Startling revelations by Attorney General Eric Holder on Tuesday that Iran’s Quds Force plotted murderous attacks in the heart of Washington, D.C., should shred the conventional wisdom that Tehran and its terrorist proxies would never risk a strike on American soil. Iran is clearly prepared to carry their fight, quite literally, to our doorstep. What are we prepared to do?
An AEI project scrutinizing Iran’s dangerous nexus with Venezuela’s anti-U.S. regime has been sounding the alarm about Iran’s growing operational capabilities in Latin America for many months. Until now, senior U.S. security officials and diplomats have deliberately minimized reports of provocative activities by Iran’s Quds Force and Hezbollah—despite the fact that they are taking place right under our noses with the enthusiastic, open support of the Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chávez and acolytes in Ecuador and Bolivia. Perhaps now U.S. officials will take steps to assess and respond to this grave and growing threat.
Just last week, my colleague Jose Cardenas and I issued an AEI report entitled, “The Mounting Hezbollah Threat in Latin America,” that made the following key points:
1. With Iran’s direct support, at least two parallel yet collaborative terrorist networks are growing at an alarming rate in Latin America. One is operated by Hezbollah and aided by its collaborators in Venezuela, Ecuador, and Bolivia, and the other is managed by the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.
2. These terrorist networks are sharing their terrorist experiences and techniques with Mexican drug cartels along the U.S. border and have established deep relations with other transnational criminal organizations.
3. These two networks encompass more than eighty operatives in at least twelve countries throughout the region (with the greatest areas of focus being Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina, and Chile).
As the AEI report concluded:
U.S. and other government authorities have identified and sanctioned some of the leaders of these networks, and US law enforcement agencies—led by the Drug Enforcement Administration—have made great efforts to assess and confront this threat by building cases against foreign officials and sanctioning commercial entities that provide support to this criminal terror organization.
However, this dangerous network requires a whole-government strategy, beginning with an inter-agency review to understand and assess the transnational, multifaceted nature of the problem; educate friendly governments; and implement effective measures unilaterally and with willing partners to disrupt and dismantle their operations.