The autocratic leaders of Iran and Venezuela criticized U.S. foreign policy actions using the same language over the weekend, as the two countries develop closer ties.
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Sunday that calls by the United States and its allies for the country to limit its missile program represented a "stupid, idiotic expectation." Western leaders fear that Iran could be developing missiles to carry nuclear warheads, a concern that is expected to be raised at nuclear talks on Tuesday.
Khamenei’s comments followed a Friday speech by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in which he called potential U.S. sanctions against his regime "stupid." Maduro’s government has led a crackdown against protesters in recent months resulting in 42 deaths, about 800 injured persons, and some 3,000 arrests.
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The similar rhetoric used by Khamenei and Maduro suggests the strengthening of ties between the two authoritarian governments. Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jose Jaua Milano will travel to Tehran in late May to meet with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif and other senior Iranian officials, according to reports in the Iranian state press.
Experts also say Hezbollah, the Lebanese terrorist group sponsored by Iran, has expanded its illicit operations in Venezuela and other Latin American countries in recent years.