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    Default Iran's Influence In Latin America Worries U.S.

    Iran's Influence In Latin America Worries U.S.
    Iran is making allies in Latin America to counter Washington's traditional influence in the region and could use them to threaten U.S. security, a top U.S. diplomat said on Wednesday.

    "We are worried that in the event of a conflict with Iran, that it would attempt to use its presence in the region to conduct such activities against us," Thomas Shannon, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for the Western Hemisphere, told Reuters.

    Left-wing governments in Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua and Bolivia have all become allies of Iran in recent years, and other countries in Latin America have diplomatic ties with the Islamic republic.

    Shannon said Iran wants to ease its international isolation by showing it is able to win friends in Latin America, which has been historically in the United States' "sphere of influence."

    Washington accuses Iran of supporting terrorist groups and secretly trying to produce nuclear bombs, and is concerned by its courting of allies in Latin America.

    Shannon urged the region's governments to respect U.N.-backed sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program and recalled accusations that Iran was involved in attacks on the Israeli embassy and a Jewish community center in Argentina's capital Buenos Aires during the 1990s.

    "We urge our friends and partners in the region to be vigilant," he said, adding that those attacks show Iran is able "to conduct terrorist operations within the Americas."

    Iran has denied any involvement in the Buenos Aires attacks, which killed well over 100 people.

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    Default Re: Iran's Influence In Latin America Worries U.S.

    * OPINION
    * SEPTEMBER 8, 2009, 7:27 P.M. ET

    The Emerging Axis of Iran and Venezuela
    The prospect of Iranian missiles in South America should not be dismissed.

    By ROBERT M. MORGENTHAU
    Comment

    The diplomatic ties between Iran and Venezuela go back almost 50 years and until recently amounted to little more than the routine exchange of diplomats. With the election of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2005, the relationship dramatically changed.

    Today Mr. Ahmadinejad and Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez have created a cozy financial, political and military partnership rooted in a shared anti-American animus. Now is the time to develop policies in this country to ensure this partnership produces no poisonous fruit.

    Signs of the evolving partnership began to emerge in 2006, when Venezuela joined Cuba and Syria as the only nations to vote against a U.N. Atomic Energy Agency resolution to report Iran to the Security Council over its failures to abide U.N. sanctions to curtail its nuclear program. A year later, during a visit by Mr. Chávez to Tehran, the two nations declared an "axis of unity" against the U.S. and Ecuador. And in June of this year, while protesters lined the streets of Tehran following the substantial allegations of fraud in the re-election of Mr. Ahmadinejad, Mr. Chávez publicly offered him support. As the regime cracked down on political dissent, jailing, torturing and killing protesters, Venezuela stood with the Iranian hard-liners.

    Meanwhile, Iranian investments in Venezuela have been rising. The two countries have signed various Memoranda of Understanding on technology development, cooperation on banking and finance, and oil and gas exploration and refining. In April 2008, the two countries also signed a Memorandum of Understanding pledging full military support and cooperation. United Press International reported in August that Iranian military advisers have been embedded with Venezuelan troops.

    According to a report published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in December of last year, Venezuela has an estimated 50,000 tons of unmined uranium. There is speculation in the Carnegie report that Venezuela could be mining uranium for Iran.

    The Iranians have also opened International Development Bank in Caracas under the Spanish name Banco Internacional de Desarrollo C.A., an independent subsidiary of Export Development Bank of Iran. Last October the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control imposed economic sanctions against both of these Iranian banks for providing or attempting to provide financial services to Iran's Ministry of Defense and its Armed Forces Logistics—the two Iranian military entities tasked with advancing Iran's nuclear ambitions.

    My office has been told that that over the past three years a number of Iranian-owned and controlled factories have sprung up in remote and undeveloped parts of Venezuela—ideal locations for the illicit production of weapons. Evidence of the type of activity conducted inside the factories is limited. But we should be concerned, especially in light of an incident in December 2008. Turkish authorities detained an Iranian vessel bound for Venezuela after discovering lab equipment capable of producing explosives packed inside 22 containers marked "tractor parts." The containers also allegedly contained barrels labeled with "danger" signs. I think it is safe to assume that this was a lucky catch—and that most often shipments of this kind reach their destination in Venezuela.

