My initial reaction:
F*** / Obama Clinches Vote to Secure Iran Nuclear Deal http://t.co/jnPOxtfiUY
— Fausta (@Fausta) September 2, 2015
Faustam fortuna adiuvat
American and Latin American Politics, Society, and Culture.
My initial reaction:
F*** / Obama Clinches Vote to Secure Iran Nuclear Deal http://t.co/jnPOxtfiUY
— Fausta (@Fausta) September 2, 2015
The Bolivian government has authorized the construction of a nuclear power plant and research center near La Paz. The mayor of La Paz is requesting more information on the project from the Hydrocarbon and Energy Ministry.
The project will cost an estimated US$1.75 billion and would take 10 years to complete.
Only three countries in Latin America – Brazil, Argentina and Mexico – have operating nuclear power stations.
It’s a curious project to have in a country with one of the second-largest natural gas reserves in South America (second only to Venezuela).
Bolivia is one of Iran’s hubs for its expansion into our hemisphere, and it has become one of Iran’s most important strategic partners in Latin America, and vice versa.
According to this report,
Bolivia is one of Latin America’s most resource-rich countries, and possesses some of the world’s largest reserves of lithium chloride. Knowing this, Iran made a move to become Bolivia’s co-developer of this resource, to include the production of lithium batteries. This resource exploitation project, in turn, has prompted speculation that other strategic minerals, namely uranium, would be exploited. To date, however, there is no evidence that Iran has effectively received any uranium ore from Bolivia.
In addition to natural gas, half the world’s reserves of lithium are buried in the Salar de Uyuni salt plain. That alone makes it strategically important.
Today’s Capt. Louis Renault moment:
Argentine President Cristina Kirchner is using the nuclear accord between Iran and world powers to defend a much-criticized deal her own government made with Tehran nearly three years ago.
That 2013 accord, to create a “truth commission” with Iran to investigate the deadly 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, was criticized by many in Argentina and abroad—including officials in Israel—who said it would permit Iranian suspects to avoid justice.
Political analysts in Argentina say the nuclear deal, forged this month, has given Mrs. Kirchner the chance to put her own dealings with Iran it in a new light. She has done so through a series of tweets and public comments.
The most consequential news story of the week: the U.S.-Iran deal. We can distract ourselves with Jenner, Trump, and whatever else is the equivalent of drinking ourselves under the table to avoid reality, but the fact is that the U.S.-Iran deal carries serious implications for our hemisphere even if Iran doesn’t develop a nuclear weapon.
Because of that, rather than the usual LatAm news roundup, here is Mary O’Grady’s column:
Last October police in Lima found detonators and TNT in the home of a Hezbollah operative.
The deal provides for winding down international restrictions on trade and investment with Iran. It is also expected to gradually liberate more than $100 billion in Iranian assets frozen by the U.S. and other countries.
This means that even if the agreement prevents Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, it will make the world less safe. National Security Adviser Susan Rice admitted as much last Wednesday when CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked if “support [for] international terrorism” might be one use for the liberated assets. “In fact,” Ms. Rice said, “we should expect that some portion of that money would go to the Iranian military and could potentially be used for the kinds of bad behavior that we have seen in the region up until now.”
And not only in the Mideast. One likely destination for some of that money will be the Islamic Republic’s military, ideological and terrorist activities in the U.S. backyard. As Joseph Humire, executive director of the Washington-based Center for a Secure Free Society, put it to me last week, “if Iran gets access to the global financial system, they’re going to double down in Latin America.”
Iran has targeted Latin America since the mid-1980s by establishing mosques and cultural centers to spread the revolution. An arm of Hezbollah, Iran’s Islamic fundamentalist proxy, took responsibility for the 1992 terrorist attack on the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires. Argentine prosecutors named Iran as the mastermind behind the 1994 terrorist attack on the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) in the same city.
Iran has “observer” status in the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas, a coalition of pro-Castro governments in the hemisphere launched during the Venezuelan presidency of Hugo Chávez. ALBA’s members include Cuba, six other Caribbean countries, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua. The alliance relationships with Iran mean Iranian and Hezbollah operatives now move about the Americas easily. A 2014 paper published by Mr. Humire’s center notes that intelligence officials in the region believe Tarek El Aissami, Venezuela’s interior minister from 2008-12, provided new identities to 173 Middle Easterners.
