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Iran’s ayatollahs poke the US in the eye

The ayatollahs' track record in Latin America proves the self-destructive nature of the U.S. diplomatic option regarding Iran

Iranian Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alevi (right) sits next to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Source: Khamenei.ir.
Iranian Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alevi (right) sits next to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Source: Khamenei.ir.
Yoram Ettinger
Yoram Ettinger
Yoram Ettinger is a former ambassador and head of Second Thought: A U.S.-Israel Initiative.

According to the British Cambridge Middle East and North Africa Forum, “On January 11, 2023, Iran’s naval commander announced that before the end of 2023, Iran would station warships in the Panama Canal,” which facilitates 5% of the global maritime trade.  

According to the December 1823 Monroe Doctrine, any intervention by a foreign power in the political affairs of the American continent could be viewed as a potentially hostile act against the United States. However, in November 2013, then Secretary of State John Kerry told the Organization of American States (OAS) that “the era of the Monroe Doctrine is over.”

Is Iran’s dramatic and rogue re-entrenchment in Latin America underscoring the relevance/irrelevance of the Monroe Doctrine? Does it vindicate John Kerry’s assessment?

Latin America and the ayatollahs’ anti-U.S. strategy

Since the February 1979 eruption of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, the ayatollahs have leveraged the U.S. diplomatic option (toward Iran’s ayatollahs) and the accompanying mega-billion dollar benefit (to Iran’s ayatollahs) as a major engine, bolstering their rogue anti-U.S. policy, regionally and globally.

The threat posed to the United States by Iran’s ayatollahs is not limited to the survival of the pro-U.S. Arab regimes in the Middle East and the stability of Central Asia, Europe and North and West Africa. The threat extends to Latin America and up to the U.S.-Mexico border. The ayatollahs poke the United States in the eye in a most vulnerable geostrategic area, which directly impacts the U.S. homeland.    

Iran’s penetration of Latin America—the backyard of the United States and its soft underbelly—has been a top national security priority of the ayatollahs since assuming power in 1979. The ayatollahs’ re-entrenchment in Latin America has been assisted by their Hezbollah proxy, driven by their 1,400-year-old imperialistic goal (toppling all “apostate” Sunni regimes and bringing the “infidel” West to submission). Achieving this requires overcoming “the Great American Satan,” the development of conventional, ballistic and nuclear military capabilities and an apocalyptic state of mind.

Iran’s penetration of Latin America has been based on the anti-U.S. agenda of most Latin American governments, which has transcended the striking ideological and religious differences between their socialist, secular values and those of Iran’s fanatic Shi’ite ayatollahs. The overriding joint aim has been to erode the strategic stature of the United States in its own backyard, and subsequently (as far as the ayatollahs are concerned) in the U.S. homeland, through a network of sleeper cells.

Iran has constructed a hydra-like, multi-faceted structure, focusing on the lawless tri-border areas of Argentina-Paraguay-Brazil and Chile-Peru-Bolivia, as well as Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua and all other anti-U.S. governments. It involves a growing collaboration with all regional terror organizations, the leading drug cartels of Mexico, Columbia, Brazil and Bolivia, as well as with global money launderers.

Moreover, the ayatollahs have established terror training camps in Latin America, as well as sophisticated media facilities and cultural/proselytizing centers. They have exported to the region ballistic technologies, unmanned aerial vehicles and tunnel construction equipment.     

Latin America and the ayatollahs’ anti-U.S. tactics

According to the Cambridge MENAF, the Brazilian navy reported that two Iranian warships have been granted permission to dock in Brazil. Experts speculate that the vessels could reach the Panama Canal as early as mid-February 2024. The presence of Iranian warships in the Panama Canal threatens not only Western security but the safety and reliability of one of the world’s key trade routes.  

“The gradual permeation of Iranian influence across Latin America over the past 40 years is a significant phenomenon, which has paved the way for this recent strategic move by Teheran. Attention is concentrated toward Iran’s criminal and terrorist network [in Latin America] via Hezbollah operations … ,” according to the Forum.

Wikileaks cables cite secret U.S. diplomatic reports as stating that Iranian engineers have visited Venezuela in search of uranium deposits, in exchange for assistance with Venezuela’s own nuclear programs. The Chile-based BNAmericas reported that “Iranian experts with knowledge of the most uranium-rich areas in Venezuela are allegedly extracting the mineral under the guise of mining and tractor assembly companies. … Planes are prohibited from flying over the location of the plant. … The Iranian state-owned Impasco, which has a gold mining concession in Venezuela, is linked to Iran’s nuclear program. Its Venezuela mine is located in one of the most uranium-rich areas, which has no-fly restrictions” in place.

According to the June 2022 Iran-Venezuela 20-year agreement (military, oil, economy), Iran received title to over one million hectares (2.5 million acres) of Venezuelan land, which could be employed for the testing of advanced Iranian ballistic systems. Similar agreements were signed by Iran with Cuba, Nicaragua and Bolivia.  

Venezuela has issued fraudulent passports, national IDs and birth certificates to Iranian officials and terrorists, enabling them to avoid international sanctions and blunting counter-terrorism measures. Iran-Venezuela air traffic has grown significantly, although tourism activity has been marginal.

Since the early 1980s, Iran’s ayatollahs have leveraged the networking of Hezbollah terrorists in the very large and successful Lebanese communities in Latin America (and West Africa). Hezbollah’s narcotrafficking, money laundering, crime and terror infrastructure have yielded billions of dollars to both Hezbollah and Iran.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration estimates that Hezbollah earns about $2 billion annually through illegal drug trafficking and weapon proliferation in the tri-border area of Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil, expanding ties with the most violent drug cartels in Latin America, including Mexico’s Los Zetas, Colombia’s FARC and Brazil’s PCC, impacting drug trafficking, crime and terror in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

Iran has also intensified its Hezbollah-assisted intelligence missions against U.S. and Israeli targets in Latin America and beyond. Hezbollah has leveraged its stronghold, the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, which is one of the largest opium and hashish-producing areas in the world.  

The bottom line

The track record of the ayatollahs, including the surge of rogue activity in Latin America, documents the self-destructive nature of the diplomatic option regarding Iran, which has served as a most effective tailwind for the ayatollahs’ anti-U.S. agenda, and the self-defeating nature of assumptions that the ayatollahs are amenable to good-faith negotiation and peaceful coexistence with their Sunni Arab neighbors, and that they can be convinced to abandon their 1,400-year-old fanatical imperialistic vision.

Originally 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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