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Bolivia and Iran Strengthen Ties, Concerns Raise in Washington

Photo: Army Recognition 

  • What happened during Bolivia and Iran’s recent meeting in Tehran?

On July 16, Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Mohammed Reza Ashtiani and Bolivia’s Edmundo Novillo Aguilar held a meeting in Tehran on July 16. The meeting focused on strengthening bilateral defense relations, selling defense equipment to Bolivia, and cooperation to defeat terrorism. Ashtiani emphasized that Iran and Bolivia have common enemies trying to undermine their sovereignty. In addition, Ashanti assured that stronger bilateral defense relations will advance Bolivia’s deterrence power. Novillo Aguilar said that he hopes the two countries can expand their defense cooperation and reach an agreement on defense equipment sales soon. He also stated his commitment to Iran to combat terrorism. 

  • Why are Bolivia and Iran interested in expanding cooperation?

Bolivia and Iran have mutual interests that include geopolitical interests, shared ideology, and economic cooperation. Geopolitically, Iran sees greater cooperation with Bolivia as a form of decreasing the US’s influence in Latin America. Bolivia also wants to diminish US influence in its country and gain more power in the region. Additionally, Bolivia and Iran share an anti-imperialism sentiment that has been critical of the United States. From a more economic standpoint, Bolivia and Iran have signed more agreements that include trade, investment, and technology transfer over recent years. Lastly, Bolivia’s Evo Morales, a historical Bolivian president, has had close ties with Iran. Bolivia’s current president, Luis Arce, has continued his predecessor’s approach.  

  • How could other Latin American countries react to Bolivia’s meeting with Iran? 

As a whole, Latin America is politically diverse. There would be countries such as Venezuela and Cuba who are most likely supportive of the meeting. These countries also have strong relations with Iran and are anti-American. However, most Latin American countries will be cautious about this development. There can be real concerns about trusting a regime with rampant human rights abuses and state-sponsored terrorism. In addition, various Latin American countries could become concerned about how their relationship with the US could change if Bolivia and Iran continue to deepen their relations. 

  • How this meeting undermines US interests in the region?

Considering the US’s dominance in the region, the US would most likely be concerned about growing cooperation between Bolivia and Iran. The United States sees Iran as a threat as it a sponsor of terrorism and its main rival in the Middle East. There is concern that Tehran might be pushing to expand its terrorist operations in an area where the US has had substantial influence. Even if violent measures are not resorted to, Tehran may deepen anti-US sentiment in the region via propaganda or disinformation. Overall, this meeting between Bolivia and Iran is a net negative for the US.


The meeting demonstrates the growing ties between Iran and Bolivia. Sucre and Tehran have been trying to strengthen their relations over the last few years, and this meeting was an opportunity to discuss cooperation on various issues. Bolivia and Iran will likely deepen their ties in the coming years, which can cause concern for other Latin American countries and Washington.

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