- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 1, 2011

WHAT DOES IRAN WANT?

The United States appeared surprised by Iran’s diplomatic and military incursions in Latin America and urgently sought intelligence from all U.S. embassies in the region, according to a secret cable from the State Department in 2009.

Beyond Iran’s public actions to open diplomatic missions and sign military pacts with leftist countries in the region, “we lack information on Tehran’s strategic intentions,” said the cable from the department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research.

The cable, written in all capital letters and released by the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks, was sent to 25 U.S. embassies in Central and South American and some Caribbean nations and to the U.S. Interests Section in Havana. It posed a series of questions to U.S. diplomats and speculated about the potential for Iran to use Latin America to plan terrorist attacks against the United States.

“What does Tehran see as the ultimate goal of Iran’s outreach to Latin America? How high a priority is Latin America for Iranian foreign policy? Does Tehran envision becoming a key regional player in Latin America?” the cable asked.

The bureau noted the strong ties already developed between Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, along with Iran’s support of Hezbollah terrorists.

“Given the high-profile Iran-Venezuela relationship, Hezbollah-linked individuals probably see Venezuela as a safe haven where they can conduct fundraising and support activities without interference,” the cable said.

It asked U.S. diplomats to try to find out whether Iran has “any intention of using the region as a staging ground for potential terrorist attacks, either directly or through surrogates.”

“Are Iranian officials attempting to access U.S. territory or U.S. private firms via Latin America? … Is Iran supporting terrorist activities in Latin America?” the cable added.

Since the cable was written, the United States has collected evidence of an Iranian military presence in Venezuela and on Hezbollah activities in Paraguay and in Mexico. The Washington Times last year reported on the arrest of a key Hezbollah financier in Paraguay and on Iranian paramilitary movements in Venezuela. In 2009, The Washington Times revealed that Hezbollah narco-terrorists were using Mexican drug-smuggling routes into the United States.

Last week, Fox News reported that U.S. Border Patrol agents in the Arizona desert found an Iranian book praising suicide bombers.

‘FRANK’ PROTEST

The United States protested Russia’s arrest of top opposition leaders who were demonstrating for freedom of assembly, as guaranteed in the Russian Constitution.

“The United States will continue to be frank in voicing concerns about human rights situations in all OSCE participating states,” said Ian Kelly, U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

At an OSCE meeting last week in Vienna, Austria, Mr. Kelly noted that Moscow had encouraged Russians to demonstrate their support for the constitution’s Article 31, which protects peaceful gatherings, on the 31st of any month with 31 days.

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