Iran’s global reach

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US President Barack Obama underestimates the threat Iran poses to global security. Were this not the case, he would not have sent CIA Director Leon Panetta to Israel ahead of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s visit to the White House.

Panetta was reportedly dispatched here to read the government the riot act. Israel, he reportedly told his interlocutors, must not attack Iran without first receiving permission from Washington. Moreover, Israel should keep its mouth shut about attacking Iran. As far as Washington is concerned, Iran’s latest threats to destroy Israel were nothing more than payback for statements by Netanyahu and other senior Israeli officials regarding Israel’s refusal to countenance a nuclear armed Iran.

Over the past several weeks, we have learned that the administration has made its peace with Iran’s nuclear aspirations. Senior administration officials acknowledge as much in off-record briefings. It is true, they say, that Iran may exploit its future talks with the US to run down the clock before they test a nuclear weapon. But, they add, if that happens, the US will simply have to live with a nuclear-armed mullocracy.

The administration’s nonchalance about the threat of a nuclear armed Iran explains why the White House is so up in arms about the prospect of Israel acting independently to prevent Iran from building a nuclear arsenal. As far as the administration is concerned, the only reason Iran would threaten US interests is if Israel provokes it. As far as the administration is concerned, if Israel could just leave Iran’s nuclear installations alone, Iran would behave itself. But if Israel preemptively takes out Iran’s nuclear capabilities, and Iran in turn attacks Israeli and US targets in the region, the Obama administration will hold Israel – not Iran – responsible for whatever losses the US incurs. That was apparently the message Panetta wanted to transmit to Jerusalem during his recent visit.

WHILE LARGELY supported by the US media, the administration’s view of the Iranian threat is not without its domestic critics. Opponents of the administration’s policy of engagement and appeasement have pointed out that a nuclear armed Iran will surely destabilize the Middle East and as a consequence, will harm US national security interests. And this is true enough.


Whether by spurring a regional nuclear arms race; destabilizing with the intent of overthrowing Western-aligned regimes in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and Morocco; enabling its terror proxies in Hizbullah and Hamas to operate under its nuclear umbrella; or attacking Israel with nuclear weapons, it is clear that the emergence of Iran as a nuclear power will cause tragedy, grief, chronic war and instability throughout the region. And – as the administration’s critics make clear – such a state of affairs would be antithetical to US national interests.

While correct, these warnings miss the mark. Yes, it is true that a nuclear-armed Iran would destabilize the Middle East. But the Obama White House doesn’t seem to care about that. What interests the White House apparently, is minimizing Teheran’s animosity towards Washington. If it can convince the mullocracy that Washington is not a threat, then – the thinking goes – perhaps, the buck will stop at the Mediterranean Sea and the Persian Gulf.

This bit of wishful thinking is wrong both theoretically and practically. It fails to take into account Iran’s stated intentions and the consequences of its likely behavior for the Middle East, and it ignores the fact that Iran’s intentions and actions for the past two decades have not been limited to the Middle East.

For upwards of 20 years, and at a break-neck pace since 1999, Iran has built up a long strategic arm in America’s backyard from which it is fully capable of attacking the US directly with the able and enthusiastic assistance of a network of proxies and allies.

IRAN POSES a direct threat to US national security through its alliances and military, intelligence and terrorist presence in South and Central America. Today Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Iran’s Hizbullah terror cells, and other Iranian agencies operate in open collaboration with anti-US governments throughout the Western Hemisphere. The South American lynchpin of this new and growing Iranian-centered alliance system is Hugo Chavez’s regime in Venezuela.

Through Chavez’s good offices, Iran has developed a strategic presence in Nicaragua, Ecuador, and Bolivia and warm ties with Cuba. It is exerting growing influence in El Salvador, Brazil, Argentina, Peru and among FARC terrorists in Colombia. And it has highly developed and already proven human smuggling routes to the US in Mexico. It is through this alliance structure with anti-American regimes in Latin America and with sub-national Islamic and narco-terrorist networks in failing states that Iran already constitutes a grave threat to US national security. And it is through this rapidly expanding alliance system that a nuclear-armed Iran would pose an acute danger to US national security.

So far, the Obama administration has dealt with the threat posed by Iran’s strategic alliance with Venezuela and Chavez’s string of allied regimes in the same fashion as it has contended with Iran itself: It has blamed the situation on the Bush administration. As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton put it last week, the Bush administration’s policy of “isolating leaders who have led the opposition to US policies in Central and Latin America has failed and marginalized Washington’s interests.”

