Iran: The anti-US ripple effect

To assume that the threats posed by the rogue regime in Tehran are limited to the Persian Gulf and the larger Middle East is to ignore reality.

A view of Tehran. Credit: Vanchai Tan/Shutterstock.
A view of Tehran. Credit: Vanchai Tan/Shutterstock.
Yoram Ettinger
Yoram Ettinger
Yoram Ettinger is a former ambassador and head of Second Thought: A U.S.-Israel Initiative.

An underlying assumption behind any U.S. agreement with Iran’s ayatollahs is that the latter would utilize the resulting financial and diplomatic bonanza for butter rather than guns.

Moreover, it is assumed that Iran’s ayatollahs are amenable to good-faith negotiation and desire peaceful coexistence.

These assumptions have been quashed by the ayatollahs’ systematic, rogue, non-compliant and anti-U.S. track record since their violent ascension to power in 1978-79. And especially by their use of the $150 billion bonanza showered upon them by the 2015 JCPOA (nuclear accord): intensified regional and global subversion, terrorism, war, drug trafficking and the development, manufacturing and proliferation of ballistic technologies.

In fact, the ayatollahs’ constitution requires “the uninterrupted process of the revolution of Islam.”

Furthermore, the assumption that the threats posed by the rogue regime in Tehran are limited to the Persian Gulf and the larger Middle East ignores the ripple-effect reality.

Namely, as a single pebble thrown into a puddle creates ripples, the eruption of a single local conflict in the Middle East—especially when driven by a fanatic, 1,400-year-old Islamic imperialist vision—triggers a series of violent ripples throughout the global puddle.

The Iran-driven ripple effects are well documented in the Persian Gulf, Middle East, Central Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin and North America. Ignoring this ripple effect is bound to undermine U.S. national security.

The following are a few examples of this effect, over and beyond the ayatollahs’ leading roles in subversion, terrorism and fueling of regional wars

Iran and Latin American

Since the 1980s, South and Central America have attracted Iran’s ayatollahs and their Hezbollah (“Party of God”) proxies, who use it as a forward operating base, targeting U.S. interests in the region as well as in the United States itself. Iran is leveraging the anti-U.S. sentiment in Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua, and the anti-U.S. revolutionary movements throughout Latin America, providing them with financial and military (supplies and training) assistance.

Iran and Hezbollah have also leveraged the substantial Lebanese migrant population in the two relatively lawless trilateral-border areas of Argentina-Paraguay-Brazil and Chile-Peru-Bolivia, as an infrastructure for drug trafficking, money laundering, terror proliferation and laboratory and warehousing facilities for projects of weapons of mass destruction. Iran has accessed the Latin American criminal and terror networks, in addition to the cultural, political and financial systems in the region, including the construction of many mosques, aimed to entrench the message of the Islamic revolution.

According to the June 2021 Pentagon-funded National Defense University’s Strategic Perspectives #34: “Iran’s ability to shape the information environment and spread the narrative of the United States as an imperialist force — perpetrating violence and instability in Latin America — has grown in recent years. These ongoing and multifaceted campaigns of disinformation are coordinated with Russia and Venezuela and thousands of allied Internet and social media accounts.

“It poses a strategic challenge to the U.S. and regional efforts to promote stability, democratic values, and the rule of law. … Iran’s advances in Latin America’s information space is not any less threatening than its more overt activities…. Iran has created a network of expanding echo chambers whose foundations are Iran’s own HispanTV state-owned satellite platform (established in 2010); teleSUR, the Bolivarian radical populist network based in Venezuela; and RT en Español, the Russian state news service. These platforms operate in tandem with social media accounts on platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Telegram chat groups …

“[It portrays] Iran as a key ideological ally of the radical populist Bolivarian Revolution … a call and convergence center for a global alliance against the United States by Iran, Russia, and the revolutionary Bolivarian Joint Criminal Enterprise…. Iran is better positioned to pursue its long-term goals at the end of 2020 than at the beginning of the year. … The announcement made by Venezuela’s Maduro of a new ‘Military, Scientific and Technological Council’ is the first formal public military weapons production link between the Maduro and Iranian regimes…. Maduro regime’s engagement with Iran is often carried out in tandem with the support of Russia … .”

Iran and the Horn of Africa

Iran has systematically attempted to enhance its presence in the Horn of Africa (population: 150 million, mostly Muslims), which consists of Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Somaliland and Somalia. The Horn of Africa is one of the more militarily volatile and critical regions in the world, stretching along the southern part of the Red Sea, across from Saudi Arabia and Yemen, controlling the geo-strategically vital strait of Bab el-Mandeb, which facilitates trade between Asia and Europe. It is a significant platform, militarily and economically, for regional and global powers. The Horn is an arena of confrontation for regional and global powers such as Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, Egypt, Russia, China and the United States.

Since the 1978/79 revolution, Iran has targeted the Horn as a launching pad to advance its penetration of Africa, and to arm the anti-U.S., anti-Saudi Shi’ite Houthis of Yemen. Their aim is to extend Iran’s military clout to the Gulf of Aden, the Red Sea and the Horn, while intensifying attempts to topple the Sunni House of Saud and all other (pro-U.S.) Sunni Arab regimes.

Some of the radical Islamist organizations in the Horn of Africa were inspired by Iran’s 1978/79 Islamic Revolution.

Iran’s ayatollahs have been a key destabilizing force in the Horn and other parts of Africa, as demonstrated by their on-again, off-again military and terroristic intervention in Somalia’s civil war, as well as their cooperation with the highly-unpredictable Eritrea, which currently participates in the horrific civil war in Ethiopia.

Iran and West Africa

According to an October 22, 2021 study by The Hudson Institute: “Iran cooperates militarily with several African countries. … Uranium deals struck with Namibia and Zimbabwe help Iran advance its nuclear program…. Trade with Africa helps Iran circumvent US and UN sanctions …

“[Iran benefits from] the Lebanese Shi’a’ diaspora… and prominent Hezbollah activity, which capitalizes on weak governance, and pre-existing international organized crime groups and smuggling routes…. West Africa has many well-established drug smuggling routes into Europe. … Funds raised through narcoterrorism and crime. … Hezbollah cells are provided cover by Iranian diplomatic offices and social infrastructure, which conceals illicit activity. … Iran has erected cultural centers in Nigeria, Côte D’Ivoire, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Senegal and South Africa…. African students study theology in Iranian universities, during which time they are recruited and trained as Hezbollah operatives or Iranian intelligence agents…. Training focuses on the use of small arms, the creation of explosive devices, reconnaissance, escape routes and tips for enduring interrogation …

“[Iran supports] the Polisario Front, which is a separatist group based in Algeria, fighting for the independence of Western Sahara from [the pro-U.S.] Morocco. It has links to Hezbollah. … Iran established a proxy in the Central African Republic, which is trained by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). … [Shi’ite] Iran has also cooperated with the Sunni Al-Qaeda … and has backed the Islamic Movement of Nigeria … .”

Another U.S. accord with Iran?

The aforementioned documentation of Iran’s anti-U.S. ripple effects—aimed to advance its fanatic, imperialistic vision—underscores the self-destructive nature of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear agreement and any future agreement with Iran’s ayatollahs.

The assumption that accommodating the ayatollahs can entice them to waive their fanatic vision and to embrace peaceful coexistence sacrifices reality on the altar of wishful thinking.

The U.S. decision to abandon the military option and exclude the option of regime change in Teheran takes lightly the documented track record of Iran’s ayatollahs.

Yoram Ettinger is a former ambassador and head of Second Thought: A U.S.-Israel Initiative.

This article was first published by The Ettinger Report.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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