In a surprising turn of events, leaked US intelligence has uncovered a secret alliance between Iran and Nicaragua that could have significant consequences for the Latin American region.
This new alliance between Iran and Nicaragua is not just an alliance against US interventionism in the region. But it could even lead to Nicaragua declaring war against Colombia, with the support of Iran.
Yes, you heard that right. How? Let’s find out.
According to a leaked intelligence report, in February, 2023, Iran and Nicaragua discussed strengthening military cooperation to counter US influence in Latin America. The Iranian delegation led by the foreign minister, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, met with senior Nicaraguan Army commanders to discuss the opposition to the perceived US efforts to expand its influence in Latin America. The alliance between Iran and Nicaragua was aimed at boosting relations and countering international isolation imposed on Iran by the United States and its Western allies.
The Biden administration had imposed sanctions on the Nicaraguan government and the family of President Daniel Ortega, for the repression of opponents in civil society, the church, and the news media. Both Iran and Nicaragua had undergone revolutions in 1979, with Iranians overthrowing the American-backed Shah regime and Nicaragua’s revolutionary Sandinista movement overthrew the country’s president, a key US ally in the region. The countries shared a common enemy, whom they had each fought in the same year and had succeeded in defeating.
The unexpected alliance between Iran and Nicaragua has implications for the ongoing maritime dispute between Nicaragua and Colombia. Both countries have returned to the International Court of Justice to determine their maritime boundaries.
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This marks the 13th time that the court is hearing arguments over the delimitation of Nicaragua’s continental shelf, which lies within 200 nautical miles of the San Andrés and Providencia islands, territories that the court ruled in an earlier decision belonged to Colombia. International law provides for a coastal state to control the waters within that distance, and Nicaragua wants the court to settle the competing claims.
The conflict between Nicaragua and Colombia goes back to the 1920s when both countries were fighting for the mineral and fish-rich waters of the Caribbean Sea. In 2001, Nicaragua accused Bogotá of failing to respect a 1928 treaty governing control of some 30,000 square miles of sea. The 2012 ICJ decision gave Colombia control of the San Andrés archipelago, but gave the waters around those islands to Nicaragua, which resulted in Colombia pulling out of the pact in protest.
Now, Iran has long sought to shore up relationships with Latin American countries that it considers outside the US sphere of influence. Tehran has signed trade agreements and promised investments with countries in the region over the past two decades, but its mixed record of following through is a challenge. The unexpected alliance with Nicaragua, however, could provide Iran with a foothold in the region, especially as it seeks to break out of the international isolation imposed on it by the United States and its Western allies.
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With the recent revelation of the Iranian-Nicaraguan alliance, there is a concern that Nicaragua may use military force to try to assert its claims over the disputed waters. Iran has a long history of supporting militant groups in the region, including Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen, and there is a fear that it may provide support to Nicaragua in a potential conflict with Colombia.
Therefore, it remains to be seen what actions, if any, the United States and other countries will take in response to the Iranian-Nicaraguan alliance. However, it is clear that a peaceful resolution to the ongoing border dispute with Colombia is essential for the stability of the region.
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