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One Down, Two To Go

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The passing of Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez is hopefully a portent of the imminent fate of his fellow dictators.
The passing of Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez is hopefully a portent of the imminent fate of his fellow dictators.
The cozy twosome of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Bashar al-Assad might not have seemed like it was in need of a third wheel. Iran was pumping $1 billion into Syria to help it overcome an oil embargo and sanctions against its central bank, while Assad was continuing to allow his country to be used as a supply line for Iranian arms and money on their way to Hezbollah in Lebanon. But when that third wheel brings with it the world’s largest oil reserves, along with influence in resource rich Latin American countries, like Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua, then suddenly three’s company.

In a world of ever increasing globalization where supporters of anti-Western rhetoric have become harder to find, Hugo Chávez was practically embraced by Ahmadinejad and Assad as an honorary Shiite, and was welcomed onto the team of rogue autocrats with open arms, and open pockets.

For a while, the back scratching was mutually beneficial for all involved, and the addition of Chavez’s back only bolstered the egos and political and economic concerns of the architects of the unlikely axis of evil. Chavez’s shipments of oil to Syria in bold defiance of Western repudiation of Assad’s bloody crackdown on the uprising in his country, helped prop up the embattled Syrian president. The Venezuelan leader’s ridiculing of Western claims that Iran was trying to produce nuclear weapons afforded him yet another opportunity to bash his opponents on a world stage, while reinforcing the myth that he was the great champion of the anti-imperialist Bolivarian Revolution. For Ahmadinejad, his investment of billions in Venezuelan banks, manufacturing plants, housing projects and other concerns was a pittance compared to the access Chávez gave him to the vast untapped human and natural resources in the other leftist countries in Latin America. And no symbiotic relationship between Shiite and socialist would be complete without the socialist allowing the Shiite to mine for uranium in his country.

Now, with the death of its most charismatic and bombastic member, the trio has reverted back to a duo, and its chances of survival even as a solo act are dwindling. With Ahmadinejad in the last few months of his final term as president, and Assad on the verge of having his civil war torn nation degenerate into a failed state, which would almost certainly result in his ouster or death, the axis of evil could be mere months away from becoming the axis of zero.

What the three leave in the wake of their reigns are not only economic devastation and international isolation for their respective nations, but a legacy of distrust for leaders who create alliances based primarily on the dictum that the enemy of my enemy is my friend, and whose main objectives are ego driven. But lessons are eventually forgotten, as they were after World War II, and it probably won’t be long before the international community allows a new trio of autocrats to step onto the world stage. Kim Jong Un may already be making calls.

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