The House of Representatives will soon take floor action on a piece of legislation know as the Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act, aimed at protecting American citizens from Iran and defending American interests and assets in the Western Hemisphere. Introduced last March, the legislation requires the Secretary of State to assess, report on, and develop a strategy for countering the presence of Iran and its allies such as Hezbollah in the Western Hemisphere. Such a requirement is timely.
Debate and likely passage comes at an opportune moment: when the Obama Administration inclines to minimize threats closer to home posed by Iran, Hezbollah, and anti-Americans like Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez.
Yet, the facts on the ground remain troublesome. Just this month, Brazilian journal Veja and others reported on a police seizure in La Paz, Bolivia, of two tons of minerals believed initially to contain uranium but more likely tantalum. The mineral is in demand for, among other things, nuclear reactors and missile parts. Export of this mineral to Iran is prohibited by current sanction regimes. It is believed that the plan was to send secretly the mineral cargo to Iran via Venezuela.
In Mexico, Rafic Mohammad Labbon Allaboun was arrested earlier this month and extradited to the U.S. He is believed to have engaged in money laundering for Hezbollah and was carrying false documents obtained in Belize. Also, reports of a Hezbollah training camp in remote northern Nicaragua have surfaced and invite investigation.
Critical U.S. security thinking is required to probe increasing linkages between anti-American states like Venezuela and Bolivia, transnational criminal organizations, foreign terrorist organizations, and state sponsors of terrorism like Iran. This troublesome combination, as Douglas Farah reports, is increasingly becoming a “tier 1” national security priority.
In short, acting systematically with a modest investment to counter Iran in the Western Hemisphere makes imminent security sense.