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USF professor speaks to House committees

One of USF’s own will push a global issue in front of congressional leaders today.

USF professor Mohsen Milani, the chair of USF’s Department of Government and International Affairs, will speak in front of the U.S. House of Representatives Joint Subcommittees on Foreign Affairs in Washington, D.C.

Milani will be one of a five-person panel at the hearing concerning Iran’s relationship with Venezuela, its role in Latin America and how that may affect the U.S.

While Iran and Venezuela are geographically isolated, they try to support each other, he said. Both view the U.S. as a threat and thus have created the “Axis of Unity,” an alliance to challenge the dominant position of the U.S. in the globe, he said.

“My final conclusion is that the current relationship between Iran and Venezuela is an irritant to the U.S.,” Milani said. “But it has the potential to become a low-level threat and therefore warrants careful watching and monitoring – that’s the key.”

Iran and Venezuela have an oil strategy, which seeks to increase prices by lowering production and use euros instead of U.S. dollars in oil transactions, he said. Both countries have invested in each other’s oil and natural gas sectors.

One aspect of Milani’s speech will focus on the strengths of each country: Venezuela’s location and Iran’s nuclear program.

Venezuela seems interested in Iran’s advanced warfare strategies, Milani said. It is suspected Iran will use Venezuela’s location for retaliation against the U.S. if it attacks or invades Iran, he said.

“(People) should be concerned because Iran has now found its way to America’s backyard. Iran has now become a significant player in Latin America,” Milani said. “It should be of concern to the U.S. because we get quite a bit of our oil from President Chavez of Venezuela, and that’s why it’s important.”

Essentially, Iran and Venezuela hope to create a “multipolar world,” where the U.S. would no longer be a dominant power in the globe, Milani said.

“Instead of the U.S. being the only power in the world, there would be other competing powers in the world,” he said. “A world in which one country does not dictate to the rest of the world, that’s what multipolar means.”

Milani, a frequent speaker at conferences on Iran and the Persian Gulf, said he has had an interest in Iran’s foreign policy for many years.

Following his speech regarding the same topic at Johns Hopkins University in September, Milani received an invitation from the House’s congressional members to testify in front of them.

Associate Professor of Government and International Affairs Steven Tauber said the House Subcommittee staff probably chose Milani.

The staff conducts “extensive” background research on candidates throughout the U.S., chooses top candidates and submits their names to the committee chair, he said.

“The criteria (to be chosen to speak) would be someone who’s an expert in whatever subject the committee is looking into,” Tauber said. “Ultimately, it’s up to the committee chair to decide who speaks.”

Typically, the experts chosen are divided into smaller groups of four or five that give a three- to five-minute opening statement to the committee, followed by a question-and-answer session, he said.

“(Milani is) one of the 20 leading experts in the country who have been invited to go (speak),” Tauber said.