    A recent U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) study reported a high level of corruption within the Venezuelan government, military and law enforcement that has allowed that country to become a major transshipment route for trafficking cocaine out of Colombia. Intelligence gathered by my office strongly supports the conclusion that Hezbollah supporters in South America are engaged in the trafficking of narcotics. The GAO study also confirms allegations of Venezuelan support for FARC, the Colombian terrorist insurgency group that finances its operations through narcotics trafficking, extortion and kidnapping.

    In a raid on a FARC training camp this July, Colombian military operatives recovered Swedish-made anti-tank rocket launchers sold to Venezuela in the 1980s. Sweden believes this demonstrates a violation of the end-user agreement by Venezuela, as the Swedish manufacturer was never authorized to sell arms to Colombia. Venezuelan Interior Minister Tareck El Aissami, a Venezuelan of Syrian origin, lamely called the allegations a "media show," and "part of a campaign against our people, our government and our institutions."

    In the past several years Iranian entities have employed a pervasive system of deceitful and fraudulent practices to move money all over the world without detection. The regime has done this, I believe, to pay for materials necessary to develop nuclear weapons, long-range missiles, and road-side bombs. Venezuela has an established financial system that Iran, with the help of Mr. Chávez's government, can exploit to avoid economic sanctions.

    Consider, for example, the United Kingdom bank Lloyds TSB. From 2001 to 2004, on behalf of Iranian banks and their customers, the bank admitted in a statement of facts to my office that it intentionally altered wire transfer information to hide the identity of its clients. This allowed the illegal transfer of more than $300 million of Iranian cash despite economic sanctions prohibiting Iranian access to the U.S. financial system. In January, Lloyds entered into deferred prosecution agreements with my office and the Justice Department to resolve the investigation.

    In April, we also announced the indictment of a company called Limmt, and its manager, Li Fang Wei. The U.S. government had banned Limmt from engaging in transactions with or through the U.S. financial system because of its role in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to Iran. But our investigation revealed that Li Fang Wei and Limmt used aliases and shell companies to deceive banks into processing payments related to the shipment of banned missile, nuclear and so-called dual use materials to subsidiary organizations of the Iranian Defense Industries Organization. (Limmt, through the international press, has denied the allegations in the indictment.) The tactics used in these cases should send a strong signal to law enforcement, intelligence agencies, and military commands throughout the world about the style and level of deception the Iranians' employ. Based on information developed by my office, we believe that the Iranians, with the help of Venezuela, are now engaged in similar sanctions-busting schemes.

    Why is Hugo Chávez willing to open up his country to a foreign nation with little shared history or culture? I believe it is because his regime is bent on becoming a regional power, and is fanatical in its approach to dealing with the U.S. The diplomatic overture of President Barack Obama in shaking Mr. Chávez's hand in April at the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago is no reason to assume the threat has diminished. In fact, with the groundwork laid years ago, we are entering a period where the fruits of the Iran-Venezuela bond will begin to ripen.

    That means two of the world's most dangerous regimes, the self-described "axis of unity," will be acting together in our backyard on the development of nuclear and missile technology. And it seems that terrorist groups have found the perfect operating ground for training and planning, and financing their activities through narco-trafficking.

    The Iranian nuclear and long-range missile threats, and creeping Iranian influence in the Western Hemisphere, cannot be overlooked. My office and other law-enforcement agencies can help ensure that money laundering, terror financing, and sanctions violations are not ignored, and that criminals and the banks that aid Iran will be discovered and prosecuted. But U.S. law enforcement alone is not enough to counter the threat.

    The public needs to be aware of Iran's growing presence in Latin America. Moreover, the U.S. and the international community must strongly consider ways to monitor and sanction Venezuela's banking system. Failure to act will leave open a window susceptible to money laundering by the Iranian government, the narcotics organizations with ties to corrupt elements in the Venezuelan government, and the terrorist organizations that Iran supports openly.

    Mr. Morgenthau is the Manhattan district attorney. This op-ed is adapted from a speech yesterday at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.

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    Default Re: Iran's Influence In Latin America Worries U.S.

    Closer US oversight of Iran, Venezuela links urged

    By RICHARD LARDNER (AP) –
    1 day ago


    WASHINGTON — The growing relationship between Venezuela and Iran is stoking the nuclear ambitions of both countries and needs to be more carefully tracked by U.S. authorities, a veteran New York prosecutor said Tuesday.

