By Gustavo Arias Retana/Diálogo December 11, 2020 The illegitimate Nicolás Maduro regime in Venezuela is deepening its relations with Iran, opening the doors to the Islamic Republic’s military activities in the region and putting the security of neighboring countries at risk.The relationship between Iran and Venezuela is a fact, says the report The Maduro-Hezbollah Nexus: How Iran-backed Networks Prop up the Venezuelan Regime, published by the Atlantic Council think tank in October 2020.“Iran and Hezbollah’s support to the Maduro regime in Venezuela follows the strategy of its support to Bashar al-Assad in Syria to protect the logistical foothold of Iran’s land bridge through the Levant. In Venezuela, the logistical air bridge between Caracas, Damascus, and Tehran is what Maduro protects,” the report says.During 2020, Iran’s presence in Venezuela increased greatly. First because the Middle Eastern country sent fuel to Venezuela, so that Maduro could face the gasoline supply crisis triggered by mismanagement at state-run Petróleos de Venezuela; and secondly because Chavismo showed its intent to buy missiles from the Iranian regime.Concerning the fuel shipment, Iran agreed to allow Venezuela to pay with gold bars. This transaction was confirmed by Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi, former chief commander of the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC), in a September 28 interview with Radio Farda, the Iranian branch of the U.S. government funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty broadcast service. IRCG Maj. Gen. Safavi stated: “We gave gasoline to Venezuela and received gold bars, and carried the bars to Iran by plane, to avoid any mishap along the way.” Behind this gold are Chavismo’s various criminal activities, according to Venezuela’s legitimate Interim President Juan Guaidó.“They are paying for that gasoline with blood gold, without hiring and without the national Parliament’s approval. They have destroyed the Amazon, there is ecocide, there is [human] trafficking. We are constantly monitoring these vessels; we are very concerned about the security of Venezuelans and Latin America due to this attempt by the Iranian presence on Venezuelan soil,” Guaidó said via Zoom from Caracas, as reported on May 21 by the Venezuelan Embassy in the United States’ website.Regarding the Iranian missile purchase, according to an August 22 report from Colombian network Noticias Caracol, Maduro himself told the press: “What a good idea, to talk with Iran and see what short, medium, and long-range missiles they have, and if it is within our means, given the great relations we have with Iran, to buy missile equipment to strengthen Venezuela’s air, anti-aircraft, land, [and] missile defense.”José Ricardo Thomas, a professor at the Central University of Venezuela, told Diálogo on November 8 that Maduro seeks to put the entire region at risk by trying to implement a strategy similar to Cuba’s during the Cold War.“What they are looking for with the missile purchase is to […] provoke the United States; to set up mid-range missiles that go straight to the United States,” Thomas said.“Venezuela’s strategic location in South America and at the crossroads of the Caribbean provides Iran and Hezbollah with an ability to diminish their geographic disadvantage against the United States. To hide this relationship, Chávez, and then the Maduro regime, provided dual identities to some Middle Easterners, building a clandestine network that provides intelligence, training, funds, weapons, supplies, and know-how to both the Maduro and Assad regimes,” the Atlantic Council says.For his part, U.S. Representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams told Fox News on October 26 that the United States will not tolerate nor allow Iran to send long-range missiles to Venezuela. “We will make every effort to stop shipments of long-range missiles, and if somehow they get to Venezuela they will be eliminated there,” he said.