The State Department says it has determined that Cuba has not engaged in terrorist activity in the past six months — a criterion for designating a country as a state sponsor of terrorism — and therefore no longer belongs on the list.
How was this determined?
But never mind my pesky question. What this means, in immediate practical terms, is that Cuba’s Communist regime will be issued credit to purchase U.S. goods.
Cuba’s credit rating is Caa2, firmly in junk bond status.
When Americans are told that Cuba is hosting Russian ships in its harbors, opposition to normalization jumps to 58 percent while support sinks to 30 percent. When Americans are told of Cuba’s attempts to smuggle 240 tons of weaponry to North Korea, opposition jumps to 63 percent and support drops to 26 percent. When Americans are told that Cuba is harboring a cop-killer and terrorists, opposition jumps to 63 percent, and support plummets to 23 percent. When asked whether sanctions should be maintained pending Cuba’s progress on human rights and free elections, Americans agree by a margin of 64-16. And when asked whether Cuba’s designation as a supporter of terrorism should be maintained because it harbors terrorists, respondents agreed 68 percent to 16 percent.
On Sunday, March 29, the Argentinean newspaper Clarín published an article in which it claimed that Nilda Garré had held bank accounts in the United States and Iran. One of the accounts mentioned by the newspaper was with Felton Bank, headquartered in the American state of Delaware, and amounted to US$ 61.5 million between 2005 and 2010.
The Iranian bank account was said to have been opened on April 28, 2011. This occurred only three months after a secret meeting held in the Syrian city of Aleppo in which the foreign ministers of Iran and Argentina negotiated the creation of a truth commission that would serve to cover up Iranian participation in the 1994 attacks against the Jewish association Amia in Buenos Aires, according to the Argentinean prosecutor Alberto Nisman who was murdered in January of this year.
Nilda Garré has been an influential figure within the Argentinean government since the first days of the presidency of the late Néstor Kirchner. She was Argentinean ambassador to Venezuela, Defense minister, Security minister and is currently ambassador to the Organization of American States (OAS). She denied to Clarín that she had maintained bank accounts in the United States and Iran.
Garré, who was Argentina´s Defense minister when the Iranian government had asked Chavez to persuade Argentina to share nuclear secrets in exchange for money, “was in charge of handling this matter with her counterparts in Iran and Venezuela.”
Communist Cuba’s alliance with the Iran of the Ayatollahs dates to 1979, when Fidel Castro became one of the first heads of state to recognize the Islamic Republic’s radical clerics. Addressing then-Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini, Castro insisted that there was “no contradiction between revolution and religion,” an ecumenical principle that has guided Cuba’s relations with Iran and other Islamic regimes. Over the next two decades, Castro fostered a unique relationship between secular communist Cuba and theocratic Iran, united by a common hatred of the United States and the liberal, democratic West — and by substantial material interests. (In the photo, Iran’s Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi and Cuba’s Vice Foreign Minister Marcos Rodriguez attend a wreath-laying ceremony on Revolution Square in Havana on Sept. 7, 2011.)
Suchlicki recommends that Washington address Havana’s troublesome alliances with rogue regimes; I’m cynical enough to say it already has.
[Investigator Bruno] Jost had a major advantage. He was investigating in the shadow of the World War II blunders and the fundamental transformations that the German justice system had undergone. By the time the trial was set to begin, Tehran was no longer the focus of popular attention. Now, it was Germany, herself, on trial, with something grand to prove about her own credibility and the authenticity of her reformation.
Whether the same spirit can cross over into another continent to move the course of the Argentines’ investigation is to be seen. But this much is for sure: The sum of the 1994 AMIA bombing, Iran’s lethal role, the misconduct of former President Carlos Menem, an alleged conspiracy to halt the nuclear negotiations, the mysterious murder of Alberto Nisman, and the alleged corruption of President Cristina Kirchner or the Argentine Intelligence all add up to something larger. It is about Argentina herself, the state of her republic, and whether the ghosts of its dirty past are truly buried or still lurking in the shadows.
