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Tehran is setting up a little shop of horrors in our neighborhood.
Everyone is going there: The Russians, the Chinese -- even the Europeans. That’s right, Latin America is hot with its abundant natural resources, especially energy, and the potential of emerging markets.
Unfortunately, the Iranians are looking to make their mark in Latin America, too.
You know, the Middle Eastern country that has the suspicious nuclear program, is the world’s most active state sponsor of terrorism and represses its people -- yes, that Islamic Republic of Iran.
It’s pretty much a given that an Iranian presence won’t be a welcome addition to the neighborhood for us. Tehran is brewing up some serious trouble for Washington, looking to develop a string of strategic distractions for America in its own hemisphere, including establishing close friendships with the region’s anti-Yanqui, radical, populist Left.
And nowhere is that more apparent than in Venezuela.
One of the most visible displays of Tehran-Caracas ties is in the relationship between their heads of state: Venezuela’s caudillo President Hugo Chavez and Iran’s inflammatory President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The two presidents have not only visited each other’s capitals perhaps more than a dozen times in recent years, they’ve also publicly proclaimed their personal proclivities for the other by bestowing their nation’s highest honors on one another.
The two strongmen, who like to masquerade as democrats, have also talked of creating an “axis of unity” against the United States and speak fondly of building a post-American new world order. In fact, according to the BBC, Ahmadinejad said of his Venezuelan compatriots in 2006: “The distance between our countries may be a bit far, but the hearts and thoughts are very close.”
Beyond the personal ties and shared worldview of the two power-hungry leaders, their countries have developed economic relations, especially on energy issues, which should come as no surprise, considering both states are energy giants. (Iran is the world’s fourth-largest oil producer and fi fth-largest of natural gas; Venezuela is the 10th-largest oil producer and ranks 28th in natural gas. Both are aggressive members of the OPEC oil cartel.)
Their enthusiastic energy engagement is paying dividends for Iran as Venezuela has offered to ship refi ned gasoline -- a potential target of economic sanctions -- to the Middle Eastern state should the international community ever signifi cantly tighten the economic noose around Tehran’s neck over its wayward nuclear program. [...]
Iran has also enhanced its relations with other elements of the anti-American Latin Left crowd in Nicaragua, Bolivia and Ecuador, which are countries run -- not surprisingly -- by leaders close to Venezuela. In fact, some have insisted that Tehran’s relationship with Managua, La Paz and Quito was brokered and grown at the encouragement of Caracas as part of its rogue networking efforts.
To this day, experts suggest that these relationships are still managed largely by the Chavistas, who seek to develop an alliance that will serve as a counterweight to Washington in the region.
One exception to Venezuela’s lead might be Nicaragua, where Sandinista re-tread President Daniel Ortega has been an ardent fan of the Iranian Revolution for years. He reportedly sent Ahmadinejad a note after Iran’s crooked elections last summer expressing his “love and admiration.”
Ahmadinejad has characterized his new friendships with Ortega, Ecuador’s Rafael Correa and Bolivia’s Evo Morales as part of a large revolutionary, “anti-imperialist” movement in the region. [...]
Iran, via its new friends, is looking to create strategic diversions for the United States in its own neighborhood by fomenting instability and subversion. It’s also looking to gain support in international institutions for its radical causes -- not to mention enhance its leadership’s diminished image at home by looking big abroad.
A failure to take measures to check Iran’s efforts in the Western Hemisphere will only allow anti-American, anti-Israeli, terror-supporting, oppressive, non-free market agendas to take root in our neighborhood.
Read the rest of this feature on Iran's moves in Latin America in the October issue of Townhall Magazine.