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Picture Sienna Girgenti

Iran—which publicly and proudly declares its intent to wipe Israel off the map—has been a major contributor to building the financial and military capacity of Hezbollah. It is directly responsible for developing the infrastructure of terror in Central and South America in order to, among other goals, have a base from which to attack the United States. 

Iran has been clearly implicated in the bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992 and the AMIA bombing two years later of the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, killing 85 people.  Alberto Nisman, the Argentine prosecutor charged with investigating the AMIA bombing, was found dead in his home earlier this year after presenting an avalanche of evidence about Iran’s terrorist activities throughout the region. Most recently, he accused Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, her foreign minister and other members and allies of the government of having obstructed the investigation of Iranian involvement in the attack in order to secure an oil deal with Iran.

In fact, just a few months ago, an Iranian diplomat based in Uruguay hurriedly left the country after rumors that he was involved in suspicious activities, purportedly involving a plan to bomb the Embassy of Israel in Montevideo. 

Venezuela has proven the linchpin of this Iranian activity, with the country providing passports to members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, and with ties including a direct air link, Iranian investments in “auto, bicycle, and cement” factories, and joint petroleum and mining ventures. Reports of military cooperation abound. Iran has steadily infiltrated Latin America in this manner, creating strong and dangerous ties with countries in the Chavez-Castro alliance (the Bolivarian Alternative for our Americas, or ALBA) including Bolivia, Nicaragua, Cuba and Ecuador, where Iran has signed dozens of economic agreements.

These avenues of influence are described by security analyst Joseph Humire as Iran’s pattern of penetration, evolving through its cultural, diplomatic, economic and military influence. It is clear that Iran maintains Latin America as a strategic priority for its global positioning.

It is in the context of all this manipulation that the United States, as a member of the P5+1, held negotiations and signed a deal with Iran with the intention of curbing its nuclear capabilities in exchange for sanctions relief. The Iran nuclear deal has been evaluated at length, and has been heavily criticized from broad reaches of the political spectrum. 

It is odd, then, that through all the debate and discussion, there still remains the question that everyone has seemingly failed to ask: what will be the impact of the Iran nuclear deal in our own backyard? One has to ask what effect sanctions relief will have on Iranian financial and material assistance to Hezbollah and other regional proxies throughout the Western Hemisphere and elsewhere. 

The economic sanctions that at least strained Iranian endeavors over the past three decades will be lifted.  There is no doubt that the half-trillion dollar jackpot Iran is slated to receive will be directly funneled into those activities we dread most: the exportation of Iranian aggression and anti-Semitism. These funds, returned to the coffers of a known state sponsor of terrorism, will surely make their way toward financial and material assistance to Hezbollah and other regional proxies. As it concerns U.S. national security, one can’t help but flatly reject the far-reaching concessions of the P5+1 as a direct threat to our interests regionally, let alone globally.

The reaction in Latin America has, thus far, been as one might expect.  Kirchner has praised the agreement, while questioning local critics of the AMIA memorandum pact, surely a failed attempted to bless her own deal with Iran in the face of mounting pressure. The president of Colombia also congratulated President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry for their “courage” in securing the deal, perhaps related to Colombia’s close relationship with the United States.

But with history as our guide, this agreement will do more harm than good. The expanded presence of Iran in Latin American should have, at the outset, given the United States pause, given a known regime in Tehran that supports terrorism as an officially sanctioned tool of national power. That Iran remains heavily invested in the region’s shift to the left and the anti-U.S. sentiment it provokes is hardly surprising. The fact that regional powers do not recognize the danger within their own borders is naïve at best, ignorant at worst.

While a nuclear Iran would trigger proliferation and instability throughout the Middle East and beyond, the easing of sanctions will be found to provide an umbrella for Iran’s terror proxies around the globe. There has been no accountability for Iran’s decades-long history of deception and denial over their nuclear ambitions and past links to terrorism, and there is no reason to give Iran the benefit of the doubt now.


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Sienna Girgenti is the Assistant Director for the International Center for Human Rights and Public Policy at B’nai B’rith International. To view some of her additional content, Click Here.