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The anti-U.S. campaign of Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chávez has bolstered populist regimes across the Americas, encouraging leaders of countries like Bolivia and Ecuador to undermine democratic institutions and personal liberty in order to impose their radical agendas. The Venezuelan regime has also provided arms, training, and other material support to
Download Audio as MP3 terrorist groups, effectively waging a proxy war against its neighbor Colombia. Venezuela is also complicit in drug trafficking, which is exacerbating drug violence in Central America, Mexico, and the United States.
All the while, Chávez has forged a closer relationship with Iran, allowing the Islamic regime to evade international sanctions and expand its influence in the Americas. What is the depth of the Venezuela-Iran relationship, and how should the United States react to the growing threat? Does this axis threaten American national security and U.S. interests and allies in the region? Presenting their findings on these critical issues were Douglas Farah, a senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center and a national security consultant who has written extensively on populist regimes in the Americas; AEI visiting fellow Roger F. Noriega, who coordinates AEI's program on Latin America; and AEI resident scholar Michael Rubin, who researches and writes about Iran.
|1:00||Presenters:||Douglas Farah, International Assessment and Strategy Center|
|Roger F. Noriega, AEI|
|Michael Rubin, AEI|
American Enterprise Institute
WASHINGTON, MARCH 29, 2010--Experts at an AEI event Monday rang "alarm bells for U.S. policymakers" about the threat that the increasingly close Venezuela-Iran relationship could pose for American national security, even though General Douglas Fraser, head of the U.S. Southern Command, verified that no links exist between terrorist groups and the Venezuelan government in a March 11 hearing before the U.S. Senate.
Douglas Farah, a senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center, outlined the danger of the current Iran-Venezuela axis, which is founded solely on "declared hatred for the U.S." There are few previous economic and cultural ties between the two countries, and therefore few logical explanations for the recent opening of Iranian banks in Venezuela and six Iranian embassies in the region. In addition to Venezuela's overt support for the Iranian regime's agenda, Iran's growing involvement in Venezuela has compromised security in the region by facilitating drug trafficking in Colombia through the terrorist group FARC, money laundering in Ecuador, and cocaine trade in Mexico.
Michael Rubin, a resident scholar at AEI and expert on Iran, noted that while Iran's presence in Latin America is not new, Iran has only succeeded in reaching out to Latin America under the leadership of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, as demonstrated by Hugo Chávez's more than half a dozen visits to Iran in the past few years. While the cornerstone of Iran's policy toward Latin America is to build an anti-American network, the alliance between Venezuela and Iran is also based on pragmatic needs--Chávez has offered Iran an Airbus A340 and twenty thousand barrels of gasoline per day. Nevertheless, there are few internal popular emotions in Iran for Latin America; the ostensibly strong connection between Iranians and Venezuelans is, in fact, an artificial creation of the Iranian state media. Rubin also stated that the United States' compartmentalized approach to state-sponsored terrorism and money laundering is ineffective: "while [countries like] Iran are playing chess, Washington is still playing checkers."
Roger F. Noriega, a visiting fellow at AEI, provided more evidence of the abnormally close relationship between Venezuela and Iran, including Chávez's various forms of material support to Iran and joint ventures totaling at least $30 million between the two countries. Noriega argued that the United States is failing to confront Chávez's threat to American security. To reverse the menace posed for the United States and the region, Noriega urged Washington to act quickly to cement security and economic ties with Panama and Colombia, raise attention to this issue in the United Nations Security Council, and inform Venezuelans about how Chávez is compromising their country's security.
Roger F. Noriega is a visiting fellow at AEI, where he coordinates the Institute's program on Western Hemisphere issues, and is managing director of Vision Americas LLC, which represents foreign and domestic clients. Mr. Noriega was twice appointed by President George W. Bush (and confirmed by the U.S. Senate) and has a ten-year career on Capitol Hill. As assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, he managed a three-thousand-person team of professionals in Washington, D.C., and fifty diplomatic posts to design and implement political and economic strategies in Canada, Latin America, and the Caribbean. As U.S. permanent representative to the Organization of American States (OAS), Mr. Noriega coordinated complex and sensitive multilateral diplomacy in a thirty-four-member international organization to bolster OAS efforts to promote trade, fight illicit drugs, and defend democracy. Mr. Noriega has held various other positions, including senior policy adviser with the U.S. mission to the OAS, many program-management and public-affairs positions with the U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.S. Department of State, press secretary and foreign policy adviser for former representative Robert Whittaker (R-Kans.), and research assistant for the secretary of state of Kansas.
Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at AEI and a senior lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School's Center for Civil-Military Relations. He also teaches a graduate course on Iranian history at Johns Hopkins University. Mr. Rubin is a former editor of Middle East Quarterly. He previously served as an Iran and Iraq country director in the office of the Secretary of Defense and as a political adviser in the Coalition Provisional Authority. He is the author of two books about Iranian history and politics, most recently Eternal Iran: Continuity and Chaos (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), and he publishes articles in a range of scholarly and policy journals. Mr. Rubin lectures frequently on the politics, culture, and strategy of Middle Eastern, Central Asian, and South Asian countries to senior military officers deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan. He is a regular contributor to major U.S. and Middle Eastern newspapers.
Douglas Farah is a senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center, a national security and terror finance consultant, and a frequent guest lecturer to the U.S military and intelligence community. He worked for two decades as a foreign correspondent and investigative reporter, mostly for the Washington Post, covering armed conflicts, drug trafficking, and organized crime in Latin America and West Africa. As West Africa bureau chief of the Washington Post in 2001, he broke the story of al Qaeda's ties to the "blood diamond" trade. He is the author of Blood from Stones: The Secret Financial Network of Terror (Broadway, 2004) and Merchant of Death: Money, Guns, Planes and the Man who Makes War Possible (J. Wiley, 2007). His writings have appeared in The New Republic, Foreign Policy Magazine, Men's Vogue, Mother Jones, the Financial Times, The American Journalism Review, The Washington Post magazine and other publications. He won the Sigma Delta Chi Distinguished Service Award for a series on death squads in El Salvador and the Maria Moors Cabot Prize from Columbia University for his coverage of Latin America.