Monday, March 12, 2012

What is Iran up to in Latin America?

Earlier this month, Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper told Congress that “Iranian officials” at the highest levels “are now more willing to conduct an attack in the United States….” The next logical question is, “What is that hostile regime doing with the support of its trusted allies very close to our borders?”

Tomorrow morning, Senator Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey) will initiate an inquiry into Iran’s activities in Latin America at a 10a.m. hearing of the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. I am honored to have the opportunity to share my views on this troubling phenomenon and to make recommendations on an appropriate response. My observations are based on AEI’s ongoing project to monitor and expose Iran’s dramatic push into our neighborhood during the last seven years.
My testimony will review some startling findings about the clandestine network that Iran is building in Latin America with the support of Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chávez, which represents a clear and present danger to U.S. security and interests. By aiding Iran’s evasion of international sanctions and search for uranium, Chávez and other regional despots are abetting Teheran’s rogue nuclear program. And wherever Iran goes, Hezbollah is not far behind. I will expose the growing presence of two terrorist networks—one a home-grown Venezuelan clan and another cultivated by a notorious agent of Iran’s Qods Force—that proselytize, fund-raise, recruit, and train operatives on behalf of Iran and Hezbollah in many countries in the Americas.
The dangerous activities of Iran and Hezbollah so near our borders demand a whole-of-government strategy, beginning with an inter-agency review to understand and assess the transnational, multifaceted nature of the problem; educate friendly governments; and insist on inspection of suspicious operations and military compounds. Our government must be prepared to implement effective measures—unilaterally and with willing partners—to disrupt and dismantle illicit operations and neutralize unacceptable threats.

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