The words “Western Hemisphere” and “Latin America” were notably absent from the assertion that “Iran and Hizballah’s terrorist activity has reached a tempo unseen since the 1990s, with attacks plotted in Southeast Asia, Europe, and Africa.”
Although the analysis found that Iran has “continued to try to expand its presence and bilateral relationships” in Latin America and that sympathizers in the region “provide financial and ideological support” to al Qaeda and Hezbollah, the outright conclusion was that “there were no known operational cells of either al-Qa’ida or Hizballah in the hemisphere.”
“Most of the evidence that’s been cited publicly by these people who are claiming Iran is using Latin America as a base to launch attacks has either been disproven or remains questionable,” said Christopher Sabatini, the head of policy at the Council of the Americas in New York.
Strategy of denial?
Debate over the subject has been swirling through Washington and other Western Hemisphere power centers since the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires.
The bombing, which killed 85 people and made headlines worldwide, has never been officially resolved, although Argentine prosecutors have long accused Iran of directing the attack and Hezbollah of carrying it out.
In a related development, prosecutor Alberto Nisman has issued a report accusing Iran of having established terrorist networks throughout Latin America since the 1980s.
Iranian authorities have infiltrated “several South American countries by building local clandestine intelligence stations designed to sponsor, foster and execute terrorist attacks,” said an article last month by The Long War Journal based on a summary of Mr. Nisman’s report.
He added that the Obama administration, whose policy toward Iran has centered on attempting to contain the Islamic republic’s nuclear program, may be less than eager to talk about Tehran’s reach into Latin America.
“I honestly think the administration is trying to placate Iran to get some concessions on the nuclear arms buildup,” Mr. Duncan said. “The administration doesn’t want to raise the ire of Iranians by focusing on their role in the Western Hemisphere.”
The congressman added: “We can’t be light on one side and heavy on the other. I think we’ve got to talk in real terms about the whole threat.”