Iran is seeking to recruit potential jihadists in Latin America to attack the United States and is using its embassies in the region as intelligence centers that promote terrorism, according to an expert on the Islamic Republic’s presence in the Americas and an anonymous congressional source.
The expert warned that Latin America operations linked to Iran’s narco-terrorist proxy Hezbollah, a Lebanese Shiite group, have spread as far north as Mexico.
Their comments echo concerns recently expressed by the U.S. military and the State Department about Iran’s presence and Hezbollah activities in Latin America.
Joseph Humire, an expert on Iranian influence in Latin America and executive director at the Center for a Secure Free Society (SFS), in a recent exclusive interview with Asharq Al-Awsat declared:
These [Hezbollah] networks have now spread as far north as El Salvador and Mexico. Through these communities they raise money for Hezbollah proper in the homeland (Lebanon) and establish logistical networks for sleeper cells strategically placed throughout the region…Hezbollah is in practically every country throughout Latin America…
Iran sponsors terrorism in Latin America by supporting Hezbollah and other terrorist groups through its various embassies throughout the region. Iran’s embassies in Latin America function more as intelligence centers than diplomatic outposts, which provide command and control over some of the Hezbollah networks in the region.
The remarks about Iran in Latin America come amid a six-nation tour in the region by the Islamic Republic’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif.
An anonymous senior congressional source recently told the Washington Free Beacon that Iran is seeking to recruit “potential terrorists who want to cause the U.S. harm.”
The source added:
[Hezbollah operatives] can travel easily to Venezuela, and once there, they can get to Nicaragua or Cuba without passports or visas, which poses a national security risk for our nation…
Just recently, a Hezbollah member was picked up in Brazil, an explosive device was found near the Israeli embassy in Uruguay, and Hezbollah members are reportedly traveling on Venezuelan passports. It was not too long ago that Venezuela offered flights to Iran and Syria, and as of last week, Hezbollah cells were found in the West Bank where Venezuela lifted its visa requirements for Palestinians.
The expert, Humire, said that Iran has established a close relationship with the left-leaning countries that belong to the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, also known for its Spanish acronym ALBA, including Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, El Salvador, and some other Caribbean nations.
He added that some Latin American governments — particularly Venezuela, which has refused to cooperate with the United States on anti-terrorism operations in the region — are providing protection to Hezbollah operatives.
The State Department has reached similar conclusions, changing its tune from 2013 when it determined that Iran’s influence in the Western Hemisphere was “waning.”
In a report released earlier this year, the department warned against Hezbollah-linked activities in Latin America, adding that the anti-U.S. Venezuelan government provides a “permissive environment” that promotes ideological and financial support for the Shiite terror group, which is engaged in the trafficking of drugs and humans in the region.
Retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, the former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), told Breitbart News Daily on Friday that the Shiite terrorist group is illegally trafficking drugs and humans into the United States.
Gen. Flynn’s comments about the threat Hezbollah poses to the United States echo the warnings by the anonymous congressional source and reports prepared by the top U.S. military leader in Latin America and the Caribbean, Navy Adm. Kurt Tidd, chief of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM).
Breitbart News learned from the U.S. military last year that Hezbollah and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) are using a rapidly growing number of Iranian cultural centers spread across Latin America to expand the Islamic Republic’s covert recruitment operations in the region.
In a statement about the Iranian foreign minister’s visit to Latin America, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R., Fla.), chair of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, said:
Iran’s latest inroads into our Hemisphere should come as no surprise in the wake of the Obama administration’s misguided nuclear deal. Flush with cash from sanctions relief and ransom payments, Zarif will no doubt seek to bolster the foothold Iran has been building in recent years, especially through its terrorist proxy Hezbollah…
Tehran’s classic playbook is to use cultural centers, new embassies or consulates, or cooperative agreements on various areas to act as façades aimed at expanding Iran’s radical extremist network. The threat to U.S. national security interests and our allies should be setting off alarm bells.
A recent Breitbart News analysis of U.S. government data found that the United States has apprehended 916 illegals from terrorism-linked countries along the Southwest border alone since 2014, including 12 Iranians. Moreover, Breitbart News found that U.S. government data shows the Muslim population in Latin America has increased 25 percent to nearly 3 million in recent years, amid U.S. military concerns of Islamic radicalization and recruitment by jihadi groups such as Hebollah in the region.
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