None of the above comes as a surprise to long-term readers of this blog, because as you know, Congressional reports and testimony I have linked to point to the evidence.
Iran’s strategy on Latin America does not hinge on developing nuclear bombs; you could actually make a case that its not developing a bomb is more dangerous for our hemisphere since it would free up more money to pursue its military, ideological and terrorist activities.
Iranian investment in the region is not about securing food or economic growth but rather about meeting strategic goals. There is solid evidence that since 2007 Iran has invested in uranium exploration—presumably tied to its nuclear interests—in Bolivia, Venezuela and Ecuador. The Iranian military has at least one joint venture with Venezuela, located in the state of Aragua, where Mr. El Aissami is now governor.
Propaganda is an Iranian priority. HispanTV, launched in 2011, is a Spanish-language channel run by Iran. It has partnership agreements with state-run television in a number of ALBA countries. In his 2014 book, “Remote Control,” the respected Bolivian journalist Raúl Peñaranda alleged that Iran’s former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad donated $3 million to President Evo Morales to finance and equip Bolivia’s state-owned television station Abya Yala.
Gen. Douglas Fraser , former head of the United States Southern Command, testified to Congress three years ago that Iran was backing at least 36 Shiite Islamic cultural centers in Central America, the Caribbean and South America. This year Gen. John Kelly, who now runs Southern Command, testified that there are more than 80.
Last October a Hezbollah operative was arrested in Lima on suspicion of plotting terrorism in Peru. Press reports said that police discovered detonators and TNT in his home, and evidence that he may have been scouting out the Jorge Chávez International Airport for a possible attack.
Go read the full article.
A lot of future CoLAatC news will have to do with the U.S.-Iran deal.
In yesterday’s post, Cuba: What next?, I posited,
I have been predicting for quite a while that the Obama administration’s next goal regarding its foreign policy on Latin America is to gift the Guantanamo naval base to the Castro’s communist regime.
Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) explains the consequences this will have for America:
Aside from further demonstrating weakness, relinquishing the base at GTMO would be a strategic misstep of epic proportions for the United States. It would have significant national security and military implications. GTMO is the oldest overseas U.S. naval base and only permanent U.S. defense base in the region. Its location enables U.S. forces to maintain full advantages across a wide spectrum of military operations. It plays a critical role in migrant operations assistance missions and is a logistics center for U.S. ships and aircraft, allowing these assets to maintain tactical advantages and freedom of movement in strategic waters in a region with limited U.S. military presence.
If Castro achieved control of GTMO, what would happen? The all-too-obvious answer is that it would allow him to extend an invitation to one of the close allies of Havana, such as the Putin regime in Moscow or the mullahs in Tehran. If any of the actors interested in taking over the lease of GTMO does move into the warm Cuban waters off Florida’s southern coast, this would provide a direct military threat to the U.S. homeland. Consider for a moment the depth of waters and potential ability for nuclear submarines to conduct intelligence operations or worse.
Two years ago, the Russian Defense Minister stated that Russia wants to build military bases in several countries in the Western hemisphere, including Cuba. Press reports of Russian intelligence ships operating in the waters around Cuba, most recently earlier this year on the eve of U.S. talks with Cuba in Havana, prove that Russia is deadly serious about making good on those intentions.
Duncan does not exaggerate; Last year Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu stated that Russia is planning to expand its permanent military presence outside its borders by placing military bases in a number of foreign countries:
the list includes Vietnam, Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, the Seychelles, Singapore and several other countries.
“The talks are under way, and we are close to signing the relevant documents,” Shoigu told reporters in Moscow.
The minister added that the negotiations cover not only military bases but also visits to ports in such countries on favorable conditions as well as the opening of refueling sites for Russian strategic bombers on patrol.
Remember what Russia is doing in its own neighborhood for a moment. Vladimir Putin brazenly acted to annex the Crimean Peninsula, ignoring the international outrage, and Ukraine is worried about a “full-scale” Russian invasion. If the U.S. gave way on GTMO, Putin would likely welcome the opportunity to have warm-water lodging for his navy only 90 miles from the United States.
And let’s not forget Iran,
Similarly, Iran continues to test the patience of the international community with its nuclear operations and refusal to cooperate with international inspectors. If things go badly for Iran with any nuclear deal, having a deeper presence in Latin America through Cuba offers Iran options for retributive action should they want it.
