Category Archives: Iran

Iran’s Theater of Operations in Latin America

ayatollah-ali-khamenei

In Iran’s Strategic Penetration of Latin America (Lexington Books, 2014) authors and global security experts Joseph Humire and Ilan Berman elaborate on Kelly’s position with a collection of essays that provides an alarming look at Iran’s penetration of Latin America. That activity began in 1979 as part of Iran’s overall strategy to seek global power and develop nuclear weapons. Latin American experts featured in this revealing volume detail how Iran’s infiltration of Latin America has been pursued under the cover of commercial activities and cultural exchanges and has been aided by an alliance and shared militancy with the Latin American Left. The experts maintain that, over more than three decades, Iran has been able to forge strong economic, political, and strategic links to the region.

As the authors explain, Iran began its strategic infiltration of Latin America in 1982. International proxy groups exported Muslim revolutionary ideas using a global network of embassies and mosques under the cover of legitimate commerce and diplomatic, cultural, and religious associations. In this way, the Islamic regime concealed its intelligence activities, claimed diplomatic immunity and gained access to backdoor channels and local governments. Iran’s operatives traveled throughout the region unifying and radicalizing Islamic communities and recruiting, proselytizing and indoctrinating young Latin Americans.

Editor Joseph Humire recounts that in 1983 the regime sent an emissary, Mohsen Rabbani, an Iranian cleric, as a commercial attaché to set up a trade agreement with Argentina, ostensibly to supply halal-certified meat to the Islamic Republic. Rabbani, who in 1994 would become the primary architect of a terrorist attack in Buenos Aires, fostered alliances with local Shiite Muslims, as well as radical activists who wanted to shift power away from democratic alliances and U.S. influence. Trade with Iran helped these activists buy political patronage to advance authoritarian rule and enabled them to funnel mass social spending into their countries and influence elections. As Islamic terrorist entities such as Iran’s proxy, Hizb’allah, and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) moved into the region, they joined with local radical groups such as FARC and Shining Path in their anti-Americanism and hatred of Jews and Israel.

The authors explore how, with a large Muslim population in place spewing hatred toward Israel, attention focused on the largest Jewish population in South America, the 230,000 Jews in Argentina. In 1992, a Hizb’allah-linked terrorist group claimed responsibility for bombing the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires. In 1994, Hizb’allah committed the deadliest bombing in Argentine history when it bombed the AMIA Jewish community center also in Buenos Aires, killing 89 people and injuring hundreds.

The essay collection insightfully examines the role of Venezuelan dictator, Hugo Chavez. After becoming president in 1999, he forged a close relationship with Iran and hailed Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Hizb’allah, as a hero. He also demanded criminal prosecution for Israel’s leader, Ariel Sharon, and President George W. Bush for mass murder. Chavez was able to help Iran overcome the hurdles of economic sanctions and engage in both licit and illicit commercial activity, including acquisition of strategic minerals for nuclear weapons development, drug trafficking, and money laundering. Chavez filled his cabinet with Islamists and became a close partner with then-Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. According to the authors, during this period Iranian influence in Latin American countries increased significantly.

Chavez worked closely with Fidel Castro, the first leader to recognize the Islamic republic and to invite Iran to open in Havana its first Latin American embassy. Together, Chavez and Castro sponsored a socialist “Bolivarian Revolution” to establish a “new world order” in which Latin America was part of a global revolution, not unlike the one in Iran. In 2004, they founded the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America or ALBA.

In Iran’s Strategic Penetration of Latin America, the authors examine how, over a decade, ALBA grew in strategic importance in Latin America and helped cause the backsliding of democratic reforms in the region. ALBA’s goal was to create a Latin American coalition under Venezuelan and Cuban rule using non-state actors and transnational organized crime to bring about a post-American world. In 2010, Iran and Syria were admitted to the organization as observer states. Chavez worked with Iran and Hizb’allah to train his military in asymmetric warfare, the use of insurgency forces against established armies. Iran financed an ALBA military training school in Bolivia, as well as Hizb’allah training centers in other countries. Hizb’allah became heavily involved in drug trafficking and money laundering in the tri-border area of Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil. It made millions of dollars, sending cocaine from Mexico and Columbia to the Middle East and Europe. Hizb’allah used its presence in Latin America to raise money for its global operations from the Lebanese and Syrian diasporas and to recruit, indoctrinate and proselytize among the Latin American population.

Iran accrued great benefit from its relationship with the ALBA nations. Diplomatically, they stood against sanctions on Iran and tried to subvert any attempts to isolate the Islamic republic. They provided Iran with a media platform in the region and supported Iran’s rejection of nuclear weapons scrutiny from the International Atomic Energy Agency. Additionally, through ALBA, Iran skirted international sanctions and evaded financial authorities by launching front companies, laundering money and injecting cash into the financial systems of ALBA countries for lucrative, commercial, and criminal enterprises.

Iran’s Strategic Penetration of Latin America does a good job of providing an overall picture of Iran’s infiltration of South and Central America and the Caribbean. It also raises the question of what the future holds for the region. Since the death of Chavez and the economic decline in Venezuela and other Latin American countries, the trajectory of Iran-Latin America relations has shifted. Iran retains commercial interests in many countries in the area and is working to strengthen its political and economic ties. It continues to maintain its innocence in the AMIA bombing, despite substantial evidence to the contrary and heightened negative publicity from the suspicious death of chief prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, in January 2015. Many Latin American countries are wary of Iran’s influence, regional intelligence gathering and its status as a state sponsor of terrorism.

