour, strengthening ties with communist dictators in Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba.

The Iranian head of state, against whom the U.S. has imposed sanctions, reinforced his geopolitical partnerships against the the U.S., the common enemy of these four human rights violators.

Raisi, a judge and religious fanatic responsible for the execution of 580 Iranians last year, reiterated to the tyrants of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela that this is not a “normal but rather a strategic” relationship against foreign interference.

With respect to the Iran’s Presidential tour, National Security Coordinator for Strategic Communications, John Kirby said, “We don’t ask countries in this hemisphere or any other to choose who they are going to associate with or who they are going to talk to or who they are going to allow to visit. That’s for them to speak to. We are focused on our own national security interest in the region.” Kirby also noted that the Pentagon is concerned about Iran’s destabilizing behavior.

In Venezuela, Caracas and Tehran announced they are seeking to promote greater oil and commercial cooperation, going from $3 billion to $20 billion in the coming years.

Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro and Raisi set a goal of increasing flights between the two countries and promoting tourism and scientific research cooperation. Venezuela and Tehran signed 25 bilateral agreements in sectors such as petrochemicals, transport, and mining, among others. Both countries announced they are seeking to expand exports and oil exploitation.

The Persian extremist signed six agreements in Havana, covering areas such as telecommunications, information technology and portable services. The parties announced the strengthening of exchanges between their respective Ministries of Justice and customs authorities.

During the last decade, Iran has extended a line of credit to Cuba ranging between $200 and $500 million dollars per year, but this financing has been extinguished in the last five years.

Unlike the cases of Cuba and Venezuela, Iran’s relationship with Nicaragua has not involved strong financial or commercial support, although Ortega has invited Iran to participate in different investment projects. The regimes of Tehran and Managua signed three agreements, one of them focused on promoting free trade. Despite this, there are no commercial routes, attractive products, or competitive prices for such activity.

Stronger sanctions are a step in the right direction. Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), and Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) have introduced the Stop Harboring Iranian Petroleum Act, which would sanction illicit purchases of Iranian oil and hold the regime’s enablers accountable.

This bill sets a statement of policy that the U.S. should deny Iran the ability to engage in destabilizing activities. It also imposes sanctions against entities that engage in the illicit Iranian oil trade — for example, conducting ship-to-ship transfers of or processing Iranian oil — and against entities included on the Treasury Department’s Specially Designated Nationals list.

Iran has just finalized a tour across Latin America’s authoritarian regimes, with a lot of anti-American rhetoric and several cooperation agreements. Its secret agenda does not presage anything good.

This is not a good time for “cooling down” tensions or increasing “understanding.” Iran is increasing support to Russia’s war in Ukraine, promoting repression at home and strengthening ties with U.S. enemies in Latin America.

Hemispheric security is at stake. There is an urgent need for stronger leadership and pressure to stop Iran’s high-voltage geopolitical games.

Arturo McFields Yescas is a former Nicaraguan ambassador to the Organization of American States, an exiled journalist, and a former member of the Peace Corps of Norway.

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