Dr Ely Karmon, in his report Iran in Latin America: President Rouhani’s Era points out,
On April 30, 2014, the State Department issued its Country Reports on Terrorism 2013, which stated that “Iran’s influence in the Western Hemisphere remained a concern,” but that “due to strong sanctions imposed on the country by the United States and the European Union, Iran has been unable to expand its economic and political ties in Latin America.”
Whether Iran gets what it wants on the nuclear deal (which it does) or not, by lifting sanctions, the U.S. has given Iran every incentive to continue its ongoing economic and political expansion into Latin America. You can expect that making a deal with the Castros on Gitmo is part of their plans.
1. The Deal Wasn’t About Iran’s Nukes
The administration readily caved on Iran’s nukes because it viewed the matter only as a timely pretense for achieving other cherished aims. These were: (1) preventing an Israeli attack on Iran; (2) transforming the United States into a more forgiving, less imposing power; (3) establishing diplomacy as a great American good in itself; (4) making Iran into a great regional power; and (5), ensuring the legacies of the president and secretary of state as men of vision and peace.
Items 2-5 will play well with that Gitmo gift.
2. Raul Castro calls for new Cuba-US relationship (emphasis added)
In a speech to the National Assembly, Mr Castro said that, for normal relations to resume, a US embargo on Cuba would have to be lifted.
He also called for the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay to be returned to Cuba.
The die is cast, now we just wait for it to roll.
Six months ago, prosecutor Alberto Nisman was found dead of a bullet to the head on January 28 in his Buenos Aires apartment, on the eve of the day when he was scheduled to testify to congress on his findings regarding a civil lawsuit he had filed the week prior accusing president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of colluding with Iran to obscure the investigation into the 1994 AMIA bombing.
Nisman’s civil lawsuit was dismissed.
The investigation into his murder is still pending.
Three days ago, president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner tweeted a transcript and video of her interview with The New Yorker’s Dexter Filkins,
— Cristina Kirchner (@CFKArgentina) July 12, 2015
Cristina may have been hoping for a puff piece like Vogue magazine’s infamous profile of Asma al-Assad.
Filkins met her at the Quinta Olivos, asked questions, and let her talk (which she did – boy, did she ever, for over two hours).
Rather than a puff piece on the self-absorbed Cristina, Filkins wrote an excellent article on the Nisman case,
Death of a Prosecutor
Alberto Nisman accused Iran and Argentina of colluding to bury a terrorist attack. Did it get him killed? This is what Filkins had to say about his conversation with Cristina,
Pesident Kirchner works in an ornate mansion in central Buenos Aires known as “the Pink House”—for the tint of its walls, once supplied by horse blood—but her official residence, in a northern suburb, is called Quinta de Olivos. Dating to the sixteenth century, Olivos, as it is known, is a white three-storied palace that resembles an enormous wedding cake.
When I met Kirchner there, two months after Nisman died, the mystery was still dominating the news. I was ushered into a wide split-level room that had been set up as a television studio. Kirchner entered a few minutes later, in a flouncy dress and heavy makeup, followed by two dozen aides, nearly all of them men. With the cameras running, Kirchner reached over, before the interview began, to fix my hair. “Is there some girl who can help him with his hair?” she asked. “We want you to be pretty.” Then she began to straighten her own. “I want to primp myself a bit,” she said. “Excuse me, I’m a woman, besides being the President: the dress, the image—”
“Divine!” one of her aides called from off the set.
While Filkins did not refute any of Cristina’s lies, his is not a puff piece at all,
Over time, Kirchner has grown more dictatorial and, according to muckraking reports, more corrupt.
The article must be read in its entirety.
Likewise, Eamonn MacDonagh reports at The Tower on Alberto Nisman’s Secret Recordings, Revealed
Before he was murdered, the Argentinian prosecutor investigating the massive 1994 Buenos Aires bombing wiretapped over 40,000 phone calls. His one question: Did the Argentinian government conspire to cover up Iran’s involvement in the attack?