High-level Venezuelan defectors then started talking to Veja journalist Leonardo Coutinho. They told Veja that Aeroterror came to be a biweekly flight that carried drugs and cash to finance Iran’s activities in South America, and that it would stop in Damascus to pick up fake passports and other documents to ensure that Iran’s agents could move freely once they arrived in Caracas.
Aeroterror. Let that sink in for a moment.
Reports indicate that Chavez and Ahmadinejad planned Aeroterror at a meeting Caracas back in 2007, during which Ahmadinejad also asked Chavez to help him get Argentina to help Iran with its nuclear program. Since then, Iran has only strengthened its ties to South America.
Consider, for example, the alleged role of the Iranian president, Hasan Rouhani, in whom President Barack Obama has placed so much faith regarding negotiations over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. Rouhani was not among the Iranian officials named by Nisman in his 2006 report. The Miami Herald columnist Andres Oppenheimer, however, revealed in a January 21 article that Nisman had told him about an Iranian witness who had reported that Rouhani had been a member of a special-intelligence committee, “which in 1994 was overseeing secret operations abroad, including the AMIA bombing.” Oppenheimer wrote that Nisman “added privately that he believed in [the witness’s] testimony, and that as a member of the committee Rouhani was likely to have known of the AMIA bombing plan.”
Such a promising lead should be pursued. But the Argentine government is incapable and unwilling to do so, and the current American administration is determined to let nothing obstruct its pursuit of a nuclear deal with the Iranians.
The first favor they described, according to Veja, was that Argentina would cover up Iran’s role in the 1994 terrorist attack on a Jewish community center (known by its Spanish initials as AMIA) in Buenos Aires. The second favor was that Argentina would “share their long experience in [a] heavy-water nuclear reactor, an old-fashioned, expensive and complicated system but one that allows plutonium to be obtained from natural uranium.”
And then there were cash transfers,
The unnamed defectors claim that among other means to manipulate Argentina in favor of Iran, Venezuela arranged direct cash transfers. In August 2007, when Argentine customs officials discovered a suitcase containing an undeclared $800,000 in a plane from Venezuela, most observers chalked it up to Chávez’s efforts to spread his influence around the region. But one of the defectors told Veja that the loot was a gift from Iran for Mrs. Kirchner’s presidential campaign.
The claim in the Veja story that the cash originated in Iran and that a twice monthly Caracas-Damascus-Tehran flight between 2007 and 2010 facilitated its transfer to Venezuela is interesting. Veja notes that Venezuela’s then-foreign minister Tareck Zaidan El Aissami Maddah, now the governor of Aragua and a bigwig in the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, played a key role in running those flights.
Alberto Nisman’s investigation unearthed more information,
Iran was sore about that according to Nisman’s 2006 indictment of the Iranians. “There is sufficient evidence to prove that the [AMIA] attack was carried out in Argentina owing to the Argentine government’s unilateral decision to terminate the nuclear materials and technology supply agreements that had been concluded some years previously between Argentina and Iran,” the Nisman report said. The same report says that “at this period the Iranian government felt that it was crucial for Iran to develop its nuclear capacities.”
It looks like Nisman was about to blow the lid with more findings . . . and then he was murdered.
To most, the Venezuelan government’s ability to brutally stifle student protests, is a capacity developed by the Cuban regime whose intelligence and military direct many aspects of Venezuela’s national security apparatus. While mostly true, this excludes another vital player that has enhanced Venezuela’s foreign internal defense, the Iranian paramilitary force known as the Basij.
In April 2009, the current Iranian commander of the Basij paramilitary force, Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Naqdi, accompanied then-Iranian Defense Minister Gen. Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar on a high-level visit to Caracas at the invitation of then-Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and his foreign minister (now President) Nicolas Maduro. Gen. Naqdi’s role in these high-level meetings was to serve as an advisor to Venezuela’s Ministries of Defense and Interior to aid in training their civilian militias, known as the infamous colectivos’. Years later, the results of this advisory support are evident on the streets of Venezuela as the colectivos’ tactics are a step-up in its previous capabilities, to include new clandestine communication and infiltration/espionage techniques.
