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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“If you are getting support from Latin America, it reduces your isolation,” says Mr. Farnsworth. “It allows you to say with some justification that the whole world isn’t against you.”Skip to next paragraph
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But others say the intentions are more sinister. The Jewish community in the hemisphere, for example, has long voiced concern over Iran’s capabilities.
"In Argentina we have learned of the seriousness of the Iranian threat," said [Mr. Epelman]. "First, in 1992, an attack destroyed the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires and took the lives of 29 people. Two years later, a car bomb blew up the Jewish Community Center, AMIA, killing another 85 people. For this latest attack, the Argentinean Justice, with Interpol's support, has ordered the arrest of seven former Iranian officials and a Lebanese member of Hezbollah, accused of being the masterminds of the terrorist attack. However, the Iranian government has consistently refused to cooperate and even protected the accused."
In Mexico, many say the connection to Iran and drug trafficking is being overblown – that even if they sought the help of drug traffickers here, those very drug traffickers are unlikely to bite (in this case one of the accused agents inadvertently sought the help of a DEA informant). The plotters could just as easily have paid off a thug in urban America, they argue.
But the foiled plot is definitely one more piece of evidence for those who see Iran as a real and immediate threat in this part of the world.
Roger Noriega, who wrote the recent paper “The Mounting Hezbollah Threat in Latin America” for the conservative American Enterprise Institute, took the opportunity yesterday to outline the key points of that paper in a blog:
1. With Iran’s direct support, at least two parallel yet collaborative terrorist networks are growing at an alarming rate in Latin America. One is operated by Hezbollah and aided by its collaborators in Venezuela, Ecuador, and Bolivia, and the other is managed by the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.
2. These terrorist networks are sharing their terrorist experiences and techniques with Mexican drug cartels along the U.S. border and have established deep relations with other transnational criminal organizations.