Gates: Iran's "Subversive" Role in Latin America

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Robert Gates, US Secretary of Defense, today expressed concern over Iranian activity in the region:

"I'm concerned about the level of frankly subversive activity that the Iranians are carrying on in a number of places in Latin America," Gates said in response to a question from Sen. Mel Martinez, a Florida Republican.

"They're opening a lot of offices and a lot of fronts behind which they interfere in what is going on in some of these countries," Gates said, without elaborating.

Gates has plenty of reason to be concerned.

Just last month Italian newspaper La Stampa reported that Iran is going through Venezuela to dodge UN sanctions and use Venezuelan aircraft to ship missile parts to Syria. La Stampa reported that Venezuelan airline Conviasa transports computers and engine components from the Iranian industrial group Shahid Bagheri, which is involved in Iran's ballistic missile program.

On January 6, Turkey was holding a suspicious shipment bound for Venezuela from Iran because it contained lab equipment capable of producing explosives. Over the past few years Chavez has allowed the opening in Venezuela of an Iranian ammunition factory, a car assembly plant, a cement factory, and Iran Air has direct air service between Tehran, Damascus and Caracas.

Bolivia's Evo Morales has raised visa restrictions on Iranian citizens, while Iran promised a $1 billion investment in the oil and gas industry.

Iran is holding several of its citizens from being tried in Argentina for planning the 1994 bombing of the Argentine AIMA Jewish center in Buenos Aires, which killed 85 people.

In Nicaragua's Caribbean shore, Iran - along with Venezuela - is helping to finance a $350 million deep-water port at Monkey Point, and they're also building a "dry canal" of pipelines, highways and rails to the Pacific shore. Iran recently opened an embassy in Managua.

Iran is lending Ecuador $200 million to finance trade, technology transfer "and many other things," according to Pres. Rafael Correa.

As Greg Scoblete was asking here, we would do well to ask what are Iran's national interests, and additionally, Iran's interest in our hemisphere.

Fausta Wertz also blogs at Fausta's Blog

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