In the wake of a new report released by a leading Argentinean prosecutor on the influence of Iran in Latin America, the U.S. State Department is reviewing its own stance on the Islamic Republic's activities in the United States proverbial ‘backyard.’
Prosecutor Alberto Nisman contended in his report that Iran was behind a number of terrorist plots in the Western Hemisphere, including the 1994 bombing of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) and the thwarted 2010 attempt to attack JFK airport in New York. Nisman was the original prosecutor in the case and he believes that the attack was carried out by Hezbollah with Iranian government support.
“For the first time in the Argentine and world judicial history, it has been gathered and substantiated in a judicial file, evidence that proved the steps taken by a terrorist regime, the Islamic Republic of Iran, to infiltrate, for decades, large regions of Latin America, through the establishment of clandestine intelligence stations and operative agents which are used to execute terrorist attacks when the Iranian regime decides so, both directly or through its proxy, the terrorist organization Hezbollah,” Nisman wrote in his report, according to the Daily Beast.
A number of U.S. lawmakers have indicated the Nisman report has forced the United States to reevaluate their own thoughts on Iran’s presence in the region, especially in light of the State Department’s heavily criticized May report that stated Iranian influence in Latin America was on the wane.
“The Nisman report was made public after our report was completed, so we asked the intelligence community to evaluate the information report on a priority basis,” Thomas Gibbons, the acting assistant secretary for legislative affairs, told Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) in an Aug. 1 letter obtained by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
The U.S. report, which said that the Islamic Republic’s influence in the region is still a “concern,” said that due to strong sanctions imposed on the country by both the United States and the European Union, Iran has been unable to expand its economic and political ties in Latin America.
“As a result of diplomatic outreach, strengthening of allies’ capacity, international nonproliferation efforts, a strong sanctions policy, and Iran’s poor management of its foreign relations, Iranian influence in Latin America and the Caribbean is waning,” the report stated, according to Bloomberg News.
Many Republican lawmakers criticized the report for taking too lax of an approach toward the perceived Iran threat in Latin America and Tehran’s close ties with Latin American leaders. Under the leadership of outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran had forged strong relationships with the left-leaning governments of Bolivian President Evo Morales and the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez.
“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,” said Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere. “Unfortunately, the State Department delivered a dismissive report that lacked the depth and seriousness that this very important national security issue warrants.”
There are hopes in both Washington and throughout countries with friendly ties to the U.S. that the election of President-elect Hassan Rouhani will usher in an era of better relations between Iran and the West. Lawmakers in the U.S., however, warned that despite the Secretary of State John Kerry making a new inquisition into Iran a top priority, they will be closely watching how the Obama administration handles Iranian-Latin American terrorism connection going forward.
"I am encouraged Secretary Kerry is making this a priority issue and I look forward to working with him to implement a comprehensive multilateral strategy to counter Iranian influence in the Western Hemisphere,” Republican Sen. Mark Kirk said.