    In a speech at The Brookings Institution, Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau said investigations by his office show Iran is using Venezuela's established banking network to skirt international sanctions and acquire the materials needed for its nuclear program.

    At the same time, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez wants to build a "nuclear village" in Venezuela with Iran's help, according to Morgenthau, who said such a development would be a "destabilizing force" in Latin America.

    Despite the global implications of this budding partnership, the United States isn't paying close enough attention to it, Morgenthau warned.

    "Generally speaking, nobody is focused sufficiently on the threat of the Iran-Venezuela connection," said Morgenthau, whose New York jurisdiction includes the offices of numerous U.S. financial institutions.

    State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said the U.S. is concerned about any suggestion of possible weapons proliferation, especially in the Western Hemisphere. But he said: "We also respect each country's sovereign decision whether or not to pursue diplomatic relations with another country."

    Venezuela is not under U.S. or international economic sanctions. That means U.S. banks processing wire transfers from Venezuelan banks rely on their Venezuelan counterparts to ensure the exchanges are for legitimate purposes, Morgenthau said.

    "I have little faith that this is being effectively done, and the Iranians, aware of this vulnerability, appear to be taking advantage of it," he said.

    In early 2008, Iran opened in Caracas a subsidiary of the Export Development Bank of Iran. Last fall, the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control imposed economic sanctions against both banks for providing financial support to the military organizations responsible for Iran's nuclear program.

    Still, Morgenthau said he believes Iran's Caracas subsidiary has ties with banks in Venezuela and in Panama, which has a reputation as a center for money laundering.

    Morgenthau said Iranian-owned and operated factories have sprung up in remote and undeveloped areas of Venezuela. While there's little known about what's going on inside these plants, "we should be concerned that illegal activity might be taking place," he said.

    Morgenthau cited cases his office has recently pursued that underscore the lengths Iran will go to avoid sanctions aimed at curbing its nuclear program.

    One involved a bank in the United Kingdom, Lloyds TSB, that altered wire transfer information to hide the identity of the clients, which were Iranian banks. This process, known as "stripping," allowed the illegal transfer of more than $300 million of Iranian cash through financial institutions around the world, including the United States.

    Morgenthau said information gathered through ongoing investigations reveals that the Iranians, with help from Venezuela, "are now engaged in similar economic and proliferation sanctions-busting schemes."

    Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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    Default Re: Iran's Influence In Latin America Worries U.S.

    September 21, 2009
    The Chavez-Iran Alliance: A Menace to the Western Hemisphere
    By Jaime Daremblum




    It is no exaggeration to say that Venezuela's burgeoning alliance with Iran represents the greatest threat to hemispheric stability since the Cold War. Both governments have supported international terrorist groups operating in South America (including Hezbollah). Both have embraced other terror-sponsoring regimes (such as Syria). Both have initiated an arms buildup. Both have pursued close military cooperation with Russia. Both share a visceral anti-Americanism and are committed to undermining U.S. interests throughout the Western Hemisphere. And, perhaps most ominous, as announced earlier this month by both governments, Venezuela and Iran are now collaborating on the development of nuclear technology.

    Their relationship has grown steadily over the past several years, thanks to the aggressive outreach of Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez. Yet for whatever reason, U.S. opinion leaders - politicians, journalists, and others - have tended to ignore or downplay it. In a recent speech to the Brookings Institution, longtime New York District Attorney Robert Morgenthau sought to change that. Morgenthau outlined the full extent of the Venezuela-Iran partnership, which has included everything from financial and economic collaboration to energy and military coordination.

    In early 2008, for example, Iran established a new bank in Caracas, Banco Internacional de Desarrollo (BID), which was later sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department for having financial links to the Iranian military. On its website, BID explains that its mission includes "boosting the economic relations between Venezuela and Iran by facilitating joint projects and ventures in these countries." But Morgenthau noted that "a foothold into the Venezuelan banking system is a perfect ‘sanctions-busting method." In that sense, Venezuela's financial cooperation with Iran is helping the mullahs advance their nuclear program.

    Earlier this year, the two countries launched the Tehran-based Iran-Venezuela Joint Bank, which reportedly started with a capital base of $200 million and hopes of increasing that figure to $1.2 billion. On September 6, during a visit to Tehran, Chávez declared that Venezuela and Iran would pump another $100 million into the bank. He also announced that Venezuela would begin selling the Islamic Republic some 20,000 barrels of petroleum a day, projecting that the deal would be worth $800 million. This arrangement will further undercut international efforts to pressure the Iranian regime through sanctions.

