And an Iranian foothold gives rise to numerous concerns, including weapons smuggling, the presence of more Hizballah fronts, as in Venezuela, and Iran’s other possible plans, recalling the 1994 bombing in Argentina in which high-level Iranian officials have been implicated. Not to mention the possibility of Iran’s using Nicaragua as a base from which to attack the U.S. and other targets in the Western Hemisphere in the event of military intervention against its nuclear program.
“Iran making push into Nicaragua,” by Todd Bensman for the San Antonio Express-News:
MONKEY POINT, Nicaragua “” The second military helicopter in as many days hovered over the jungle and then landed to a most unwelcome reception from several dozen angry Rama Indian and Creole villagers.
Rupert Allen Clear Duncan, a leader of some 400 Creole who live along the shoreline, confronted the foreigners dressed in suits and military uniforms that day in March and demanded to know the purpose of their aerial trespasses.
“This is our land; we have always lived here, and you don’t have our permission to be here,” Duncan spat, when refused the courtesy of an explanation.
Not until Duncan threatened to have his machete-waving followers damage the aircraft did they learn that some of the men were from the Islamic Republic of Iran and had come promising to establish a Central American foothold in the middle of their territory.
As part of a new partnership with Nicaragua’s Sandinista President Daniel Ortega, Iran and its Venezuelan allies plan to help finance a $350 million deep-water port at Monkey Point on the wild Caribbean shore, and then plow a connecting “dry canal” corridor of pipelines, rails and highways across the country to the populous Pacific Ocean. Iran recently established an embassy in Nicaragua’s capital.
What worries state department officials, former national security officials and counterterrorism researchers is that, if attacked, Iran could stage strikes on American or allied interests from Nicaragua, deploying the Iranian terrorist group Hezbollah and Revolutionary Guard operatives already in Latin America. Bellicose threats by Iran’s clerical leadership to hit American interests worldwide if attacked, by design or not, heighten the anxiety.
“The bottom line is if there is a confrontation with Iran, and Iran gets bombed, I have absolutely no doubt that Iran is going to lash out globally,” said John R. Schindler, a veteran former counterintelligence officer and analyst for the National Security Agency.
“The Iranians have that ability, particularly from South America. Hezbollah has fronts all over Latin America. That is not new. But it’s certainly something we’re starting to care about now.”
Gee, that’s nice.
Few Nicaragua observers believe Iran seriously plans to follow through on any of its $500 million promises or has any obvious need for trade ties with one of Latin America’s poorest countries.
Opposition politicians say they understand why Iran might want relations with oil-rich Venezuela and Bolivia but wonder aloud if Iran really is so interested in Nicaraguan bananas as their return on investment.
Those who view Iranian intentions with suspicion point to the new Iranian diplomatic mission in Managua as one reason for all the promises.
“They use their embassies to smuggle in weapons. They used them to develop and execute plans,” said Oliver “Buck” Revell, who served as associate deputy director over FBI intelligence and international affairs. “Diplomats have immunity coming and going. It is a protected center for both espionage and, on occasion, for specific operations. So an embassy in Managua is definitely an area that will be of concern to our national security apparatus.”
Also in recent months, the U.S. military repeatedly has accused Iran’s Revolutionary Guard of using diplomatic cover in Iraq to help insurgents kill American soldiers. Iran denies that charge too. In October, the Bush administration and Congress designated the Revolutionary Guard and its elite arm, the Quds force, as global terror organizations.
Israel is worried about Nicaragua, too, noting the Israeli business community in next-door Costa Rica, Jewish populations throughout Latin America and Iran’s repeated vows to militarily destroy the Jewish state. Israel has promised to take action alone if diplomacy fails to halt Iran’s nuclear programs.
Said one Israeli envoy in the region who requested anonymity, “It’s just that they could use their diplomatic infrastructure to repeat Argentina. They’ll promise millions, they won’t send a penny. But they will send a delegation.”
Read it all.