The Pentagon Is Taking The Fight With Iran Straight To South America

Iranian revolutionary guard

Photo: AP/Vahid Salemi

Iran’s sowing the seeds of   influence in South America under the guise of new “embassies and cultural centres” it’s built over the past several years. And the Pentagon sees a big international security issue with that. It’s even going as far as using the big T-word.

Carlos Munoz at The Hill reports the defence Department views Iran’s expansion into South America — particularly already in countries such as Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Nicaragua — as an initiative on par with spreading terrorism across the globe.

defence Secretary Leon Panetta is currently visiting a number of South American countries this week. He told reporters the U.S. has always been concerned about the Iranian military’s efforts to gain influence beyond the Middle East — and now South America is at stake.

“That, in my book, that relates to expanding terrorism. And that’s one of the areas that I think all of us are concerned about.”

Panetta’s remarks connecting Iran to terrorism stem from its support of Hamas and Hezbollah, two highly-charged groups with militant hostility towards Israel.

In March, Gen. Douglas Fraser, the chief of the U.S.’ Southern Command, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee that “international terrorist groups” including both Hamas and Hezbollah have been using illicit South American connections to help pay for operations in the Middle East.

Munoz points out drug trafficking, money laundering, and counterfeit goods are all lucrative means to “get around the raft of economic and diplomatic sanctions imposed by the United states and its allies.”

Iran has a strong incentive to develop connections within South American countries, as other governments shun Tehran due to its defiant nuclear program.

The defence Secretary’s acknowledgment that the U.S. is monitoring Iran’s push into South America coincides with the Pentagon’s pivoting attention to other regions of the world as U.S. engagement in Afghanistan draws closer to a conclusion over the next few years. 

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