CLINTON’S STATEMENT makes clear the basic and disturbing consistency of the administration’s failure to understand that there are regimes that are inherently hostile to the US and will remain irreconcilably hostile to the US regardless of what it does or who sits in the White House. Just as the administration cannot get its arms around the fact that the Iranian regime can only justify its existence by maintaining its hostility towards America, so it cannot countenance the fact that Chavez is only able to justify his existence through his hatred for Uncle Sam. It has no way of explaining for instance the fact that Iran and Venezuela responded to Obama’s attempts last month to extend an open hand to both countries by signing a memorandum upgrading their military alliance.

Were the administration able to understand the basic fact that some countries simply cannot abide by America, it would realize that the Iranian-Venezuelan military alliance itself is cause for a systematic reassessment of the rationale behind the US’s Western Hemispheric strategy. As Italy’s La Stampa reported last December, every week a Venezuelan airliner takes off from Teheran. It travels on to Syria’s Damascus airport before continuing on to Caracas. These flights have no commercial value, and the passenger manifest is kept secret. But as La Stampa reported and as both US officials and Venezuelan dissidents have testified, these flights are used to transfer prohibited military equipment, including missile parts from Teheran to Syria. Iranian, Syrian, Lebanese-Hizbullah and Palestinian terror personnel then board the plane to its final destination in Caracas. Iranian Revolutionary Guards are sent to Venezuela to among other things train Venezuela’s security services in methods for repressing internal dissent.

Venezuela’s military alliance with Iran places Iranian military personnel and Hizbullah operatives at every level of Venezuela’s military, intelligence and law enforcement establishment. For example, as the Washington-based Center for Security Policy’s Western Hemispheric Security Project documented in a recent report, Hizbullah agents control Venezuela’s passport agency.

In 2003, Chavez appointed Tarek el-Aissami, a known Hizbullah member to head the country’s passport agency. Last year Aissami was promoted to serve as Minister of Interior and Justice. Then too, last June, the US Department of Treasury designated Ghazi Nasr al Din, a Venezuelan diplomat who served as the deputy ambassador in Damascus and Beirut as a Hizbullah agent.

Hizbullah has a large and active presence in Venezuela. It operates openly throughout the country through both Lebanese cells and through native Venezuelan operatives who have converted to Islam. In 2006, a Hizbullah cell comprised of local converts staged an attempted bombing against the US embassy in Caracas.

Hizbullah has developed a formidable economic presence in Latin America. Although it has run a web of businesses in the region for decades, since 2005 the economic importance of these businesses has been eclipsed by the terror group’s involvement in worldwide cocaine distribution facilitated through its close ties with Chavez and FARC. According to the US military’s Southern Command, Hizbullah in Latin America earns between $300-500 million per year. This dwarfs the $200 million a year it receives from Iran.

Through Mexico, Hizbullah members and other terror operatives are able to enter the US relatively easily. In 2002 for instance the US arrested a Hizbullah operative in Mexico who admitted that he had facilitated the infiltration of several hundred Hizbullah operatives into the US.

THEN THERE is Nicaragua under the leadership of Chavez’s buddy Sandinista chief Daniel Ortega. Since he assumed Nicaragua’s presidency in 2007, Ortega has facilitated a massive expansion of Iran’s presence in Central America. With more than a hundred accredited diplomats, Iran’s embassy in Managua – a massive compound surrounded by four-meter-high concrete walls lined with razor wire – is one of the largest diplomatic compounds in the world.

Even more disturbing than Iran’s enormous diplomatic presence in Nicaragua are its massive maritime activities and plans. In 2007 Iran and Venezuela announced that they were investing $350 million to build a deep water port at Nicaragua’s Monkey Point along the Caribbean Sea. Iran also announced its plans to upgrade Nicaragua’s Pacific Port of Corinto. Finally, Teheran announced it would build a dry canal connecting the two ports. Such a building scheme would enable Iran to evade the Panama Canal; to build its own military infrastructure within the ports themselves; and to freely camouflage missile ships as civilian maritime traffic and use them to launch short and medium-range missiles against the US. Moreover, with its massive army of Hizbullah operatives on standby, Iran could launch attacks through its proxies – as it did in its 1992 and 1994 attacks against Israeli and Jewish targets in Buenos Aires – and so deny it had anything to do with the attacks.

