Despite mounting evidence of Iranian support for terrorist organizations and growing ties in Latin America, Vice President Joe Biden said to reporters last Wednesday that “People talk about Hezbollah. They talk about Iranian support for weapons and the rest. I guarantee you, Iran will not be able to pose a hemispheric threat to the United States.”
However, it seems that the US Government may be wakening to the Iranian threat in South America.
On March the 7th, the House Foreign Affairs Committee of the United States passed a bill requiring the State Department to follow more closely Iran’s increasing involvement in Latin America. The Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act of 2012, clearly states that “the Obama Administration’s 2011 Strategy for Counterterrorism does not adequately address Iran’s growing influence and operations in the Western Hemisphere.”
The same day that the Committee passed the bill, Air Force Gen. Douglas Fraser (chief of U.S. forces in South America) revealed to reporters that Iran is helping Venezuela to build a drone. While most experts seem to agree the technology being used is antiquated to the point of being irrelevant, there is concern over the intent.
Officially, the bill provides “a comprehensive strategy to counter Iran’s growing presence and hostile activity in the Western Hemisphere, and for other purposes.”
Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Argentina, and Brazil are all specifically mentioned in the bill as targets of increased diplomatic meddling by Iran in the region, and notes that the Islamic state has built 17 “cultural centers” throughout Latin America.
Illicit operations cited in the document, which are supported or instigated by Iran in the region, include “arms trafficking, counterfeiting, money laundering, forging travel documents, pirating software and music, and providing haven and assistance to other terrorists transiting the region.”