What's Iran up to in Latin America? Alleged assassination plot deepens concerns.
Iran's ties to Latin American leaders have been growing in recent years, but the alleged assassination plot against the Saudi ambassador to the US is drawing attention to its less savory activities.
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Iran has cozied up to several Latin American leaders in recent years as it inks projects to expand trade – and influence – in America's back yard. Many dismiss this as nothing but politics: perhaps a concern, but not a threat.
Others voice outright fear that Hezbollah and supporters in Iran seek to attack US and Israeli interests with the help of drug cartels south of the border. The news of the alleged assassination plot by two agents tied to Iran is already raising the volume on this view.
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Speaking to the Associated Press, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the foiled plot "creates a potential for international reaction that will further isolate Iran, that will raise questions about what they're up to, not only in the United States and Mexico."
Ahmadinejad, Chávez and their 'new world order'
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in fact, was supposed to visit President Chávez this September, days after emptying the United Nations chamber for raising questions over the events of 9/11. The trip was canceled at the last minute, but it would have been one of several reciprocal state visits over the past few years.
Last year, Chávez, on a worldwide tour that took him to Tehran, stood with President Ahmadinejad telling reporters they were committed to forming a “new world order. ”
Iran has found allies too in the ALBA countries – those aligned with Venezuela, such as Bolivia and Nicaragua, in an alternative trade alliance. Perhaps most irksome to the US was the former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s openness to Tehran. During his administration he hosted Ahmadinejad, visited him, and supported Iran’s bid for a peaceful nuclear program.
Iran isolated? Not in Latin America.
Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Council of the Americas, sees the bigger Iranian footprint in Latin America as an effort to make new political friends, as the globe questions its nuclear intentions.