None of this should suggest that anyone expects the US to attack Iran’s nuclear installations. The administration’s policies clearly rule out any such contingency. As for Israel, regardless of what the US does, it should be clear that Jerusalem will not stand by idly and allow existential threats to emerge and grow.

What people – and particularly Americans – could have expected is that the administration would take seriously the threat that Iran poses to the US in the Western Hemisphere. Depressingly however, the administration’s apparent decision to abdicate America’s position and responsibilities as the sole global superpower has led it to also abdicate its position and responsibilities as the most powerful nation in the Western Hemisphere. Indeed, what the administration’s refusal to acknowledge the threat that a nuclear-armed Iran – rich with proxies and allies at America’s doorstep – poses to America demonstrates is that in its haste to blame its predecessor for the fact that the US has real enemies, the administration is abdicating its responsibility to defend America itself.

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  • Marcel 05/19/2009 at 7:59

    I know how shocked most of Israel is at the actions of the U.S. lately,but it’s been a long time in coming.
    Picture the U.S. as the Organ Grinder on the streetcorner spinning his tune for all to hear and Israel the little monkey trained to follow rules.
    The old man is dying and the monkey is now on his own.
    It’s time for Israel to get out of the monkey suit and act like the Prince of God.
    When God judges a nation He makes her leaders fools and the fact that God was able to lure the U.S. into ancient Babylon to piss away her power and wealth tells us who is running this play.
    Something you left out is that Iran is a proxy of Russia and China as is North Korea.
    Keep you eye on the ones pulling the strings behind the curtain.
    Babylon (America) is suddenly fallen and destroyed: howl for her; take balm for her pain, if so be she may be healed.
    We would have healed Babylon, but she is not healed: forsake her, and let us go every one into his own country: for her judgment reacheth unto heaven, and is lifted up even to the skies………
    All mankind is stupid, devoid of knowledge; Every goldsmith is put to shame by his idols, For his molten images are deceitful, And there is no breath in them. They are worthless, a work of mockery; In the time of their punishment they will perish. The portion of Jacob is not like these; For the Maker of all is He, And of the tribe of His inheritance; The LORD of hosts is His name. He says, “You are My war-club, My weapon of war; And with you I shatter nations, And with you I destroy kingdoms.
    Jeremiah 51
    warning from 1984
    He said, “Remember this, Dumitru. The Russian spies have discovered where the nuclear warehouses are in America. When the Americans will think that it is peace and safety – from the middle of the country, some of the people will start fighting against the government. The government will be busy with internal problems. Then from the ocean, from Cuba, Nicaragua, Mexico,,..” (He told me two other countries, but I didn’t remember what they were.) “…they will bomb the nuclear warehouses. When they explode, America will burn!”

  • beniyyar 05/19/2009 at 9:18

    Barack Obama is just lazy and so are many of his closest advisors. Dealing firmly with Iran, Hizballah, the PA, Hamas over their hostility to the West, and their use of terrorism of one kind or another to weaken democratic regimes in South America and other parts of the world is a difficult, time consuming, and thankless task.
    It is much easier to simply declare that these Islamic terror groups really threaten no one, are amenable to American Smiley Faced diplomacy, and that the real problem is that pesky bunch of Jews in Israel.
    And besides, even if Iran does develop a nuclear weapons arsenal and the missiles to carry them, they would never use them except on Israel, a regrettable outcome for the Obama gang, but certainly acceptable from their point of view.

  • Ron Grandinetti 05/19/2009 at 11:05

    Caroline the Obama administration is either wearing blinders, naive or just plain stupid.
    Then, just maybe it’s all of the above.
    Unfortunately this is not a good time for the country to have elected the likes of Obama and company.
    It’s bad enough to have elected a community organizer and speech reader for president then top it off with appointees who have a lot to be desired.
    Those with experience are rejects from the Clinton administration
    Terrorism is on the up swing and if a nuclear devise were to fall in the hands of any of the proxies of Iran, we could have hell to pay.
    Israel can’t let the US lead the way.
    Israel has to take the lead not the follower when it comes to dealing with Iran and her proxies.
    Israel doesn’t need US permission to protect her sovereignty form Iran or any other enemy.
    As far as the two state solution is concerned, I am sure PM Netanyahu knows the Palestinians and other Arab terrorist groups will not recognize Israel as a sovereign Jewish Nation. Therefore that idea can be flushed down the toilet where it belongs.

  • Marc Handelsman, USA 05/19/2009 at 12:14

    The Obama Administration wants to massage the nuclear problem with Iran. President Obama’s cabinet members think that, when Israel attacks Iranian nuclear sites, the “jihadist genie” will be out of the bottle. President Obama would prefer to engage the Iranians, similarly to Détente with the Soviets in the 1970’s. However, diplomacy will not work with the Persians because their goal is to spread totalitarian Islam globally. No matter how much President Obama pours on his rhetorical eloquence, it will not deter Islamists from expanding a beachhead in the Western Hemisphere.

  • Jana Rene Funkhouser 05/20/2009 at 16:14

    Perhaps today’s news of Iran’s missile launch will “rattle the American cage” of the importance of addressing this very issue with more than polite words!

  • 05/20/2009 at 23:27

    Obama and his administration have no interest in Israel’s security. This is the reality. Anyone who watched Obama’s body language during his statement to the press while seated with Netanyahu could see that the two dislike each other. Obama refused to even look at your Prime Minister while speaking.
    Israel will have to go alone on this. Godspeed. America under the present administration will not do what is necessary with regard to Iran. It is now up to Israel. Netanyahu must defend Israel and ignore Obama. He is cut from the same cloth as most of Europe in his lack of concern for the Jewish state. Truth be known, Obama doesn’t think it would be a big deal if Israel were wiped off the map. He would shrug his shoulders. American Jews in their willful denial helped put this man in office. Now they watch as he turns his back on their homeland.

  • DaveP 05/21/2009 at 5:05

    Ron Grandinetti
    There is a possibility, that for the interim the Arab/Islamic world will recognise Israel for a period of 10 years (a Hudna period), to get themselves another one, or even two states, increasing their voting power in the UN, as well as being able to establish an army and getting, military aid. After the Hudna lapses , the war will continue, with demands for Jerusalem etc.
    Israel need to realise that in the Arab/Islamic view, Israel is an abomination, and a standing insult to Islam, the prophet, Arab supremacy and manhood. There is no way that Israel will be recognised, short of Islam becoming irrelevant for Muslims, or Israel becoming a Muslim state.
    Israelis should stop worrying about what Arabs think of them, and start making Israel stronger by incorporating Judaea and Samaria within Israel. Once they start on such policies, Muslims will start to respect them, as one of them. Israel wont have friendly peace with the Arabs but will have a respect from them, just as Israel did post 1967.

  • Ron Grandinetti 05/21/2009 at 8:43

    Sounds like a plan.
    In fact Israel should be from the Jordan River to the Mediterranian, including the Golan Heights, Gaza and the Sinai.
    They should continue to grow stronger.
    Israel needs to put a super PR program in the US not only to move the liberal American Jews to the consevrative right but gain more support amongst all Americans.
    With the vast Arab land in the ME there is no good reason for the Palestinians to establish a state in Israel.
    Jerusalem should not be devided, it should be under the soverneignty of Israel.
    Israel would be the protector of all the Holy Sites.

  • Arius 05/22/2009 at 15:04

    The US, in fact, the West is a bus going over a cliff without a driver. In its death throes it will betray all its former friends. Armenia is learning its lesson after repeatedly being stabbed in the back by the US and the EU. It has had to strengthen its ties to Russia to survive. Israel had better get ready for a future America that is pro-Muslim and anti-Jew, and that future is almost upon us. Western centric Armenians and Jews are hopeless. They blindly support policies that are detrimental to the survival of our homelands.

  • chuckmeister 06/03/2009 at 12:26

    Aloha Caroline
    Saw your recent 15 minute synobsis on the mess in the Middle East with Obama making sure the 57 moslem countries and 1.5 Billion people get their voices and positions heard against the Israeli juggernaut. Sorry for any spelling.
    English is not one of my top 5 languages…
    I would like to recommend you to go out the next time you are in Jerusalem, preferably in the early AM and take a nice digital panaramic shot of Jerusalem and to use THAT instead of the wonderful dull pale blue background when you speak on PJTV. Just a nice thought!!!
    Sincerely with Aloha

  • Barbara 06/03/2009 at 16:54

    Congratulations on the award and on this speech, which should be required reading for anyone who doesn’t understand — or who wants to understand — what Jerusalem means to the Jewish people — historically, spiritually and strategically. I have tried to explain this to many of my non-Jewish friends, but have never been able to articulate it the way you do — I am now sending them this article instead. Thank you.


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