    Meanwhile, Iran continues to operate suspicious factories in rural, sparsely populated areas of Venezuela. As Morgenthau observed, it has been estimated that Venezuela could have 50,000 tons of uranium reserves. According to the Associated Press, a recent Israeli foreign ministry report suggested that Venezuela and Bolivia (which is led by Chávez crony Evo Morales) are now providing Iran with uranium. There is good reason to be worried that Iran is using its murky manufacturing presence in relatively inaccessible parts of Venezuela to advance its nuclear-weapons aims. The mere prospect that the Iranians could be conducting illicit nuclear activities in Latin America is highly alarming.

    The latest State Department survey of global terrorism says that Iran and Venezuela are still running "weekly flights connecting Tehran and Damascus with Caracas. Passengers on these flights were reportedly subject to only cursory immigration and customs controls at Simon Bolivar International Airport in Caracas." There is persuasive evidence that Hezbollah, the notorious Iranian-backed terror group, has established a presence in Venezuela. In 2008, the U.S. Treasury Department accused the Chávez government of "employing and providing safe harbor to Hezbollah facilitators and fundraisers." Besides carrying out murderous attacks throughout the Middle East, Hezbollah has also been implicated in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires.

    At this point, there should no longer be any doubt that the Chávez regime is willing to aid terrorist organizations. Evidence of its support for the drug-trafficking FARC terrorists in Colombia keeps piling up. A recent U.S. Government Accountability Office report confirmed that the amount of cocaine transiting through Venezuela has increased "significantly," thanks partly to Venezuelan support for the FARC. This past July, Colombian military forces raided a FARC camp and discovered anti-tank rocket launchers that were originally made in Sweden and then sold to Venezuela. In another interesting development, a prominent newspaper in the European principality of Andorra, a famous tax haven known for its banking secrecy, reported this month that, at the behest of the U.S. Treasury Department, the Andorran government has frozen bank accounts belonging to people who are "close" to Chávez due to concerns over "the financing of terrorism."

    Iran, of course, remains the top state sponsor of terrorism. I find it remarkable that Venezuela's growing alliance with the Islamic Republic has not garnered more attention in the U.S. media, or among U.S. officials in Washington. Think about it: The government of an oil-rich, strategically significant country in the heart of Latin America has embraced the world's leading terror sponsor as it works to build nuclear weapons, and members of that same government have directly aided terrorist organizations.

    The Venezuela-Iran relationship is now the chief threat to stability in the Western Hemisphere. We ignore that relationship at our peril.

    Jaime Daremblum, who served as Costa Rica's ambassador to the United States from 1998 to 2004, is director of the Center for Latin American Studies at the Hudson Institute.

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    Default Re: Iran's Influence In Latin America Worries U.S.

    Hugo Chavez's Iran Uranium Offer: A New Security Threat?

    By TIM PADGETT
    1 hr 40 mins ago

    By TIM PADGETT Tim Padgett Fri Oct 9, 2:30 pm ET


    When Venezuela's Mining Minister Rodolfo Sanz walked into a televised Cabinet meeting this week, President Hugo ChÁvez impishly asked, "So how's the uranium for Iran going? For the atomic bomb." ChÁvez was joking, but few were laughing outside Caracas and Tehran. Ever since ChÁvez announced last month that he was seeking Russia's help to develop nuclear energy in Venezuela - and especially since Sanz turned heads a couple of weeks ago by disclosing that Iran is helping Venezuela locate its own uranium reserves - the South American nation and its socialist, anti-U.S. government have become a new focus of anxiety over regional if not global security.

    But how big a concern should Venezuela be? ChÁvez delights in getting a rise out of the U.S., and his alliance with Iran and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is largely a calculated affront to Washington - his version of Cuba's Cold War partnership with the Soviet Union. It's little coincidence that Sanz made his announcement the same day the U.S. and its allies called Iran on the existence of a secret nuclear-fuel plant near the Iranian city of Qum. The U.S. and the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) fear that Iran is on the verge of bolting the global Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and developing not just nuclear energy but a nuclear weapon, a charge Tehran denies. Venezuela's ties to the Islamic Republic, as a result, have taken on dimensions beyond just tweaking Uncle Sam's nose.

    That suits ChÁvez's fondness for the international spotlight. Still, security experts say he's flirting with something more serious than anti-yanqui bravado. ChÁvez, who recently agreed to sell Iran 20,000 barrels of gasoline a day, backs the country's claim that it's enriching uranium only for peaceful purposes. But if the international community decides Iran is making an atomic bomb - something IAEA inspections may determine later this month - it would complicate any Venezuelan plans to export uranium to the country, since it would be widely viewed as aiding and abetting a rogue nuclear-weapons program. "In that event, the world is watching whether Venezuela seems poised to cross any international legal boundaries," says Johanna Mendelson Forman, a senior associate for the Americas at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. "But it's still too early to tell what Venezuela is really doing." (Read a story about the negotiations over Iran's nukes.)

    A recent intelligence report put out by the government of Israel, which considers Iran's nuclear program a direct threat to its security, said Venezuela was already supplying Iran with uranium. But experts say it's hardly certain Venezuela even has much, if any, uranium to provide Iran or anyone else. Officials there have long estimated the country is sitting on 50,000 tons of the radioactive ore, concentrated mostly in western Venezuela and in the Roraima Basin along the country's southeastern border with Brazil and Guyana. (The U.S. has uranium reserves of about 340,000 tons.) It may be high grade, says James Otton, a uranium-resources specialist at the federal U.S. Geological Survey, a reference not to its quality but to the "tremendous quantities of uranium in a given volume of rock" found in places similar to Roraima, a virtual Lost World of Precambrian geology.

    But those jungle conditions make extracting the ore, if it's there, difficult. "And there is still no publicly available information that uranium has ever occurred in Venezuela," says Otton. "Right now it's just potential." Robert Rich, a Denver-based uranium expert, agrees: "ChÁvez can claim the geology indicates they might discover it there, but as a scientist I'd say there's not much to it yet."

    Sanz, however, insists that Iranian experts have concluded Venezuela "has a lot of uranium." If so, the other big question is whether Venezuela itself will really pursue a nuclear-energy program. Like oil-rich Iran, it's hardly in urgent need of nuclear power: Venezuela has the western hemisphere's largest crude reserves, and 75% of its electricity is hydro-generated. It abandoned its one test nuclear reactor 15 years ago. Still, ChÁvez says the country needs alternatives, and has struck a deal to receive nuclear-fuel-technology aid from Russia, Venezuela's top arms supplier. "We're not going to make an atomic bomb," ChÁvez said after announcing the Russia agreement, "so don't bother us the way you're bothering Iran."

    Experts say it could take Venezuela's less-than-stellar science infrastructure more than a decade to develop a nuclear-power industry, let alone a nuclear bomb. (Only Brazil, Argentina and Mexico produce nuclear power in the region.) What's more, Venezuela is a signatory to the 1967 Tlatelolco Treaty, which prohibits the development of nuclear weapons in Latin America. Even so, says Mendelson, "the U.S. is worried that Venezuela has become a platform for the entrance of Iranian mischief in the hemisphere." If Iran is building a bomb, she adds, the U.S. may well assume that Tehran is interested in slipping that technology to Venezuela as well.

    All that is speculation at this point, of course, and Venezuela would face isolation not just from the U.S. but from its Latin trade partners - especially Brazil, which is campaigning for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council - if it were to ever toy with nuclear weaponry. As it is, ChÁvez can look forward to stepped-up global pressure if Iran, like North Korea, is eventually found to be pursuing a nuclear bomb, especially if international economic sanctions are imposed on Tehran. If that happens, ChÁvez has indicated he'll ignore the measures and keep supplying the 20,000 barrels per day of gasoline to Iran, which has to import almost half its gasoline because of a lack of refineries.

    Then again, it's uncertain if powers like Russia and China, which sell even larger quantities of gasoline to Iran, would take part in U.S.-led sanctions themselves. Their postures are a reminder that when it comes to thwarting Iran's nuclear ambitions, Venezuela may be a small concern in comparison. But given the tensions involved at the moment, few besides ChÁvez are finding humor in it.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Brazil and Turkey Near Nuclear Deal With Iran

    By ALEXEI BARRIONUEVO and SEBNEM ARSU

    Published: May 16, 2010



    SÃO PAULO, Brazil — Brazilian and Turkish government officials said Sunday that their leaders had brokered a tentative compromise with Iran in the international standoff over Iran’s nuclear program, a development that could undermine efforts in the United Nations to impose new sanctions on the Iranians.

    A spokesman for the Turkish Foreign Ministry said that after 17 hours of talks in Tehran, ministers from Brazil, Iran and Turkey had reached an agreement on the “principles” to revive a stalled nuclear fuel-swap deal backed by the United Nations.

    The spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the deal would be presented to the leaders of the countries for “final touches,” with a statement on the agreement expected as early as Monday. The exact terms, notably the amount of nuclear fuel to be swapped, were not revealed.

    The Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, canceled an official visit to Azerbaijan late Sunday and instead joined officials in Tehran in what was seen as a sign of progress in the talks.

    The Brazilian and Turkish leaders have been trying to revive a deal reached last October in which Iran would ship much of its stockpile of enriched uranium abroad for further processing; the uranium would then return as fuel rods for a medical research reactor. Mr. Erdogan suggested to reporters in Turkey before leaving for Iran that the uranium swap could take place in Turkey.

    In the months since the deal was first reached, Iran rejected and then accepted it multiple times, with different conditions. Its unwillingness to give a straightforward answer was seen by critics as a delaying tactic.

    It was unclear Sunday whether the Obama administration, which has insisted on the need for new sanctions, would take any new iteration of the deal.

    The original terms were considered attractive to the United States and its allies because Iran would have temporarily relinquished most of its uranium. Because Iran has produced more uranium since then, the deal would very likely be less acceptable today.

    But the blessing of Turkey and Brazil for such a swap agreement could put the Obama administration in the awkward position of appearing to take an unreasonably hard line.

    Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Brazil’s president, met three times on Sunday with Iranian leaders, including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

    A diplomat from the Brazilian delegation, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he remained “optimistic” that the leaders would announce a deal Monday that would avoid new United Nations sanctions.

    The Brazilian delegation was scheduled to depart Tehran just after midday on Monday for a European Union-Latin American summit meeting in Madrid.

    Mr. da Silva is trying to leverage his friendly ties with Iran’s government to help broker a compromise. Like Brazil, Turkey also has been seeking to draw Iran back to negotiations as pressure mounts for passage of another sanctions resolution.

    American diplomats and the Russian president, Dmitri A. Medvedev, said last week that Brazil’s efforts were the “last chance” to avoid sanctions.

    Iran has insisted that its nuclear work is intended only for peaceful purposes like energy production. But the United Nations nuclear monitoring agency has said that Iran has not cooperated fully with its investigation into whether the country’s program is also intended to develop nuclear weapons.

    On Friday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton predicted that Mr. da Silva’s mediation effort would fail. She said Iran could be forced to prove its nuclear program was peaceful only with a new round of United Nations sanctions.

    “Every step of the way has demonstrated clearly to the world that Iran is not participating in the international arena in the way that we had asked them to do and that they continued to pursue their nuclear program,” Mrs. Clinton told reporters.

    Alexei Barrionuevo reported from São Paulo, and Sebnem Arsu from Istanbul. David E. Sanger contributed reporting from Washington.

    A version of this article appeared in print on May 17, 2010, on page A10 of the New York edition.

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    Nikita Khrushchev: "We will bury you"
    "Your grandchildren will live under communism."
    “You Americans are so gullible.
    No, you won’t accept
    To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 15 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.
    outright, but we’ll keep feeding you small doses of
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    until you’ll finally wake up and find you already have communism.

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    Default Re: Iran's Influence In Latin America Worries U.S.

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    Quote Originally Posted by vector7 View Post
    Obama plans to cut tens of thousands of ground troops

    Published: Thursday, 5 Jan 2012 | 9:56 AM ET



    WASHINGTON - The Obama administration will unveil a "more realistic" vision for the military on Thursday, with plans to cut tens of thousands of ground troops and invest more in air and sea power at a time of fiscal restraint, officials familiar with the plans said on Wednesday.

    The strategic review of U.S. security interests will also emphasize an American presence in Asia, with less attention overall to Europe, Africa and Latin America alongside slower growth in the Pentagon's budget, the officials said.

    Though specific budget cut and troop reduction figures are not set to be announced on Thursday, officials confirmed to Reuters they would amount to a 10-15 percent decline in Army and Marine Corps numbers over the next decade, translating to tens of thousands of troops.


    Iran Moves West: Ahmadinejad's 2012 Latin American Visit

    By Ray Walser, Ph.D. and James Phillips
    January 6, 2012

    On January 8, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad lands in Venezuela to start a brief but highly symbolic Latin American visit. The Iranian leader aims to bolster ties with Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and some of the region’s most strident anti-American leaders. For the Obama Administration, the Iranian visit reflects a continuing erosion of U.S. influence in the region and highlights the urgent need for an active policy to safeguard and advance U.S. security and interests in our neighborhood.

    Winning Friends and Influencing Nations


    Ahmadinejad’s visit comes as Iran ramps up brinksmanship in the face of new economic sanctions. With recent military maneuvers and threats to close the vital Strait of Hormuz, Iran has ushered in an uncertain 2012.

    Ahmadinejad also seeks an opportunity to strut on the world stage to shore up declining political support at home, where he is despised by Iran’s opposition Green Movement and denounced by bitter rivals within Iran’s hard-line regime. Ahmadinejad’s beleaguered faction faces growing anxiety about the mushrooming impact of sanctions on Iran’s economy and strong opposition in the sham elections for Iran’s faux parliament in March.

    Ahmadinejad hopes that his Latin “tyrant’s tour” will demonstrate that Iran is not isolated and that he is a respected leader of the anti-American bloc.

    Since taking office in 2005, Admadinejad has broadened and deepened Iran’s ties with the Western Hemisphere. His government has signed numerous civilian and military cooperation agreements with Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Nicaragua. For a nation with a Taiwan-size economy, Iran’s trade relations with Latin America continue to grow at a surprisingly fast rate. Iran has expanded its diplomatic presence, which masks the covert expansion of intelligence and Revolutionary Guard personnel charged with maintaining support for Iran’s terrorist proxies and allied anti-American movements.

    In Brazil’s former President Lula da Silva, Iran discovered a leader sympathetic to its claims that its nuclear ambitions were entirely benign, and Brazil voted against imposing the last round of sanctions against Iran at the U.N. Security Council in June 2010. In general, Iran craves greater international legitimacy and seeks to project global influence and power at a time when Latin America has distanced itself from the U.S.
    Iran’s Western Hemisphere Agenda

    What does Iran seek in the Americas? It desires diplomatic cover and international support against the U.S. and Western Europe, which are imposing increasingly tougher sanctions. Iran wants commercial and economic outlets for its limited range of exports and sources of secure supply for its domestic market.

    Iran also desires a set of friends who are willing to buck the U.S and aid the Iranian Central Bank and state enterprises in their efforts to conduct sales and technology transfers that minimize the bite of sanctions.

    From a geostrategic point of view, Iran likely views Latin America as a potential platform for conducting asymmetric warfare or disruptive terrorism in the event of a conflict over free passage in the Strait of Hormuz or a strike against Iran’s accelerating nuclear weapons program by Israel or the U.S.

    Iran also colludes with foreign terrorist organizations, particularly Hezbollah, the radical Lebanese Shiite terrorist organization that has established deep roots within the Lebanese diaspora in South and Central America. Hezbollah has enriched itself through involvement with South America’s cocaine trade to fund its activities around the world. Finally, Venezuela and others (notably Bolivia) are positioned to provide Iran with long-term access to strategic materials like uranium, which is required for further development of a nuclear weapons program.

    Ahmadinejad’s 2012 Itinerary

    Iran seeks to cement ties with a coterie of member states of the Bolivarian Alternative for the People of Our America (ALBA). Established in 2004, ALBA links kindred leftist regimes under the leadership of the Castro brothers and Hugo Chavez. ALBA members pursue a hybrid mix of nationalism, Marxism–Leninism, populism, authoritarianism, and militarism. While ALBA exists because of Venezuela’s oil wealth, the ideological glue is a strident anti-Americanism and a desire—shared with Iran—to see the demise of the U.S. as a global leader for democracy and free markets.

