- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 28, 2013

The House Committee on Foreign Affairs this week will focus on Iran’s support for the Syrian regime in a civil war that has claimed 100,000 lives and Iranian influence in Latin America, where an Argentine prosecutor accuses the Islamic regime of running spy networks in nine countries.

Iran has sent “cash, goods, arms and foreign fighters” to help Syrian President Bashar Assad retain power, said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chairwoman of the Middle East and North Africa subcommittee. “This conflict has brought the entire region to the precipice of utter chaos, and directly threatens the United States, our national security interests and our allies.”

The Florida Republican will convene the hearing 2:30 p.m. Wednesday with John R. Bolton, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, as witnesses.

At 2 p.m. Thursday, Ms. Ros-Lehtinen’s panel will join Rep. Matt Salmon, chairman of the Western Hemisphere subcommittee, for a joint hearing on Iran’s efforts to use Latin America as a secret command post for planning terrorist attacks against the United States.

Ms. Ross-Lehtinen criticized a recent State Department report on the activities of Iran and its Lebanese-based terrorist ally, Hezbollah, throughout Latin America.

“The recent State Department report on the activities on Iran in the Western Hemisphere drastically underestimates the influence and presence of Iran and its proxy, Hezbollah, in the region,” she said. “This hearing will serve as a sounding of the alarm on this growing threat and will also serve as a caution to the [Obama] administration to not turn a blind eye to this menace.”

Mr. Salmon, Arizona Republican, added: “Iran spews anti-American rhetoric around the globe If we fail to thoroughly investigate and respond to Iran’s influence and actions in the Western Hemisphere, we do so at our own risk.”

They have invited Michael A. Braun, a former chief of operations at the Drug Enforcement Administration, and Matthew Levitt, a counterterrorism specialist at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, to testify.

Both hearings will be held in Room 2172 of the Rayburn House Office Building.

Alberto Nisman, an Argentine prosecutor investigating Iran’s role in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, released a report in May that claims Iran is expanding its intelligence-gathering activities throughout the region.

He said Iran maintains spy networks in Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Guyana, Paraguay, Suriname, Uruguay and the Caribbean island nation of Trinidad and Tobago.

Iran also established close diplomatic relations to the anti-American governments of Venezuela and Nicaragua.

Israel Radio has reported that Iran last year established a training base in Nicaragua that Hezbollah uses to train terrorists.

DIPLOMATIC TRAFFIC

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:

Monday

Orlando Marquez Hidalgo, editor and director of Palabra Nueva, a monthly publication of the Archdiocese of Havana. He discusses the relationship between the Roman Catholic Church and the communist government in Cuba at a briefing at the Brookings Institution.

Tuesday

Greek Defense Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos, who meets with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. On Wednesday, he signs an agreement with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum to share Greek military archives on the Nazi occupation in World War II.

Embassy Row is published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. James Morrison can be reached at jmorrison@washingtontimes.com or @EmbassyRow.