Ambassador Roger Noriega of AEI and Christopher Sabatini of Council of the Americas and Americas Society discussed the evidence regarding Iran’s alleged activities in Latin America in an event at AEI on Thursday. Ambassador Noriega presented documents and photographs that described the economic relations between Iran and Venezuela, the appearance of uranium mining in Venezuela and Ecuador and ties between Hezbollah and Latin American leaders. Sabatini analyzed the basis and context of the evidence, calling for more detail and caution in analyzing and responding to the apparent dangers of Iran’s involvement with Latin America. Although they disagreed on the nature of the evidence, both experts concurred that Iran and Venezuela pose significant concerns that the United States should take very seriously.
The recent alleged conspiracy by Iran's Qods Force to commit a terrorist attack in the heart of Washington, D.C., appears to shatter the conventional wisdom that Tehran and its dangerous proxies would never risk such a provocation on U.S. soil. It has also called attention to recruiting, training, fund-raising and planning efforts by Hezbollah and other Iranian operatives in Latin America, abetted by anti-U.S. regimes in Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and Cuba. Some U.S. officials have sought to minimize these claims. Are they simply being cautious; are they downplaying Iran’s culpability to preserve the engagement option; or are they uninformed? A panel of experts reviews documentary evidence of Iran's increasing influence in the Americas.
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Roger F. Noriega is a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research and the founder and managing director of Visión Américas LLC, which advises U.S. and foreign clients on international business issues. He served as the assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs (Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean) from July 2003 to October 2005 and as the U.S. ambassador to the Organization of American States from August 2001 to July 2003. Ambassador Noriega currently serves as vice chairman of the Board of Directors of the Congressional Award Foundation and as a member of the advisory boards of the Canadian American Border Trade Partnership and The Americano, an online forum reaching out to Latino voters.
Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at AEI and a senior lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Civil-Military Relations. He is a former editor of Middle East Quarterly and, between 2002 and 2004, worked as a staff adviser for Iran and Iraq in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Mr. Rubin is the author of “Into the Shadows: Radical Vigilantes in Khatami’s Iran” (Washington Institute, 2001) and co-author of “Eternal Iran: Continuity and Chaos” (Palgrave, 2005). He lectures frequently on army bases and aircraft carriers regarding Iranian strategy.
Christopher Sabatini is the senior director for policy at the Americas Society and Council of the Americas (AS/COA) and the founder and editor-in-chief of the AS/COA policy journal Americas Quarterly. From 1997 to 2005, Mr. Sabatini was the director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the National Endowment for Democracy. From 1995 to 1997, he was a diplomacy fellow with the American Association for the Advancement of Science, working at the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Center for Democracy and Governance. Mr. Sabatini has published numerous articles concerning Latin America, democratization and political parties. He regularly blogs for the Huffington Post and AmericasQuarterly.org on politics in the region. Mr. Sabatini is an adjunct associate professor in Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.