A threatening scenario has been in the making in the region: Iran’s calculated expansion into Latin America. Experts have warned about Tehran’s efforts to establish a foothold in the Western Hemisphere, cozying up to like-minded regimes with the objective of threatening democracy and stability. The region is starting to take note.

On April 14, the Argentine government raised the alert level for possible terrorist attacks on its territory to “high,” hours after Iran launched an attack with more than 300 drones and missiles against Israel. Argentine security forces stepped up surveillance at Jewish institutions, airports, and border crossings.

The Argentine Federal Police (PFA) declared itself on “orange alert,” Argentine news site Infobae reported. In Buenos Aires, PFA vehicles were on standby outside synagogues and Jewish clubs. “The state of high alert included the strengthening of existing surveillance at points such as the Israeli Embassy, the Casa Rosada, and various points of the Jewish community throughout the country,” Infobae reported, noting that the Triple Frontier region was also being monitored.

It was the second time in less than 72 hours that Argentina had raised its anti-terrorist alert level. The first was on April 11, when the first U.S. intelligence reports about a possible Iranian attack on Israel came to light, Argentine news channel TN reported. That same day, Argentina’s highest criminal court concluded that Iran had planned the 1994 attack, executed by Hezbollah, against the Argentine Jewish Mutual Aid Association (AMIA) community center, killing 85 people and wounding 300.

On April 12, during an Organization of American States- (OAS) led symposium in Washington D.C., senior diplomats and experts warned of the threat posed by Iran and its proxies to Latin America, Infobae reported. The event stressed the urgency of countering antisemitism and the pernicious influence of the Iranian regime in the region, especially at a time of heightened tensions in the Middle East.

During his speech, OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro said that fighting antisemitism was a fundamental pilar of the defense of democracy and human rights. “Antisemitism is present in the Americas, and we’ve suffered its attacks,” Almagro said. “The autocratic regimes that are here have close ties to Iran and its proxies.”

International analysts warn that Jewish institutions in Latin American countries could be the target of a new attack from Iran. “The worst thing would be to ignore Iran’s determination to carry out any attack,” Luis Fleischman, a professor of sociology and political science at Palm Beach State University in Florida, told Diálogo.

“Iran is unscrupulous. Not only can Iranian revenge affect an Israeli or U.S. embassy, but a local Jewish community can also be targeted, as happened at AMIA in Argentina, and as was demonstrated with the recent arrest of Lucas Passos Lima […] who was recruited to spy on Jewish communities in Brazil,” Fleischman said.

Iran’s presence in Brazil

Passos Lima was part of a network linked to Hezbollah that planned to carry out attacks in Brazil. The Brazilian Federal Police (PF) dismantled the network in late 2023 during Operation Trapiche. In March, the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT), a non-profit research group, indicated that Iran was behind the terrorist plot in Brazil.

According to PF documents obtained exclusively by the IPT, the two masterminds of the conspiracy, Syrian Mohamad Khir Abdulmajid and Lebanese Haissam Housin Diab, both naturalized Brazilians sought by Interpol, had strong links with the Islamic Charitable Cultural Center of Brasilia (CCBIB).

“This Shiite center has been funded by Iran since 2019,” the IPT said in a March report. “The PF documents reveal that Abdulmajid was the main advocate of the creation of the CCBIB,” added the IPT.

The PF investigation indicated that Abdulmajid and Diab oversaw the selection of Brazilians to be recruited into Hezbollah. “Those pre-selected were invited on trips to Lebanon, planned and paid for by agents of the terrorist organization,” GloboNews reported based on documents from Brazilian courts.

“Iran penetrated Latin America a long time ago. It not only carries out activities by using its embassies as espionage centers, but also in combination with local and international criminal organizations, mosques and with a highly developed propaganda apparatus,” Fleischman warned.

Source » dialogo-americas