Bret Stephens’s column points out many of the things I’ve been posting about Iran’s increasing presence in Latin America:
From Tehran to Tijuana
Time to notice Iran’s decades-old infiltration of Latin America.
The story begins with the 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, an example of the way Tehran uses proxies such as Hezbollah to carry out its aims while giving it plausible deniability. Iran later got a boost when Hugo Chávez came to power in Venezuela and began seeding the top ranks of his government with Iranian sympathizers. In October 2006, a group called Hezbollah América Latina took responsibility for an attempted bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Caracas. Since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to power in 2005, Iran has increased the number of its embassies in Latin America to 11 from six.
The largest embassy is in La Paz, Bolivia.
All this has served a variety of purposes. Powerful evidence suggests that Iran has used Venezuelan banks, airliners and port facilities to circumvent international sanctions. Good relations between Tehran and various Latin American capitals—not just Caracas but also Managua, Quito, La Paz and Brasilia—increase Tehran’s diplomatic leverage. Hezbollah’s ties to Latin American drug traffickers serve as a major source of funding for its operations world-wide. Hezbollah has sought and found recruits among Latin America’s estimated population of five million Muslims, as well as Hispanic converts to Islam.
And then there is the detail that Latin America is the soft underbelly of the United States.
In September 2010, the Tucson, Ariz., police department issued an internal memo noting that “concerns have arisen concerning Hezbollah’s presence in Mexico and possible ties to Mexican drug trafficking organizations (DTO’s) operating along the U.S.-Mexico border. The potential partnership bares alarming implications due to Hezbollah’s long-established capabilities, specifically their expertise in the making of vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIED’s).” The memo also noted the appearance of Hezbollah insignia as tattoos on U.S. prison inmates.
Stephens was in John Batchelor’s show last night. Batchelor, who is very knowledgeable about Iran, recognizes that this is not a trivial issue.
In addition to Stephens’s article,
As I have reported for Real Clear World, Iran’s current defense minister, Ahmad Vahidi, is wanted by Interpol for the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish Center in Buenos Aires. Italian newspaper La Stampa reported in 2008 that Iran is using Venezuela to duck UN sanctions.
It’s about time someone tells Hillary Clinton, whose reaction was, “nobody could make that up, right?”
No, they don’t need to.