March 02, 2010
Cuba-Iran Foreign Relations
Cuba has expressed support for Iran’s nuclear program and has defended Iran’s right to peaceful nuclear technology in the face of UN sanctions. Cuban President Raul Castro also serves as the Secretary-General of the Non-Aligned Movement, which released a statement in July 2008 declaring that its member states “welcomed the continuing cooperation being extended by the Islamic Republic of Iran to the IAEA” and “reaffirmed that states’ choices and decisions, including those of the Islamic Republic of Iran, in the field of peaceful uses of nuclear technology and its fuel cycle policies must be respected.”
In late November 2009, the IAEA passed a rebuke of Iran for building a second enrichment plan in secret. Cuba, along with Venezuela and Malaysia, opposed the resolution. The resolution by the 35-member IAEA Board of Governors calls on Iran to halt uranium enrichment and immediately freeze the construction of its Fordo nuclear facility, located near Qom.
Cuba and Iran have pursued bilateral relations for some time, beginning in 2005 with a transportation investment program to aid Cuba’s failing transportation sector. As part of this investment program, Iran sold 750 railway cars to Cuba in January 2008 under a $295 million loan to Cuba to finance imports from Iran. In February 2008, Cuba and Iran inked their first agreement facilitating scientific and technological cooperation which focused on the biotechnology fields of medical and pharmaceutical development. In June 2008, the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding reiterating their bilateral economic cooperation. 
Due in large part to the state-led economic cooperation agreements, trade between Cuba and Iran increased from $22.9 million in 2007 to $46.4 in 2008. In September 2009, Cuba put into effect a bilateral trade agreement signed by Cuba and Iran in 2007. The accord planned to increase trade between the two countries by decreasing tariffs on Iranian goods imported into Cuba by between 10 and 30 percent on 88 different products including textiles, industrial machinery and furniture.
In October 2009, Venezuelan First Secretary for Energy Affairs in Venezuela’s Tehran embassy, Louis Mayta, stated that “Iran and Venezuela are establishing an oil company named Beniroug which allows us to make investments and activities [sic] in other countries, including Cuba, Sudan, China and Bolivia.” Spain helped mediate difficulties in Beniroug’s registration process and will host the company’s headquarters. . Mayta said that the deal is on daily supplies of 20,000 barrels of gasoline to Iran with the quality at international levels. Based on the founding agreement, Iran will pay the equivalent sum of the barrels of gasoline in the form of investments in Venezuela’s projects by Iranian companies. Beniroug also plans to build a refinery in Syria with the capacity of 140,000 barrels of oil per day.
In November 2009, Iran and Cuba inked a memorandum of understanding at the end of their Fourteenth Joint Economic Commission in Havana to expand bilateral economic cooperation. With this agreement, Iran boosted its credit line to Cuba by 300 million euros to a total of 500 million euros. Iran and Cuba will allocate 250 million euros to implement small and medium scale fast-yielding business plans and the remainder to buying technical and engineering services, building factories and importing Iranian-made goods. Iranian Roads and Transportation Minister Ali-Akbar Mehrabian in a meeting with Cuban Transportation Minister Jorge Luis Sierra Cruz praised Iran’s engineering capabilities while Cruz stated that Iran plays an important role in Cuba’s international relations arena, praising Iran’s breakthroughs in high-tech industries. Finally, Mehrabian met with Cuban First Vice President Machado Ventura where they agreed to pursue the fastest possible execution of the agreements and remove hindrances in the way of expanding economic trade relations.
Cuba and Iran cooperate bilaterally and multilaterally through the Non-Aligned Movement. In a June 2008 memorandum of understanding, Iranian President Ahmadinejad explained that the two countries expressed their continued support for “each other on the international scene.”  In September 2008, Iran began funding medical students from the Solomon Islands to study in Cuba, including airfare and computers for medical students unable to finance their own way to Havana to study.