Yoram Ettinger
Yoram EttingerCourtesy
"…. Iran is helping Venezuela build combat drones…. Iranian precision-guided missiles are being delivered to Venezuela to be fitted into advanced Iranian [predator] Mohajer drones and similar models…. Iran could provide Venezuela with parts for a future combat drone that would have an even longer range than the Mohajer-6 [reaching the shores of Florida]…."

Iran's Ayatollahs in Latin America – Quo Vadis?

*Since their February 1979 toppling of the Shah of Iran, Iran's Ayatollahs have considered Latin America, all the way to the US-Mexico border, the soft underbelly of "The Great American Satan." Hence, their intense collaboration – along with their proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas - with the leading drug cartels of Mexico, Columbia and Bolivia, Latin American terror organizations, and all staunchly anti-US governments in South and Central America: Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Bolivia and Chile. In fact, Iran's Ayatollahs have contributed to enhanced coordination among the anti-US Latin American governments. They have co-led the effort to establish joint anti-US Latin American intelligence facilities. In addition, they have recruited Latin American terrorists, training them in Iran.

*While some Western democracies have attempted to isolate Iran, the latter has entrenched itself in the US' own backyard – Latin America – upgrading its terrorist, TOC (transnational organized crime), military and para-military, intelligence and security presence there. These undertakings have been advanced by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard, its Al Quds Force (which collaborates with anti-US international terror organizations) and by Hezbollah.

*While the Western establishment assumes that Iran's Ayatollahs are a potential good-faith negotiator, Iran's Ayatollahs regard Latin America (especially Venezuela) as a platform of money-laundering, skirting financial sanctions, and facilitating access to banned materials of weapons-of-mass-destruction and nuclear (e.g., mining tantalum in Bolivia, thorianite in Guyana and Suriname and uranium in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador).

*While the Western establishment maintains that Iran's Ayatollahs are amenable to peaceful-coexistence and departure from their fanatic, global vision, Iran's Ayatollahs have been preoccupied with subverting, terrorizing and attempting to topple every pro-US Arab regime. Moreover, they have considered the destabilization of Latin America, and the erosion of US stature there, as a top priority in their anti-US strategy. They have leveraged the vast lawless areas (e.g., the trilateral border areas in South America and the jungles of Venezuela) and the widespread anti-US sentiments in the region, in order to further entrench themselves at the doorstep of the US mainland.

*The close bilateral strategic relations between Iran's Ayatollahs and the anti-US governments of South and Central America have demonstrated that an effective anti-US bloc may be established between revolutionary Islam (e.g., the radical Shiite, theocratic and repressive Iran) and Communism and radical socialism (e.g., the repressive, secular Venezuela and Cuba).

*The 40-year-old entrenchment of Iran's Ayatollahs in Latin America has brought Iranian Shite terrorism, as well as Iranian drug and ballistic technologies trafficking, closer to the US mainland.

*Since their rise to power on February 1, 1979, Iran's Ayatollahs have considered the US as "The Great American Satan," the mega obstacle on the way to advance their megalomaniacal goal, which transcends the Persian Gulf and the Middle East. Their goal – as reflected through their systematic anti-US terrorism, subversion, proliferation of ballistic technologies, school curriculum, mosque sermons and mass public processions - has been to dominate the Islamic World and bring the West, and especially the US, to submission.

Iran's Ayatollahs – anti-US Venezuela

Venezuela was one of the first countries to recognize the Ayatollahs' takeover of Iran. Iran's Ayatollahs and Venezuela have collaborated in the development of nuclear and ballistic technologies, have financed their activities through narco-trafficking and money-laundering, and have conducted joint terrorist training. Both countries have strong ties to Hezbollah and Hamas terrorists.

"….Iran’s relationship with Venezuela makes for a more dangerous Iran…. Since 2006 Iranian military advisors have been embedded with Venezuelan troops. Asymmetric warfare, taught to members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, Hezbollah and Hamas, has replaced U.S. Army field manuals as the standard Venezuelan military doctrine.

