Iran's influence and activity in Latin America

Nicolas Genin/Wikimedia Commons

President Hugo Chavez in Paris, France, Sep. 7, 2009.

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  • What will #Venezuela do with the weapons systems #Iran has given their #military? #defense #Chavez

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  • Wherever #Iran goes, #Hezbollah follows, with Latin America at their heels

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Mr. Chairman, I applaud you and other members of the Subcommittee for initiating a review of Iran’s activities in Latin America.

Since you announced your inquiry, the Director of National Intelligence, James R. Clapper, testified earlier this month that “Iranian officials” at the highest levels “are now more willing to conduct an attack in the United States….” General Clapper also reported that Iran’s so-called “supreme leader” Ali Khamenei was probably aware of the bizarre plot discovered last October to conspire with supposed Mexican drug cartel leaders to commit a terrorist bombing in the heart of our Nation’s capital. Only because American law enforcement officials were willing to set aside conventional wisdom about how and where Iran would wage war against us were they able to thwart that attack.

Iranian officials have made no secret of the regime’s intention to carry its asymmetrical struggle to the streets of the United States and Europe. For example, in a May 2011 speech in Bolivia, Iran’s Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi promised a “tough and crushing response” to any U.S. offensive against Iran.ii In the same week in early January that Iran caught the world’s attention by threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz and brandishing shore-to-sea cruise missiles in a 10-day naval exercise, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced a five-nation swing through Latin America aimed at advancing its influence and operational capabilities on the U.S. doorstep.

"At long last, it is time for our national security agencies to get smart and get busy." -- Roger Noriega

To comprehend what Iran is up to, we must set aside conventional wisdom about its ambitions, strategies and tactics and follow the evidence where it leads. General Clapper’s public statement represents a dramatic break with the skeptics in the foreign policy establishment—including too many U.S. diplomats—who have failed to appreciate the breadth and depth of Iran’s activities in the Western Hemisphere. The Intelligence Community’s fresh assessment of Iran’s willingness to wage an attack on our soil leads to the inescapable conclusion that Teheran’s activities near our homeland constitute a very real threat that can no longer be ignored.

The next logical question is, “What is that hostile regime doing with the support of its trusted allies very close to our borders?” In my capacity as a Visiting Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research (AEI), I am coordinating an ongoing effort to answer that very question. I cooperate with a team of experienced experts who are committed to monitoring and exposing Iran’s activities in Latin America in order to inform the public as well as policy makers who are responsible for protecting our national security.

To date, we have conducted dozens of interviews with experts from throughout the world and with eyewitnesses on the ground in the region. We also have obtained reams of official Venezuelan and Iranian documents, only a few of which we have published to support our conclusions.

Our exhaustive work leads us to the following conclusions:

• Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chávez and Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are conspiring to wage an asymmetrical struggle against U.S. security and to abet Iran’s illicit nuclear program. Their clandestine activities pose a clear and present danger to regional peace and security.
• Iran has provided Venezuela conventional weapon systems capable of attacking the United States and our allies in the region.
• Iran has used $30 billion in economic ventures in Venezuela as means to launder money and evade international financial sanctions.
• Since 2005, Iran has found uranium in Venezuela, Ecuador and other countries in the region and is conducting suspicious mining operations in some uranium-rich areas.
• Two terrorist networks – one home-grown Venezuelan clan and another cultivated by Mohsen Rabbani, a notorious agent of the Qods Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps – proselytize, fund-raise, recruit, and train operatives on behalf of Iran and Hezbollah in many countries in the Americas.
• Hezbollah conspires with drug-trafficking networks in South America as a means of raising resources and sharing tactics.
• The Venezuelan state-owned airline, Conviasa, operates regular service from Caracas to Damascus and Teheran – providing Iran, Hezbollah, and associated narco-traffickers a surreptitious means to move personnel, weapons, contraband and other materiel.

Read the entire text of the testimony as an Adobe PDF

Noriega SFRC Testimony Feb 16 2012

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Roger Noriega is a visiting fellow at the AEI and managing director of Vision Americas LLC, which represents U.S. and foreign clients.

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