“terrorists” in Latin America?
By Belén Fernández
Photograph via Flickr by [ john ].
I have been kept up at night by the Iranian presence in Latin America ever since Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon warned in 2009: “We know that there are flights from Caracas via Damascus to Tehran.”
The warning, which was intended as evidence of Iranian infiltration of the American continent, occurred in the context of Ayalon’s excursion to Honduras to attend the General Assembly of the Organization of American States. Of no concern, apparently, was the fact that it is also possible to travel by air with minimal difficulty from Caracas to places like New York and Tel Aviv (and that Israel does not technically qualify as an American State).
The Caracas-Tehran one-stop has since been adopted as a pet issue by neoconservative pundits like the American Enterprise Institute’s Roger Noriega—author of such gems as “Chávez’s Secret Nuclear Program”—who categorized the flight as a component of “Chávez’s Scary Anti-American Campaign.” Noriega reiterated the malevolent travel itinerary as part of his July 2011 testimony before a U.S. Congressional Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence hearing entitled “Hezbollah in Latin America— Implications for U.S. Homeland Security.”
The International Assessment and Strategy Center’s Douglas Farah raised additional causes for alarm. According to Farah, the Iranian embassy in Bolivia had “reportedly asked for more than two dozen spaces in the international school for children of their newly-arrived diplomats there” and Venezuela’s “geographic proximity to West Africa” made it an “ideal launching pad” for drug trafficking. Previous Iranian diplomatic hazards such as the mega-embassy falsely rumored to be under construction in Managua were not brought up.
The arsenal of material available for use against the alleged Islamo-Bolivarian menace was meanwhile augmented in early December with the release of a documentary entitled La amenaza iraní—“The Iranian Threat”—courtesy of Univision, one of the largest Spanish-language broadcast networks in the U.S.
In the extracts from the documentary published on the Univision website, Mexican citizen and former computing instructor at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) Juan Carlos Muñoz Ledo alleges the existence of a plot by the embassies of Iran and Venezuela in Mexico to organize a cybernetic attack on the U.S., followed by a physical one.
According to Muñoz, his knowledge of the plot is a result of the fact that he was designated as a technical liaison to the embassies by the late Francisco Guerrero Lutteroth of the Union of Professors of Engineering at UNAM. Guerrero was allegedly working on behalf of the Cuban embassy in Mexico, where Muñoz claims the idea for the cyber attack originated.
As the story goes, Muñoz developed an ethical opposition to the arrangement and in 2007 secretly filmed an encounter with then-Iranian ambassador to Mexico Mohammad Hassan Ghadiri in order to hand over proof to authorities of “what was going on behind closed doors.” Incriminating documentary footage shown on the website consists of the ambassador sitting in a chair.
Interviewed via satellite by Univision, Ghadiri—now in Tehran—claimed that the UNAM contingent had proposed a cyber attack on the U.S. to his embassy but that “we refused… They seemed to me to be C.I.A. agents.”
In contemplating why Univision might be concerned with framing Iran with recklessly flimsy evidence, it is worthwhile to recall that Executive Chairman Haim Saban of Univision Communications Inc., which owns the network, is the same Saban who just held the “Friends of the Israel Defense Forces” Gala in L.A. He is also the same Saban whose thoughts on Iran include the following:
“When I see Ahmadinejad, I see Hitler. They speak the same language. His motivation is also clear: the return of the Mahdi is a supreme goal. And for a religious person of deep self-persuasion, that supreme goal is worth the liquidation of five and a half million Jews. We cannot allow ourselves that. Nuclear weapons in the hands of a religious leadership that is convinced that the annihilation of Israel will bring about the emergence of a new Muslim caliphate? Israel cannot allow that. This is no game. It’s truly an existential danger.”
IranAir’s potential facilitation of the transhemispheric proliferation of existential danger is meanwhile highlighted in a recent Daily Beast article in which U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) is quoted as categorizing the Univision documentary as “pretty solid” and citing “the flights that have been taking place between Venezuela and Iran” as one of the reasons “[y]ou have to say to yourself at some point this is more than one big coincidence.” Menendez, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, announced the day after the documentary aired that he will host a hearing next month to investigate the proper “U.S. response to Iranian aggression.”
More readily detectable coincidences might include Menendez’s contribution to AIPAC’s Summer Seminar Series for Congressional interns in 2009: a speech on “Israel, Iran and other critical Middle East issues.”
As for current prospects for aggression, rabid anti-Castrist and chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL)—who was coincidentally honored last month, along with Glenn Beck, by the Zionist Organization of America—appears in the Univision documentary posing the question of whether we will have to wait “for the bomb to explode” somewhere in the Americas prior to taking action against Iranian influence.
She provides the response herself: “Ojalá que no”—“I hope not.”
Belén Fernández is an editor and feature writer at Pulse Media. Her articles also have appeared in Al Jazeera, Al Akhbar English, Palestine Chronicle, among others. Born in Washington, D.C.,Bel&eactue;n is a graduate of Columbia University