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.