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Iran’s Foreign Minister Embarks on Six-Nation Tour in Latin America

Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammed Javad Zarif, started a Latin American tour in Cuba, the latest effort by the Islamic Republic to maintain its growing relationship with nations in the region.

Last week, Iran’s Zarif announced his trip on Twitter in English and Spanish, saying, “On Sunday, I’ll start a 6-nation tour of Latin America w/ a large delegation of business executives to strengthen political & economic ties.”

The Associated Press (AP) reports:

Iran’s foreign minister has begun a Latin American tour in Cuba, saying the two countries are united by histories of resisting what he called U.S. atrocities.

Mohammad Javad Zarif said Monday that Iran “has always shown that we can win through resistance.”

The Iranian FM said that Cuba’s communist regime endured decades of a U.S. trade embargo like Iran.

AP points out:

Zarif also plans to visit Nicaragua, Ecuador, Chile, Bolivia and Venezuela. The Iranian government says it is trying to firm up ties with Latin America in the face of what it calls plots by Israel to undermine relations. Zarif did not mention Cuba’s reestablishment of diplomatic relations with the U.S.

In Latin America, the Muslim population has increased by 25 percent since 2010 to nearly 3 million, far outnumbering their Jewish counterparts, according to a Breitbart News analysis of U.S. Department of State (DoS) data.

Experts have indicated that there are more Shiites in the region than Sunnis. Iran and its narco-terrorist proxy, the Lebanese group Hezbollah, have been linked to the 1994 bombing of the Argentine-Israeli Mutual Society (AMIA).

Both the Sunni Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) and the Shiite Lebanese terror group Hezbollah are recruiting from the Muslim pool and radicalizing converts, the U.S. military has warned.

The U.S. military and DoS have expressed concern about Iran’s growing presence in the region. Iranian proxies, Hezbollah, and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) maintain a presence in Latin America.

Hezbollah generates millions through various illicit activities, namely drug trafficking and money laundering, that it uses to fund its terror operations overseas, including in war-ravaged Syria where the Shiite group is fighting on behalf of dictator Bashar al-Assad along with Iran’s ally Russia.

Both Hezbollah and the IRGC are expanding their covert recruitment operations across the Western Hemisphere through a growing number of so-called “cultural centers” located across Latin America.

The centers have been established to “improve Iran’s image, promote Shi’a Islam, and increase Iran’s political influence in the region,” according to the U.S. military.

Iran’s ally Russia is also expanding its presence in the region, sparking concern within the U.S. government and leading some analysts to say the America’s influence in Latin America and the Caribbean is waning.

U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) reported earlier this year:

In this part of the world [Latin America, the Caribbean], Russia’s actions are directly connected to its broader global efforts to demonstrate that Russia is a global power capable of challenging U.S. leadership and the established rules-based international system. Russian officials’ rhetoric, high-level political visits, and military-security engagements are designed to displace the United States as the partner of choice in the region.

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