It is as comical as it is untrue. But "The Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act", which as of December 28 became official US law, is not meant to be amusing. It is riddled with half-truths, but mostly complete and utter lies.
Yes, Iran's influence in Latin America is on the rise. However, by US standards, the expanding diplomatic ties, extending trade routes and such are considered a threat to be "countered" or as per Forbes magazine's endless wisdom, "confronted."
Only in the past year, "policymakers in Washington have woken up to a new [Iranian] threat to US security", he wrote, citing an alleged Iranian assassination plot in Washington. According to Barman, that was the wake-up call leading to a "deeply worrisome" reality. In a moment of supposed level-headedness, he writes: "exactly how significant this threat is represents the subject of a new study released in late November by the US House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee. That report, entitled "A Line In The Sand," documents the sinister synergies that have been created in recent years between Iran and Hezbollah on the one hand, and radical regional regimes and actors -- from Venezuela to Mexican drug cartels -- on the other."
But according to Agence France-Presse, reporting on the new law on December 29, "Washington has repeatedly stated it is closely monitoring Tehran's activities in Latin America, though senior State Department and intelligence officials have indicated there is no apparent indication of illicit activities by Iran."
Indeed, on the issue of Iran's influence in Latin America there are two contradicting narratives. One merely acknowledges Iranians growing diplomatic outreach in Latin America since 2005, while another that speaks of massive conspiracies involving Iran, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, drug cartels, and yes, even underground music piracy groups.
The alleged conspiracy is not only far-fetched; it is purposely fabricated to further punish Iran, on behalf of Israel, for its nuclear program. The panic over Iran's "infiltration" of the US "neighborhood" in Latin America didn't start a year ago (as alleged by Barman) but rather coincided with old Israeli-Western propaganda that painted Iran as a country ruled by religious fiends whose main hobby was to assemble bombs and threaten western civilization.
When pro-Israeli think tank "experts" began floating a scenario of "what if Iran and Hezbollah join forces with Mexico's Los Zetas drug cartel" a few years ago, the idea seemed too absurd to compel a rational response. Now it is actually written into the new bill turned law as if a matter of fact. (Sec. 2, Findings 12)
The bill doesn't only lack reason, proper references and is dotted with a strange amalgam of politically-inspired accusations, it also relies on wholesale allegations of little, if any, plausible foundation whatsoever: "Hezbollah and other Iranian proxies with a presence in Latin America have raised revenues through illicit activities, including drug and arms trafficking, counterfeiting, money laundering, forging travel documents, pirating software and music and providing haven and assistance to other terrorists transiting the region." (Sec. 2, Findings 8)
Of course, since the whole exercise is fueled by Israeli anxiety, Hamas also had to somehow be pulled in, if not indicted through the same inexplicable reasoning: "The US Drug Enforcement Administration concluded in 2008 that almost one-half of the foreign terrorist organizations in the world are linked to narcotics trade and trafficking, including Hezbollah and Hamas." (Sec. 2, Findings 10)
US author and journalist Belen Fernandez has been looking into this matter for years. In all of her writings on the topic she seemed to trace the very thread that unites the invented upheaval over Iran's supposed takeover of the "Western Hemisphere." In an article entitled: "Distorting Iranian -- Latin American Relations," nearly two years ago, she wrote: "Iranian 'penetration' in Latin America has in recent years become a pet issue of Israeli Foreign Ministry officials and American neoconservative pundits, many of whom take offense at the perceived failure of the US government to adequately appreciate the security threat posed by, for example, the inauguration of a weekly flight from Caracas to Tehran with a stop in Damascus."
The issue for Israel and its US conduits is entirely political. Iran is indeed expanding its political and diplomatic outreach, but entirely through legal and official means, something that the US has failed to do since The Monroe Doctrine gave the US exclusive hegemony over Latin America starting in December 1823. But much has changed since then, especially in the last two decades when the US swung towards disastrous Middle East foreign policies, much to the pleasure of Israel.
The suffering endured by Arabs and Muslims was the needed break for some Latin American countries to challenge US policies in their respective countries. This period was the era in which powerhouses like Brazil rose and popular governments took the helm. US policies in Latin America are not failing because of Iranians "sinister" plans, but because of something entirely different.
Demeaning Latin America as a hapless region waiting for US saviors and pinning US political stocks on Iran might serve immediate Israeli purposes, but it will certainly contribute to the growing political delusion that permeates Washington. Alas, there are few indications that Washington's politicians are anywhere near waking up from Israel's overbearing spell. Just examine the author of the anti-Iran bill: Republican Jeff Duncan of South Carolina's 3rd District. He is a "freshman" but has massive ambitions.
He joined congress in 2011 and quickly learned the ropes. He knows that in order to succeed on Capitol Hill, one must win favor with the pro-Israeli lobby. He sponsored the bill on January 3, just a few days before the Iranian president went on a major diplomatic tour in Latin America to expand his country's international relations.