Iran is building an “extensive intelligence and terrorist network” in Latin America that the Obama administration is negligent in ignoring, claims a U.S. congresswoman.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., is chair of the House Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee and, incidentally, as a Cuban immigrant, the first Hispanic woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.
According to a report from the National Council of Resistance to Iran, a coalition originally founded in Tehran to counter the country’s Islamist regime, Ros-Lehtinen blasted the Obama administration for putting “politics over national security” in refusing to “get serious” about Iran’s growing infiltration of Latin American nations.
Ros-Lehtinen cited the 1994 bombing of the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina, a Jewish community center, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which Argentine prosecutors blamed on Iranian and Hezbollah operatives, as an example of Iran’s terrorist ambitions.
“I came into Congress in 1989 and was here 19 years ago when the AMIA attack occurred,” Ros-Lehtinen reportedly said in a statement to the subcommittee. “Fast-forward to today, and the Iranian presence in Latin America is on the rise and poses a greater threat to our national security.
“Two months ago the Special Prosecutor for AMIA, Alberto Nisman, released a 500-page report citing extensive evidence of Iran’s intelligence and terrorist network alive and well in various Latin American nations,” she added. “This report reaffirmed that Iran continues to use its diplomatic and cultural centers as a facade to infiltrate the region.”
Read the warning about what Iran wants, and who in the United States is helping, in “Atomic Iran.”
In June, however, the State Department issued a congressionally mandated report on Iran’s influence in the Western Hemisphere, claiming the Islamist nation’s activities in Latin America are waning, citing broken agreements between Iran and some Bolivarian countries.
Yet on Monday, Ros-Lehtinen tweeted, “Don’t be fooled by the @StateDept report that failed 2 assess the #Iranian influence in the West Hemisphere.”
Her tweet linked to a Washington Free Beacon report in which several other lawmakers and analysts blasted the State Department dismissal of Iranian influence.
“There was a reasonable expectation that the State Department would draft a thorough and thoughtful report in response to legitimate concerns that Iran and its proxies maintain influence throughout our hemisphere,” Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz., said. “Unfortunately, the State Department delivered a dismissive report that lacked the depth and seriousness that this very important national security issue warrants.”
Washington Institute for Near East Policy senior fellow Matthew Levitt, who testified at a House Foreign Affairs joint subcommittee hearing on Thursday, blasted the report as appearing to be “written by an intern.”
“Time and again we have seen the Obama administration fail to hold oppressive regimes accountable for the human rights violations, constitutional violations and a breakdown of rule of law in the region,” Ros-Lehtinen added. “The [socialist-aligned nations] of Venezuela, Nicaragua, Ecuador and Bolivia, and to a certain extent now sadly Argentina, continue to undermine U.S. efforts in the region, and it is not surprising that those same countries have opened their arms to embrace the Iranian regime.”
She quoted former U.S. Abassador to the United nations John Bolton as saying this week: “The largest Iranian diplomatic facility in the world is in Caracas, Venezuela, because they are laundering their money through the Venezuelan banks.”