Iran’s influence in Latin America is a dangerous reminder for regional leaders | Sharon Nazaryan

On January 10, 2022, Mohsen Rezaei, Iranian Vice President for Economic Affairs, attended the inauguration autocratic Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega as guest of honour.

Rezaei is a wanted man on an Argentine arrest warrant for involvement in the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people. With strong evidence pointing to his direct involvement, he is also the subject of an Interpol Red Notice which “directs law enforcement agencies around the world to locate and provisionally arrest this individual pending extradition, surrender or similar legal action”.

He is one of twelve officials in Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi’s government who face international sanctions for terrorist crimes and other illicit activities. President Ortega, himself seen as an authoritarian leader ruthlessly oppressing opposition groups in Nicaragua, welcomed Rezaei alongside the autocratic presidents of Venezuela and Cuba at his swearing-in ceremony.

In the aftermath of Rezaei’s visit, the Argentine Foreign Ministry released a statement condemning Rezaei’s trip to Nicaragua and reiterating its view that he must be brought to justice in Argentina. Still, it’s debatable whether the Foreign Office paid lip service, given that Argentina’s ambassador to Nicaragua apparently had no problem attending Ortega’s inauguration and didn’t didn’t even condemn Rezaei’s presence in time or even left the ceremony as a symbolic act of disgust.

The AMIA bombing devastated Argentina and its Jewish community and remains one of the worst terrorist attacks orchestrated by Iran and its proxies. In addition to being the deadliest terrorist attack in Argentine history, it is also the deadliest attack on a Jewish communal facility anywhere in the world since the end of the Holocaust. The fact that no one has yet been brought to justice for the horrific bombing in Buenos Aires is a stain on the Argentine justice system as well as on the international community. Rezaei’s visit to Nicaragua could have been an opportunity for Argentina to face nearly 28 years of impunity and take decisive action.

Hezbollah Terror

While Iran’s desire for nuclear capability poses a serious and existential threat to Israel, the Middle East and beyond, the regime’s terrorist activities must also be of grave concern to countries and governments around the world. ‘Latin America. The Iranian regime has a long history of terrorist attacks in the Middle East and around the world, often through its proxy, Hezbollah. These include the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992 and the deadly hijacking of a civilian plane in Panama in 1994. There were also several other terrorist plots disrupted by Hezbollah targeting Jewish communities in Paraguay. (1996), Peru (2014) and Argentina (2018) according to numerous credible reports citing official sources.

Hezbollah’s criminal activity in the tri-border area between Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay has alarmed the Organization of American States, which has called on countries in the region to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization. Beyond its terrorist activities, Hezbollah has engaged in a range of other illicit activities in the region, including drug trafficking, smuggling networks, corruption, cartels and associated violent crimes, which serve all to finance terrorism by one of the deadliest anti-Semitic organizations in the world. the world today.

Iran’s nefarious entrenchment in Latin America is only growing, thanks to the recent announcement by Venezuela’s Maduro of his intention to finalize a 20-year strategic and economic deal with Iran, which will likely be used to circumvent international sanctions. Their relationship also warns Jewish communities across the continent of the threat of another Iranian-sponsored terror attack.

The destructive influence of the Iranian regime is not limited to terrorism, it also promotes and disseminates hate propaganda widely across the world.

The Iranian regime’s Supreme Leader, who has called for a “final solution” in seeking the destruction of Israel, has more than a dozen Twitter accounts in a variety of languages, including Spanish. His regime also uses propaganda outlets such as HispanTV to reach Spanish-speaking audiences around the world to spread anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and disinformation about Jews, Israel and the United States.

Latin Americans across the continent should be alarmed by Iran’s growing presence and engagement in the region, and apply Interpol’s red alerts against suspected terrorists. Those reckless governments that collaborate with the Iranian regime and look the other way while Hezbollah operates freely are playing a dangerous game that could have deadly repercussions for their own citizens and their neighbors throughout the Western Hemisphere. Argentina’s experience should be a lesson learned.

Sharon Nazarian is Senior Vice President, International Affairs at the Anti-Defamation League

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