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Iran's Presence is Multifaceted and Reaches Remote Places in Latin America

Written by Luis Fleischman

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Early this year the Argentine prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, disclosed a 500-page document of evidence of Iran’s terrorist networks in Latin latin am mapAmerica. It included a number of countries, among which were Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Guyana, Paraguay, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname, and Uruguay.

Iran’s activities in some of these countries are carried out with the direct or indirect support from the local government.

For example, in my last article, I described the role played by the Surinamese president in the trafficking of drugs, as well as the strengthening of relations with Iran.

Suriname received US $1.2 million to purchase tractors, and direct flights between the two countries were established.  

A question I asked in that article was:

 Could these flights possibly be used to transport weapons or other materials, such as uranium, to Iran?

 We do not have an answer to this question.

Yet, if we look at Guyana, a non-member partner of the Venezuela-led Bolivarian Alliance (ALBA), we can see that Abdul Kadir, the Islamic terrorist who participated in a foiled plan to attack the JFK International Airport in New York, was a disciple of Moshen Rabanni. 

Kadir was responsible for the Iranian infiltration in Guyana and Rabanni is a well-known Iranian former attaché in Argentina who is believed to be one of the masterminds of the terrorist attack on AMIA in Buenos Aires in 1994.

Early in 2010, Guyana signed an agreement with Iran, by which Iran would map Guyana’s mineral resources including uranium.  Iran is already doing this in Venezuela, and the suspicion is that these countries could provide uranium to Iran that eventually will help it build a nuclear bomb.  It appears that, having been put under pressure, Guyana is no longer using Iran to perform this function.  In its stead, Canada is now doing so. However, that deal indicates Iran’s ability to infiltrate these vulnerable countries that are, geographically, in close proximity to the United States.

We can confirm this by looking at Dominica, a Caribbean island that belongs to the Bolivarian Alliance.

 In July 2008, Dominica signed an agreement with Iran that enabled citizens of Iran, the Middle East and Central Asia to obtain a second citizenship and a passport. Since Dominica belongs to the Commonwealth, a Dominican passport allows easy entrance into Great Britain.  It has also been reported that Iranians obtained Dominican passports under new names, by providing false birth certificates.

 The islands of St. Kitts and Nevis have also sold passports to the Iranians for a number of years.

 Then, we have the Caribbean countries of St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, two ALBA allies that produce unreliable travel documents where anybody may obtain a new passport and easily change their names. It is reasonable to assume that Iranians could have taken advantage of this vulnerability. 

 St. Vincent forged an alliance with Iran, who sent the island US $7 million for social projects.

 Another ALBA member, Antigua and Barbuda, has also had a very mysterious connection to Iran. In November of 2009, the Israeli navy intercepted a ship in the Mediterranean Sea, carrying 300 tons of weapons smuggled from Iran to Lebanon destined for Hezbollah.  The ship carried green rockets, mortar shells, and other lethal weapons. The vessel carried the flag of Antigua and Barbuda.

 By the same token, in April 2012, Turkey stopped another Antigua-flagged vessel in the Eastern Mediterranean carrying Iranian missiles destined for Syria.

 Of course, Antigua and Barbuda is an ally of Venezuela, and Venezuela is an ally of Iran.

 These small and apparently insignificant countries can serve Iran’s network and dangerous operations very well.

 We cannot continue to underestimate Iran’s presence in Latin America. Even less so can we underrate how Iran not only uses its ALBA connections, but also how it takes advantage of the weaknesses of certain countries on the continent. 

All those countries that establish relations with an Iran with nuclear ambitions need to be properly sanctioned. We cannot remain passive in light of these events.

Luis Fleischman is the author of the book, “Latin America in the Post-Chavez Era: The Security Threat to the United States” and co-editor of the Americas Report

The Americas Report is the featured product of the Center for Security Policy‘s Menges Hemispheric Security Project.  Published weekly, it features in-depth, original articles on subjects not regularly covered by the American press.  For example, past topics have included: the radicalization of the Latin American grassroots, Hugo Chavez’s involvement in Colombian political scandals, and the ideological alliance between Chavez and Argentine President Nestor Kirchner.

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