According to a report published in December 2008 by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Venezuela has an estimated 50,000 tons of un-mined uranium. In the area of mineral exploration there is speculation that Venezuela could be mining uranium for Iran…. a number of Iranian-owned and controlled factories have sprung up in remote and undeveloped parts of Venezuela…. The lack of infrastructure is offset by what experts believe to be ideal geographic locations for the illicit production of weapons…. in December 2008, Turkish authorities detained an Iranian vessel bound for Venezuela after discovering lab equipment capable of producing explosives packed inside 22 containers marked “tractor parts….” There is little reason to doubt Venezuela’s support for Ahmadinejad’s most important agenda, the development of a nuclear program and long-range missiles, and the destabilization of the region. For Iran, the lifeblood of their nuclear and weapons programs is the ability to use the international banking system to make payments for banned missile and nuclear materials. The opening of Venezuela’s banks to the Iranians guarantees the continued development of nuclear technology and long-range missiles…."

"…. Iran has provided drone technology to Venezuela since 2007…. Colombian Defense Minister Diego Molano said in November that Hezbollah militants active in neighboring Venezuela posed a threat to his country…. Several Colombian militias opposed to the Colombian government are active in Venezuela…. The U.S. State Department’s 2020 Country Reports on Terrorism, published in December, said that Venezuela remained a permissive environment for known terrorist groups…. It is very probable that these [Iranian] drones can end up in their hands…. Venezuela and Iran have signed deals to boost cooperation in defense and security….

Iran's Ayatollahs – anti-US Cuba

The Cuba-Iran connection began following the 1979 Iranian Revolution, when Fidel Castro was one of the first heads of state to recognize the anti-US regime of Iran's Ayatollahs.
Furthermore, an anti-American Russia-Cuba-Iran alliance was established to injure the US stature in Latin America and undermine US pressure on Cuba.

"….Iran has compensated Cuba directly for allowing it to engage in electronic attacks on the US from the island…. Iran has never failed to support Cuba on the international front in return for its intelligence services…. By the end of the 1990s, it had moved beyond simple exports to transferring medical biotechnology and, along with the technical know-how, capabilities for developing and manufacturing industrial quantities of biological weapons.

"…. Of more strategic significance is the possibility that Iranian scientists are enriching uranium in Venezuela for shipment to Iran.…Tehran’s and Havana’s shared interest in Venezuela is another source of potential concern to the West. Venezuela’s strategic position and considerable resources make it a potentially greater threat to U.S. interests in the region than the one posed in the 1960s by the Castro regime. Venezuela’s alliances with Iran, Syria, and other anti-American countries and its support for terrorist groups…are as formidable a challenge as the Cuba-Soviet alliance…. Iranian as well as Cuban personnel are advising, protecting, and training Venezuela’s security apparatus….

"Geographically, Cuba’s strategic location enabled the Islamic Republic, on at least one occasion, to clandestinely engage in electronic attacks against U.S. telecommunications that posed a threat to the Islamic regime’s censorship apparatus…. The jamming was traced to a compound in the outskirts of Havana…. Iran expanded this credit line for bilateral trade and investment projects…. This infusion of Islamic capital has strengthened the Cuban regime’s stability and reduced the risk of economic collapse…."

Cuba cooperated with Iran, to help build security architecture to protect Venezuela. The expeditionary wing of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Quds Force, worked alongside Cuban intelligence in Venezuela to consolidate the regime’s hold. Since 2005, Iran has extended €1 billion in loans to Cuba and is heavily involved in several projects there, including a shared intelligence station to block US radio broadcasts.

*Suspending sanctions imposed on Iran's Ayatollahs, would enable the latter to substantially bolster their support of the anti-US Latin American governments and terrorist groups, intensifying a clear and present threat to the homeland and national security of the US.
Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger is author of "Second Thought: a US-Israel Initiative"
(More data available here and here)