Iran’s patient insertion campaign in Latin America has focused on a “soft power” strategy to consolidate its influence in the region, news platform Latinoamérica21 reported.

Tehran increased its approach in 2005, under the administration of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who established ties with Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez. This alliance arose during Iran’s international isolation due to its nuclear program, Latinoamérica21 reported. Looking for new partners, it found an ally in the Bolivarian left.

“Iran seeks not only to strengthen its alliances in the region, but also to position itself as a nation unjustly harassed by the West,” Luis Fleischman, professor of sociology and political science at Palm Beach State University in Florida, told Diálogo on April 15. “This tactic is part of a broader effort by Iran to consolidate its image as a victim on the international stage and to gain sympathy and political and strategic support in Latin America.”

According to Latinamérica21, despite cultural and political differences, Iran and Latin America’s regimes, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela share a similar ambition to establish a new world order.

To this end, they employ a multifaceted approach to cement their position as key allies, with Iran deploying a sophisticated “soft power” strategy in three key areas: embassy activities, media influence, and a strong presence in social networks, Latinoamérica21 reported.

Espionage hubs

The use of embassies for purposes beyond formal diplomacy is nothing new. This tactic has its roots in the Soviet Union era, when Russian diplomatic representations typically functioned as espionage hubs.

“It’s crucial to remember,” Fleischman said, “that after the bombing of the Argentine Jewish Mutual Community Center in 1994, the Iranian Embassy in Buenos Aires was singled out as one of the places from which that attack was orchestrated.” The same was true in the attack against the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992, the Spanish Institute for Strategic Studies (IEES) indicated in a report.

One maneuver that sets off alarms and raises suspicions about Iran’s true intentions behind its diplomatic missions is the practice of assigning a disproportionate number of personnel to its embassies in countries where Iran does not seem to have significant interests, IEES said. One example is Bolivia, where they accredited up to 150 diplomats.

The April 1 attack on a facility attached to the Iranian Embassy in Damascus “revealed the existence of an Islamic Revolutionary Guards operational center, considered a terrorist group. This crime highlights the need for governments worldwide to always be vigilant,” Fleischman said.

“Iran’s real objectives go beyond simply seeking allies,” Fleischman said. “Tehran aims to secure its freedom of movement, unrestricted, through these territories; a strategy that facilitates illicit activities and further compromises global security.”

Hispan TV

Hispan TV, Iran’s Spanish-language television channel that broadcasts regularly in several countries, including Argentina, Cuba, Spain, and Venezuela, focuses on condemning the actions and activities of the United States and the European Union, while pushing an editorial angle in line with the interests of the Bolivarian left, says Sergio Castaño, a history and international relations researcher at the University of Valladolid, in Spain. “In addition, the Iranian TV station seeks to project a friendly image to win the sympathy of its audience.”

Hispan TV has made significant investments to attract audience by hiring well-known personalities. “Despite its efforts to gain credibility, the Iranian channel faces constant criticism due to broadcasting content that is considered false or biased. Its broadcasting has been subject to censorship in Europe and the United States,” Castaño said.

“Hostility toward the West is clearly reflected in certain media such as Telesur, a network funded under Chavismo and that joined forces with Hispan TV. Both share and disseminate the same lies and misinformation that are being published in Latin America at this time,” Fleischman said.

This phenomenon is not limited to the media and extends to political and social actors in Latin America. The convergence between media and these actors reflects a regional influence strategy, where the Iranian narrative and ideology play an important role in public opinion and political attitudes, Fleischman added.

Social networking

As part of its strategy to strengthen bilateral relations and increase its influence in Latin America, Iran is making inroads into social networks, despite self-imposed restrictions in its own country, recognizing the importance of shaping public opinion in the region, Latinoamérica21 reported.

The biggest obstacles for Iran in the region are the governments that discover these skewed intentions and do not become its allies, although this may depend on the leaderships that come to power in those countries, Fleischman concluded. “In the medium to long term we are likely to see a further expansion of Iranian influence, if the security mindset that prevailed after 9/11 to combat radicalism is not resumed.”

Source » dialogo-americas