JERUSALEM — Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said yesterday that Iran has built up a terror infrastructure in Central and South America from which to attack Jewish and Israeli targets in the region and as a base for attacking inside the United States.
"The Iranians use diplomatic mail in order to transport bombs and weapons," he said in a meeting with visiting Guatamalan President Otto Fernando Perez Molina, himself a former intelligence chief in his country. "We know that there are states in South America like Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia where the Iranians have terror bases, both in the embassies and among the local Shiite Muslim populations."
Yaalon pointed to the indictment of two Iranian nationals in Federal Court in New York two years ago for allegedly plotting to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington and said the Iranians were using drug routes to smuggle weapons into the United States.
"They built this infrastructure," said Yaalon, "for the eventuality that they will have to act against Jews or Israeli interests. But it is important to them as an infrastructure that enables them to act within the United States."
Several congressmen last summer attacked a State Department report that concluded Iranian influence in the Western Hemisphere was "waning." Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz., said the department's report "lacked the depth and seriousness that this very important national security issue warrants."
The State Department said shortly afterwards it would review its findings following publication of a report by an Argentinian prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, which found that Iranian undercover activity in the hemisphere was not waning but increasing.
Nisman headed the official Argentinian investigation into the bombing of a Jewish center in Buenos Aires in 1994 in which 85 were killed and hundreds wounded. Nisman concluded that since that event Iran has continued to expand its covert terror network in South America.
Yaalon said Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon not only to protect the regime in Teheran but also to provide a muscular backup to their pursuit of subversion abroad.
"Their goal is regional and global hegemony," he said.