Donald Trump’s election may signal a game change in the region. Trump has emphatically and repeatedly stated his opposition to the Iran nuclear deal which calls up possible reimposition of sanctions. Similarly, a ruling by Columbia’s Constitutional Court to allow expedited congressional approval for a peace accord with the Hizb’allah-allied terrorist group, FARC, could limit the previously fertile ground for Islamic terrorism in South America. Additionally, the presence of increasingly Euro-friendly regimes in Argentina, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, and Brazil, could constitute welcome impediments to Iran’s continued hold on power in the region. Finally, and most optimistically, with retired U.S. Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly as the nominee to head the Department of Homeland Security, Iran’s use of Latin America as a nexus for terrorist operations could be dramatically curtailed, if not eliminated outright.

Advertisements

#Yemen: Iran Backed Houthi launch ballistic missile at Mecca

Yemen’s Houthi militia launched a ballistic missile toward Mecca on Thursday, the Saudi-led coalition intervening in Yemen’s civil war on behalf of the government said in a statement.

Coalition forces destroyed the missile 65 km (40 miles) from the holy city before it could do any damage, and retaliated against the launch site inside Yemen, said the statement, carried on the state news agency SPA. Mecca is home to the most sacred sites in Islam, including the Grand Mosque.

The Shi’ite Muslim Houthis confirmed the launch of a Burkan-1 ballistic missile into Saudi Arabia in a statement on their official news agency, but said it had been aimed at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah, the kingdom’s busiest airport.

The six-member Gulf Cooperation Council denounced the missile attack.

Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed of the United Arab Emirates, a member of the coalition and the GCC, pointed the finger at Iran, which backs the Houthis.

“The Iranian regime is supporting a terrorist group that fires its rockets on Mecca, is this an Islamic regime as it claims?” he tweeted.

The coalition has been fighting Houthi rebels and forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who control much of the north of Yemen including the capital Sanaa, since March 2015 to try to restore the internationally recognized president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, now in exile.

(Reporting by Omar Fahmy and Ahmed Tolba in Cairo; Writing by Katie Paul and Rania El Gamal; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

#Iran commander: We can destroy Israel in under 8 minutes

A missile launched from the Alborz mountains in Iran on March 9, 2016, reportedly inscribed in Hebrew, 'Israel must be wiped out.' (Fars News)

If supreme leader gives order, Revolutionary Guards ‘will raze the Zionist regime’ quickly, says senior adviser of elite al-Quds unit

A senior Iranian military commander boasted that the Islamic Republic could “raze the Zionist regime in less than eight minutes.”

Ahmad Karimpour, a senior adviser to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ elite unit al-Quds Force, said if Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei gave the order to destroy Israel, the Iranian military had the capacity to do so quickly.

“If the Supreme Leader’s orders [are] to be executed, with the abilities and the equipment at our disposal, we will raze the Zionist regime in less than eight minutes,” Karimpour said Thursday, according to the semi-official Fars News Agency.

A senior Iranian general on May 9 announced that the country’s armed forces successfully tested a precision-guided, medium-range ballistic missile two weeks earlier that could reach Israel, the state-run Tasnim agency reported.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei meets the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Navy unit that detained US sailors earlier in January, in a photo released by Iran on January 24, 2016.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei meets the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Navy unit that detained US sailors earlier in January, in a photo released by Iran on January 24, 2016.

“We test-fired a missile with a range of 2,000 kilometers and a margin of error of eight meters,” Brigadier General Ali Abdollahi was quoted as saying at a Tehran science conference. The eight-meter margin means the “missile enjoys zero error,” he told conference participants.

Iran in March tested ballistic missiles, including two with the words “Israel must be wiped off the earth” emblazoned on them, according to the US and other Western powers.

Under a nuclear deal signed last year between world powers and Iran, ballistic missile tests are not forbidden outright but are “not consistent” with a United Nations Security Council resolution from July 2015, US officials say.

According to the UN decision, “Iran is called upon not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology,” until October 2023.

Khamenei has repeatedly threatened to annihilate the Jewish state, and in September 2015 suggested Israel would not be around in 25 years. In a quote posted to Twitter by Khamenei’s official account on September 9, 2015, Khamenei addressed Israel, saying, “You will not see next 25 years,” and added that the Jewish state will be hounded until it is destroyed.

“After negotiations, in Zionist regime they said they had no more concern about Iran for next 25 years; I’d say: Firstly, you will not see next 25 years; God willing, there will be nothing as Zionist regime by next 25 years. Secondly, until then, struggling, heroic and jihadi morale will leave no moment of serenity for Zionists,” the quote from Iran’s top leader reads in broken English.

In November 2014, Khamenei stated that the “barbaric” Jewish state “has no cure but to be annihilated.” A plan titled “9 key questions about the elimination of Israel” was posted on his Twitter account, using the hashtag #handsoffalaqsa, in reference to the tensions on the Temple Mount. The sometimes grammatically awkward list explained the how and why of Khomeini’s vision for replacing Israel with a Palestinian state.

The first point stated that “the fake Zionist regime has tried to realize its goals by means of infanticide, homicide, violence & iron fist while boasts about it blatantly.” Due to the above, Khomeini argued, “the only means of bringing Israeli crimes to an end is the elimination of this regime.”

%d bloggers like this: