As we have been reporting, Iran is increasingly expanding its presence in Latin America, as evidenced in Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s recent tour to Ecuador, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. More troubling, of course, are reports uncovered by the Univision News Network that Iran is using Latin America as a base for possible terrorist plots against the United States.
Unfortunately, despite the obvious national security threat of Iran’s increasing reach in Central and South America, this Administration’s policy toward Latin America has been devoid of urgency to reassert American leadership in the Western Hemisphere.
Thankfully, the Iranian threat in Latin America took center stage yesterday as the House Foreign Affairs Committee, chaired by Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R–FL), held an important hearing on the growing threat of the Tehran–Caracas alliance and Iran’s increasing willingness to use Latin America as a terrorist platform against the United States.
Among the committee’s findings:
The Iranian regime has formed alliances with Chavez, Ortega, Castro, and Correa that many believe can destabilize the Hemisphere. These alliances can pose an immediate threat by giving Iran—directly through the IRGC, the Qods force, or its proxies like Hezbollah—a platform in the region to carry out attacks against the United States, our interests, and allies.
The hearing’s witnesses included Dr. Norman Bailey, who recommended that the U.S. should take a stronger, more solid stance against this threat, such as declaring Venezuela a sponsor of terrorist activity or cutting off imports of Venezuelan oil and using the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to compensate for the decrease of oil imports. This would essentially cut Venezuela off from any major customers until it ceased cooperation with terrorist movements. Finally, the Obama Administration should make an effort to reinforce ties with countries in the region that do not align with Chavez and his associates.
As the leader and paymaster of an anti-American alliance in the Americas, Chavez values allies like rabidly anti-U.S. and dangerous Iran. Yesterday’s committee hearing was a positive step toward raising awareness of the legitimate threat of the growing Iranian penetration into the Western Hemisphere.
Tomas Bethencourt is an intern for Heritage Libertad, www.libertad.org, the Heritage Foundation’s Spanish-language website, and hails from Venezuela. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm