(/sites/default/files/uploads/2015/01/r.jpg)In terms of U.S. foreign policy priorities the label fits nicely; our gaze tends towards the Middle East and Asia. Besides the occasional trip to sign a trade agreement, the world’s fifth largest landmass is generally absent in the annals of American diplomacy.
That might be changing, however. The recent “suicide” of an Argentinian prosecutor by the name of Alberto Nisman should give us pause when considering the importance, or lack thereof, of our oft-overlooked Latin neighbor.
Nisman was shot point-blank in the forehead one day before he was due to testify to the Argentinian National Congress on the results of a decade-long investigation into the deadliest terror attack in that country’s history.
In 1994 a bomb ripped through the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina, or AMIA, a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, killing 85 and injuring 300. Plenty of analysts point the finger at Iran via Hezbollah, and though Hezbollah has denied involvement, the circumstantial evidence says otherwise. Not only had Argentina recently began reneging on an agreement with Iran for the transfer of nuclear technology, but Hezbollah had previously taken credit for an attack on the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires only two years prior (while there is some dispute as to the status of the deal, it appears it was at least in jeopardy).
To date not a single person has been brought to justice. Subsequent investigations all resulted in the standard Latin American chicanery. Nisman, however, must have uncovered something someone didn’t like.
By all early appearances his investigation implicates Argentine President Cristina Kirchner in a cover up of Iran’s involvement to facilitate an oil-for-grain trading agreement: Argentina would supply Iran with food for the body while Iran would supply Argentina with fuel for its struggling economy.
Whichever the case, the optics are terrible. In fact, the State Department has now begun an official inquiry into Iran’s motives in Latin America in response to Nisman’s death, the tardiness of which would be comical if the implications weren’t so severe.
While South America has the unfortunate label of the “Forgotten Continent” in U.S. foreign policy, in Iran it has been anything but—Hezbollah has been an active player in the region’s drug trade since the 1980s. That’s right, the tentacles of Iran’s favorite proxy terror organization extend far beyond Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, deep into the heart of the Amazon.
Hezbollah first set up shop in the Tri-Border Area, where the strained municipalities of Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina lack the resources to effectively combat large-scale drug trafficking and, by extension, the funding of Islamic terrorism (if you’re wondering how devout Muslims justify drug trafficking, the answer is simple: just issue a fatwa).
While its early forays into narco-trafficking seem to have been financial in nature, analysts now believe that Hezbollah’s presence on our side of the world may be more operational in nature; the organization has found fertile recruiting ground in South American mosques and likely has the potential to strike American interests in the region.
American officials also believe cartels along the U.S. border have enlisted the help of Hezbollah in digging tunnels into the continental U.S. and there are varying reports of arrests of Hezbollah-linked members arrested in Tijuana and Mexican cartel members with Farsi tattoos.
Just as killer bees have slowly inched north towards the U.S., Hezbollah is likewise uncomfortably close.
Which brings us back to Nisman. Before his untimely demise, he told a Miami-based reporter that he had evidence tying current Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to the 1994 Buenos Aires bombing. While Rouhani is largely seen as a moderate by the mainstream media, his past speaks otherwise.
And in the report he drafted before he died, Nisman wrote these words:
“For the first time in the argentine and world judicial history 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.”
Judging from his fate, Nisman would know.
America would be wise to more closely examine the happenings south of the equator. If the Obama administration continues to dawdle in talks with Iran, Israel is ever more likely to strike. And if Iran decides to retaliate, Hezbollah may very well be waiting.
Let Alberto Nisman’s death not be in vain.
Greg Jones has a master’s in journalism and runs The Drunk Republican blog at www.thedrunkrepublican.com.
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