Gen. Naqdi, who previously served as the Iranian Police Force’s counterintelligence chief, has a long list of human rights violations dating back to the 1999 student protests in Iran.
An annual security assessment presented to the U.S. Senate by James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence, has excluded Iran and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah from its list of terror threats to U.S. interests, despite both being consistently included as threats in previous years.
. . .
In a previous report from January 2014, Clapper included Iran and Hezbollah in the ‘Terrorism’ section, writing that both “continue to directly threaten the interests of U.S. allies. Hizballah [sic] has increased its global terrorist activity in recent years to a level that we have not seen since the 1990s”. Iran was also given its own sub-heading in the ‘Terrorism’ section of such assessments in 2011, 2012 and 2013.
Any evidence that Iran and Hezbollah have changed their ways?
“I think that we are looking at a quid pro quo, where Iran helps us with counter-terrorism and we facilitate their nuclear ambitions and cut down on our labelling of them as terrorists,” says [professor of political science at Northeastern University and member at the Council of Foreign Relations Max] Abrahms.
Last December, the government fired a powerful spy chief who was Nisman’s lead investigator. The prosecutor retaliated with a bombshell: He accused the president, her foreign minister and other political figures of conspiring to absolve the accused Iranians in exchange for commercial deals. Iranian diplomat Mohsen Rabbani, a top suspect in the 1994 attack, participated in secret talks, according to Nisman’s criminal complaint.
Argentine spies “negotiated with Mohsen Rabbani,” an indignant Nisman said in a television interview on Jan. 14. “Not just with the state that protects the terrorists, but also with the terrorists.”
The Argentine government denied his allegations.
Indeed, back in 2006,
Nisman charged senior Iranian officials and leaders of the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah with plotting the AMIA attack
flew from Caracas carrying cocaine to be distributed to Hezbollah in Damascus and sold. The plane then went to Tehran carrying Venezuelan passports and other documents that helped Iranian terrorists travel around the world undetected.
Yesterday Gen. John F. Kelly of the U.S. Southern Command, testified before Congress (pdf file here) on national security risks at the open southern border:
Transnational Organized Crime.
The spread of criminal organizations continues to tear at the social, economic, and security fabric of our
Central American neighbors. Powerful and wellresourced,
these groups traffic in drugs—including cocaine, heroin, marijuana, counterfeit pharmaceuticals, and methamphetamine—small arms and explosives, precursor chemicals, illegally mined gold, counterfeit goods, people, and other
contraband. They engage in money laundering, bribery, intimidation, and assassinations. They threaten the very underpinnings of democracy itself: citizen safety, rule of law, and economic prosperity. And they pose a direct threat to the stability of our partners and an insidious risk to the security of our nation.
While there is growing recognition of the danger posed by transnational organized crime, it is often eclipsed by other concerns. Frankly, Mr. Chairman, I believe we are overlooking a significant security threat. Despite the heroic efforts of our law enforcement colleagues, criminal organizations are constantly adapting their methods for trafficking across our borders. While there is not yet any indication that the criminal networks involved in human and drug trafficking are interested in supporting the efforts of terrorist groups, these networks could unwittingly, or even wittingly, facilitate the movement of terrorist operatives or weapons of mass destruction toward our borders, potentially undetected and almost completely unrestricted. In addition to thousands of Central Americans fleeing poverty and violence, foreign nationals from countries like Somalia, Bangladesh, Lebanon, and Pakistan are using the region’s human smuggling networks to enter the United States.
While many are merely seeking
economic opportunity or fleeing war, a small subset could potentially be seeking to do us harm. Last year, ISIS adherents posted discussions on social media calling for the infiltration of the U.S. southern
border. Thankfully, we have not yet seen evidence of this occurring, but I am deeply concerned that smuggling networks are a vulnerability that terrorists could seek to exploit.
I am also troubled by the financial and operational overlap between criminal and criminal networks in the region.