February 27, 2010
Nicaragua-Iran Foreign Relations
Nicaragua is a member of the Non-Aligned Movement, which released a statement in July 2008, saying that the 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.”
Much of Nicaragua’s relationship with Iran centers around recent economic cooperation. Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has traveled to Iran and held talks with President Ahmadinejad about several joint development and trade projects in June 2008. Iran has funded several development and aid projects since 2007, including providing over $230 million for a hydroelectric dam (February 2008) and $2 million for a new hospital (August 2008). Relations between Nicaragua and Iran extend beyond bilateral deals, however.
In September 2007, Iran and Venezuela pledged $350 million to build a seaport for Nicaragua at Monkey Point. Tehran and Caracas may expect something in return; however, one Nicaraguan lawyer and former ambassador to Venezuela said in September 2007 that, “Nicaragua must give a 'quid pro quo' ... because [Iran and Venezuela] have not talked about [the seaport development being a] gift…This includes a possibility of more than political and diplomatic support in the international forums."  Highlighting the importance of trilateral cooperation between Iran, Venezuela and Nicaragua, Tehran hosted a summit in December 2008 between Iran's Commerce Minister Masoud Mirkazemi, Venezuela's Light Industry and Commerce Minister William Contreras and Nicaragua's Industry and Commerce Minister Orlando Solorzano. According to Iran’s Fars News Agency, the three ministers agreed to enhance cooperation in “commerce, customs, investment, transportation, industrial and agricultural products as well as banking facilities.” During the meeting, Solorzano expressed his country’s willingness to expand cooperation with Iran. [5
In February 2009, Iran announced it would commit an additional $200 million to joint energy and agriculture projects in Nicaragua. Iranian investment in Nicaragua also includes the construction of a “mega-polyclinic” in the capital, Managua. Although the clinic is expected to be completed by 2010 and cost only $1.6 million, the ambassador of Iran to Nicaragua, Akbar Esmaeil Pour, stated in June 2009 that "this is the first step we will take towards the welfare of the people of Nicaragua,” indicating that Iran is planning further investment in the country.
Iran began reaching out politically to Nicaragua as soon as populist President Daniel Ortega took office. In January 2007, Ahmadinejad traveled to Managua with a delegation to attend Ortega’s inauguration ceremonies. In June 2008, Ahmadinejad hosted Ortega in Tehran to discuss ways to increase their countries’ cooperation. Ahmadinejad said Iran was ready to share its experience in the agriculture and energy industries, while Ortega said his government would give Iranian investors preference in investment projects in Nicaragua.
In response to a May 2009 statement of concern by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about the Iranian presence in Nicaragua, Nicaraguan Foreign Minister Samuel Santos Lopez stated that “the Nicaraguan government will continue its diplomatic ties with Iran and the US cannot question that decision.”
In late May 2009, Israeli news website Ynet obtained a detailed dossier drafted by the Israeli Foreign Ministry on Iran’s activities in South America. The report, which is based on information gathered by Israeli and foreign military and diplomatic sources around the world, claimed that Iran had begun building friendships in Latin America as early as 1982. The Foreign Ministry report claimed that particularly “since Ahmadinejad’s rise to power, Tehran has been promoting an aggressive policy aimed at bolstering its ties with Latin American countries with the declared goal of ‘bringing America to its knees.’” The report also claimed that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez contributed to the strengthening of ties between Tehran, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Nicaragua by inviting Ahmadinejad to presidential inauguration ceremonies that were held in those countries.
On the sidelines of the September 2009 UN General Assembly meeting, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki spoke with Nicaraguan Foreign Minister Lopez to discuss regional and international developments with particular focus on the global economic crisis.