Should the United States be concerned about Iran's determined efforts to reach out to Latin America? Or, as was suggestively described in the Economist, by the Ayatollahs' strategy of cozying up to Latin America?
The US continues to see the world as its own business. It gives itself and its allies, most notably Israel, the right to geopolitical maneuverability. Iran, on the other hand, is censured, derided and punished for even its own internal policies, within its own borders. Thus, an Iranian move into Latin America is naturally viewed as unwarranted, uncalled for and most definitely dangerous as far as the US is concerned.
But Iran is not invading America geopolitical space per se. It is neither financing a terrorist group, nor involved in the ongoing narcotic war. More, there is no historical connection between an interventionist Iran and the bloody past of Latin America, including its former dictators and brutal juntas. In fact, Iran's 'cozying up' to Latin American merely began in 2005. Since then, Iran has opened embassies in several Latin American countries and launched important joint projects that provided funds and work opportunities for thousands of ordinary people. There is no Iranian equivalent to the School of the Americas.
So why the alarm?
Paul McLeary of Aviation Week gives us a clue. Iran's move "has set off a proxy conflict between Iran and Israel in South America, with the presidents of both countries logging frequent-flier miles to win friends in the region. One cause for concern among many analysts is the weekly flight between Caracas and Tehran (with a stop in Damascus) that Iran Air has flown for two years."
He quotes Frida Ghitis: "Flight manifests are kept secret, so neither cargo nor passenger information is well known …one Israeli report suggested that Venezuela and Bolivia are supplying uranium to Iran."
Two questions emerge. One, is it required of Caracas and Tehran to provide a detailed report of the cargo and passengers to the US and Israel, and perhaps also cc-ed to a list of their friends and allies?
The second pertains to Israel itself. Why is the media most concerned by Iran's 'suspicious' behavior in Latin America, despite the fact that its presence is welcomed by various countries in the hemisphere, while Israel - whose bloody involvement has wrought much chaos to South America - is simply unquestioned, and even cited as a credible source? There is no evidence to link Iran to death squads, or any Iranian firm with "an archive and computer file on journalists, students, leaders, leftists, politicians and so on" to be hunted down, killed or simply made to 'disappear' under brutal regimes. Israel's own history in Latin America seems to inspire little commentary by the ever-vigilant 'many analysts'. McLeary, Ghitis and others need to do their homework before leveling accusations against others. The book Dangerous Liaison: The Inside Story of the U.S.-Israeli Covert Relationship may be a good place to start.