Iran's Latin America Push

[Los Angeles Times] John Kiriakou - Iran, the ultimate mischief maker with global reach, astounding patience, a shameless marriage to mayhem and terrorism, and interests that fall squarely in opposition to those of the U.S., is making major diplomatic inroads under Washington's nose. Over the last year, Iran has worked diligently to expand relations with a host of Latin American countries, most of which have populist leaders who harbor a strong distrust of the U.S. and are looking for a powerful friend to help them rebuff Washington's influence. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has received an Iranian ammunition factory, a car assembly plant, and a cement factory. Paraguay's new president, Fernando Lugo Mendez, was lauded in the Iranian media as "an enemy of the Great Satan" after naming Hizbullah sympathizer and fundraiser Alejandro Hamed Franco as the country's new foreign minister. Bolivian President Evo Morales lifted visa restrictions on Iranian citizens in exchange for a $1.1 billion Iranian investment in Bolivia's gas facilities. Visa-free Iranian travel means the potential creation of a terrorist base of operations in America's backyard. If anyone with an Iranian passport may enter Bolivia without a visa, the country will soon be open to covert officers of Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security, its Islamic Revolutionary Guard, which the State Department recently declared a terrorist organization, and the Quds Force, an Iranian military group whose mandate is to spread Islamic revolution around the world. The writer served as a CIA counter-terrorism official in 1998-2004.

2008-11-11 01:00:00

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