An idea of the importance of the recordings can be gleaned from a February 2013 conversation between alleged Argentine government intelligence operative Ramón Héctor “Allan” Bogado and Khalil. In that call, which was widely reported in the Argentine press, Bogado told Khalil, “We have a video of the [AMIA] attack,” leading Khalil to reprimand him for not being more careful when speaking on the phone. Of course, it’s impossible to know for sure who Bogado meant by “we,” but one distinct possibility may be that the AMIA bombing was filmed by Argentina’s intelligence services, or that a video recording of it, perhaps containing vital evidence about the identity of the terrorists who carried out the attack, fell into their hands.
Both Filkins’s and MacDonagh’s articles are indispensable reading on the Nisman case.
Investigative journalist Jorge Lanata, in his show Periodismo Para Todos (Journalism For All), continues his coverage of the Nisman murder, and commissioned forensic expert Cyril Wecht for his opinion on whether Nisman’s death was a murder or a suicide. You can watch the report here.
Wecht’s interview starts 35 minutes into this YouTube; the show is in Spanish but Wecht’s portion is in English,
One of the world’s foremost forensic experts, Wecht asserts that Nisman’s death is most likely a murder.
Which comes as no surprise.
Also in Lanata’s report: The man in charge of internet security at Nisman’s apartment building has been in charge of cyber defense for Argentina’s military since January.
Tom Clancy would have had a field day.
IT’S A DEAL…
‘Smile diplomacy’ secures…
OBAMA WARNS CONGRESS: HANDS OFF…
Gambles on foreign policy legacy…
May Take Years to Pay Off…
NETANYAHU: ‘Historic Mistake for World’…
‘Surrender by West’…
Iran given ‘license to kill’…
‘VULNERABLE TO UNRAVELING’…
Death to America; Deal with America…
KRISTOL: This cannot stand…
House Intelligence Chairman: Paves Way for Bomb…
ROUHANI: ‘God has accepted nation’s prayers’…
Centrifuges Continue to Spin…
Prime Minister Netanyahu’s statement,
When you are willing to make an agreement at any cost, this is the result. From the initial reports we can already conclude that this agreement is an historic mistake for the world.
Far-reaching concessions have been made in all areas that were supposed to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons capability. In addition, Iran will receive hundreds of billions of dollars with which it can fuel its terror machine and its expansion and aggression throughout the Middle East and across the globe.
One cannot prevent an agreement when the negotiators are willing to make more and more concessions to those who, even during the talks, keep chanting: ‘Death to America.’
We knew very well that the desire to sign an agreement was stronger than anything, and therefore we did not commit to preventing an agreement.
We did commit to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, and this commitment still stands.
Half a billion, “for peaceful purposes”:
The agreements include pledges to cooperate in economic, financial, technological and scientific fields. Venezuela also signed a deal with Iran for a $500 million credit line to fund the development of joint projects and help Venezuela secure goods that Maduro said were “necessary for the Venezuelan people,” including drugs and surgical equipment, Reuters reported. The two nations also agreed to fund a joint research program in nanotechnology.
. . .
Iran’s Minister of Industry, Mines and Trade Mohammad Reza Nematzadeh reportedly said on Iranian television that the agreement was preliminary and would be reviewed by Iran’s finance ministry sometime in the future.
At El Nuevo Herald,
Reza Nematzadeh señaló que además de esta media docena de acuerdos la comitiva persa sostuvo conversaciones con otros ministerios y con el presidente del Banco Central de Venezuela, Nelson Merentes, quien, dijo, “estaba muy interesado para aumentar y profundizar” las relaciones bilaterales.
My translation: [Iran’s Minister of Industry, Mines and Trade Mohammad] Reza Nematzadeh indicated that, in addition to the half a dozen agreements, the Persian delegation held talks with other ministries and with Venezuela’s Central Bank president Nelson Marentes, who, he said “was very interested in increasing and deepening” bilateral relations.
At PressTV (emphasis added)
Moreover, Iran agreed to transfer its expertise to Venezuela in combating an “economic war” on the Latin American country, Maduro said, apparently referring to Iran’s experience in facing years of US-led sanctions.
Back in 2012, when Iran was banned from SWIFT banking transactions, which could have actually kept it out of much of the international markets and made the sanctions even more effective,Iran easily bypassed the problem with an alternative, rogue financial system it help set up with some South American countries, including Venezuela.
The system had already been set up by Iran in anticipation of the SWIFT ban.
For background information on Iran-Venezuela relations, if you can read Spanish, I highly recommend Emili Blasco’s Bumerán Chávez: Los fraudes que llevaron al colapso de Venezuela.