Iran is building an “extensive intelligence and terrorist network” in Latin America that the Obama administration is negligent in ignoring, claims a U.S. congresswoman.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., is chair of the House Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee and, incidentally, as a Cuban immigrant, the first Hispanic woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.
According to a report from the National Council of Resistance to Iran, a coalition originally founded in Tehran to counter the country’s Islamist regime, Ros-Lehtinen blasted the Obama administration for putting “politics over national security” in refusing to “get serious” about Iran’s growing infiltration of Latin American nations.
Ros-Lehtinen cited the 1994 bombing of the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina, a Jewish community center, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which Argentine prosecutors blamed on Iranian and Hezbollah operatives, as an example of Iran’s terrorist ambitions.
“I came into Congress in 1989 and was here 19 years ago when the AMIA attack occurred,” Ros-Lehtinen reportedly said in a statement to the subcommittee. “Fast-forward to today, and the Iranian presence in Latin America is on the rise and poses a greater threat to our national security.
“Two months ago the Special Prosecutor for AMIA, Alberto Nisman, released a 500-page report citing extensive evidence of Iran’s intelligence and terrorist network alive and well in various Latin American nations,” she added. “This report reaffirmed that Iran continues to use its diplomatic and cultural centers as a facade to infiltrate the region.”
In June, however, the State Department issued a congressionally mandated report on Iran’s influence in the Western Hemisphere, claiming the Islamist nation’s activities in Latin America are waning, citing broken agreements between Iran and some Bolivarian countries.
Yet on Monday, Ros-Lehtinen tweeted, “Don’t be fooled by the @StateDept report that failed 2 assess the #Iranian influence in the West Hemisphere.”
Her tweet linked to a Washington Free Beacon report in which several other lawmakers and analysts blasted the State Department dismissal of Iranian influence.
“There was a reasonable expectation that the State Department would draft a thorough and thoughtful report in response to legitimate concerns that Iran and its proxies maintain influence throughout our hemisphere,” Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz., said. “Unfortunately, the State Department delivered a dismissive report that lacked the depth and seriousness that this very important national security issue warrants.”
Washington Institute for Near East Policy senior fellow Matthew Levitt, who testified at a House Foreign Affairs joint subcommittee hearing on Thursday, blasted the report as appearing to be “written by an intern.”
“Time and again we have seen the Obama administration fail to hold oppressive regimes accountable for the human rights violations, constitutional violations and a breakdown of rule of law in the region,” Ros-Lehtinen added. “The [socialist-aligned nations] of Venezuela, Nicaragua, Ecuador and Bolivia, and to a certain extent now sadly Argentina, continue to undermine U.S. efforts in the region, and it is not surprising that those same countries have opened their arms to embrace the Iranian regime.”
She quoted former U.S. Abassador to the United nations John Bolton as saying this week: “The largest Iranian diplomatic facility in the world is in Caracas, Venezuela, because they are laundering their money through the Venezuelan banks.”
Ros-Lehtinen continued, “In order for the Obama administration to get serious about this issue, it cannot ignore the close ties between Venezuela and Iran. … But it has become abundantly clear that the administration continues to put politics over national security.”
House Foreign Affairs Committee member Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., who wrote the legislation mandating the State Department’s June report, sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry last week along with Chairman Ed Royce, R-Calif., Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, Salmon an Ros-Lehtinen requesting more information from the department.
“We write to formally express our deep concerns that the State Department failed to fully analyze and assess Iranian involvement in the Western Hemisphere and produce a strategy to address Iran’s growing presence and activity,” the letter reads.
As WND has reported, a former Iranian official with knowledge of the nation’s terror network targeting the West revealed that more than 40,000 of the regime’s security, intelligence and propaganda forces successfully have been placed over time in Bolivia, Brazil, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Ecuador and Venezuela.
According to the source, many of these forces have flown directly from Tehran to Caracas, Venezuela, whose president, Hugo Chavez, had been an ally of Tehran. Many also have been placed in Bolivia. Their duties are to expand the regime’s ideology, gather intelligence and be ready for operations against the West.
And according to classified cables released by WikiLeaks and reviewed by WND, government officials have been concerned Iranian-backed militants may attempt to infiltrate the U.S. or use Latin America as a staging ground for anti-American attacks.
Concerns were heightened after the U.S. caught Iran shipping explosives to Venezuela, the cables revealed.
“Washington analysts assess that Tehran is reaching out to Latin American countries in order to reduce its diplomatic isolation and increase ties to leftist countries in the region that Tehran perceives may share its anti-U.S. agenda,” read a cable from the State Department.
A separate cable dated March 2009 revealed the U.S. had information Iran was attempting to transfer to Venezuela unmanned aerial vehicles in violation of U.N. resolutions.
In 2007, Raúl Isaías Baduel, the Venezuelan Minister of Defense, announced his country was considering building unmanned airplanes with help from Iran under a memorandum of understanding for cooperation both nations initialed earlier that year.
Meanwhile, the U.S. cable also detailed that the U.S. caught Iran in 2009 attempting to ship drums of nitrate and sulphite chemicals and dismantled laboratory instruments, which possibly could be used for making bombs, to Venezuela. That attempt was intercepted by Turkey after the U.S. passed on information of the particular shipments.
Continued the cable: “Iran’s ties with Venezuela, which include military cooperation, are the closest and most significant. Given the high-profile Iran-Venezuela relationship, Hezbollah-linked individuals probably see Venezuela as a safe haven where they can conduct fundraising and support activities without interference.
“Other populist governments like Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua have also sought to create closer political and economic ties with Iran,” it read.
WND also reported in May 2010 that hundreds of illegal aliens from countries known to support and sponsor terrorism were moving north from Latin America and sneaking across the porous U.S.-Mexico border.
The report cited documentation of illegal aliens from Afghanistan, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Sudan and Yemen. Other illegals were from Armenia, Bosnia, Ghana, Jordan, Kenya, Morocco, Sudan, Uzbekistan, Botswana and Turkey.
Based on U.S. Border Patrol statistics, there were 30,147 [illegals other than Mexicans] apprehended in fiscal year 2003; 44, 614 in fiscal year 2004; 165,178 in fiscal year 2005; and 108,025 in fiscal year 2006. Most were caught along the U.S. Southwest border.