    The following is a rundown of the countries the Iranian leader plans to visit:

    • Venezuela. Venezuela remains Iran’s critical entry point into the Americas. Venezuela’s Chavez has cultivated a decade-long relationship with Iran’s revolutionary Islamic leadership, creating its so-called axis of unity. The meeting is the first since the start of the Arab Spring, including the fall of Chavez ally Muammar Qadhafi and the discovery of Chavez’s life-threatening cancer. Facing reelection in October, Chavez continues to play the anti-American card to whip up Venezuelan nationalism and will use the Iranian visit to revalidate his anti-American credentials. While careful to avoid overt threats to U.S. security, the two leaders will privately scheme further sanction-busting actions and advance planning for asymmetric warfare strategies.
    • Nicaragua. The presence of Ahmadinejad at the inauguration of Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega on January 10 is a damning reflection of the deterioration of democracy in that country. While sanctioned by the majority in November, Ortega’s return to the presidency was built on a series of constitutional violations and electoral chicanery. The fact that Ortega wishes to share center stage with the bloody repressor of the Green Movement confirms Nicaragua’s steady descent into authoritarianism.
    • Cuba. Despite a recent flurry of economic reforms designed to shed state workers and improve the woeful economic balance sheet of Cuban communism, the island remains under the unyielding and repressive control of General Raul Castro. The Iranian president’s visit is a reminder that in matters relating to politics and the international distribution of power, the Castro regime has far more in common with the intolerance and repression of Iran’s theocracy than it does with democracy in the Americas.
    • Ecuador. Under the erratic leadership of President Rafael Correa, oil-producing Ecuador has steadily moved away from the U.S. By hosting the Iranian president, Correa hopes to bring fresh commercial ties and burnish his increasingly anti-American credentials.
    • Guatemala. While Guatemala maintains limited diplomatic relations with Iran, it recently took up a two-year rotating seat on the U.N. Security Council, making it an object of Iranian courtship. Incoming Guatemalan president Oscar Perez Molina, a former military officer and conservative, will be inaugurated on January 14. Accepting the presence of Iran’s president will be a bad start for a new presidency and a slap in the face of the U.S.

    The Obama Administration: Wobbly on Iran

    The Obama Administration entered office naively hoping to persuade Iran to halt its nuclear weapons program through diplomatic engagement. The President famously promised that if Iran “unclenched its fist,” he would extend his hand in friendship. But the Tehran regime contemptuously spurned his engagement efforts, brutally cracked down on its own people, seized several Americans as hostages, stepped up its nuclear program and its ballistic missile buildup, plotted to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador in Washington, and most recently threatened to attack shipping in the Persian Gulf.

    The Obama Administration claims that Tehran’s recent threats are a sign that sanctions are starting to bite, but Iran’s current economic crisis is related to the plummeting value of Iran’s currency caused by sanctions on Iran’s Central Bank, which the Administration opposed but was forced to accept after the Senate voted 100–0 to include them in the Defense authorization bill.

    There are independent but unconfirmed reports that Iran and Venezuela are pressing forward with a clandestine agenda that includes facilitating access to uranium and support for Hezbollah in the Americas.

    The State Department has sought to normalize relations with ALBA nations and wants to send new ambassadors to Ecuador and Nicaragua while minimizing increasingly glaring bilateral differences.

    America’s Neighborhood Watch

    The Obama Administration must adopt a tougher stance in 2012, and relations with Iran should serve as a critical litmus test. The Administration should do the following:

    • Maintain a consistent response to Iran. Signal to other nations that supporting Iran’s dangerous, rogue behavior will have serious consequences that affect the sending of new ambassadors, foreign assistance, and loan approvals in the Inter-American Development Bank.
    • Increase intelligence assets. Assign a higher priority to the collection of intelligence regarding Iran’s penetration into the Americas and Iranian-supported terrorist organizations like Hezbollah.
    • Support the democratic opposition. Find ways to redouble support for Venezuela’s democratic opposition as a critical presidential election approaches in October. Domestic democratic forces within the ALBA countries clearly oppose stronger ties with Iran and leaders who are ready to replicate aspects of Iran’s tyranny.

    The impending Ahmadinejad visit in the region requires heightened awareness and greater responsiveness by the Obama Administration to serious challenges close to the homeland.

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    Nikita Khrushchev: "We will bury you"
    "Your grandchildren will live under communism."
    “You Americans are so gullible.
    No, you won’t accept
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    outright, but we’ll keep feeding you small doses of
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    until you’ll finally wake up and find you already have communism.

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    ."
    We’ll so weaken your
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    until you’ll
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    like overripe fruit into our hands."



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