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Tehran is over 6,324 miles from Washington. Similarly, it is 7,944 miles from Bogotá. One might think that it is too far to worry about what the Ayatollahs are doing. But in reality, it isn’t. Implausible as it may seem, the Iranian regime poses a monumental danger to Western countries and our American continent.
Joe Biden announced this week that the U.S. would be prepared for the imminent failure of diplomatic discussions with Iran. For years, the West has been seeking to subject Tehran to the rigidity of a nuclear agreement to prevent the Islamic Republic from becoming a threat to the entire world. However, there is no indication that the negotiations will come to fruition. On the contrary: everything indicates that Iran’s sole intent is to maintain hostilities and to finish off those it has declared its enemies.
You may live peacefully on your farm in Arizona or in your apartment in Bogotá. You can be strolling along LA’s Sunset Boulevard or Colombia’s Parque de la 93. But, as long as Tehran is intact with its will to destroy the West and continues to develop its nuclear weapons, the risk is latent.
To understand this reality a little more, in El American we talked to Christian Cantor: former director of counter-weapons proliferation at the Israeli Foreign Ministry, a former counselor for political affairs at the Israeli embassy in London, and current Israeli ambassador to Colombia.
First: what is the ultimate goal of Iran’s Islamic Regime?
Cantor explains: “Today, Iran is our most challenging strategic opponent in the region. This has implications for the rest of the world.” The ambassador says that Iran is seeking territorial hegemony in the Middle East. To achieve this, it first has to liquidate Israel, which has become the great retaining wall of terrorism in the Middle East.
“Iran rejects the possibility of our existence. Its purpose is our annihilation and destruction,” Cantor says.
Nuclear force has become Tehran’s resource to achieve territorial hegemony and to position itself globally as a power to be negotiated with. To this, we owe the stubbornness of the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, in developing nuclear weapons, despite the opposition of the West.
So therein lies the concern: “If there is a country that has nuclear capabilities on the other side of the world, without any warlike interest, that’s fine. But Israel has as a neighbor a country that is building those nuclear capabilities, that wants to annihilate us and has clearly said what it will do with those weapons,” the ambassador told El American.
It is clear that Iran’s purpose is hegemony. To achieve hegemony, it must wipe out Israel. And to wipe out Israel, it must confront and eventually wipe out the United States.
Second: how do they achieve this?
For decades, after the revolution that imposed the strongest Islamic fundamentalism in power, the Ayatollah’s regime has been dedicated to the destabilization of its neighbors and other countries that are further away.
Thanks to the production of hydrocarbons, natural gas and oil, Iran has been able to finance terrorist groups that it has infiltrated in numerous countries. The most recognized group is undoubtedly Hezbollah, formed in the early 1980s.
Today Hezbollah operates mainly in Lebanon and other Middle Eastern countries such as Syria and Iraq, but its activities have been exported to the Americas.
“Iran doesn’t attack directly,” Cantor recounted, “but through proxies.” “It seeks to create those proxies, then destabilize. Then there is the nuclear threat that Iran is building, which would also have global implications.”
“Iran signed the nuclear proliferation treaty. What is clear is that a country that is a party to that treaty can violate it and create a global threat. Iran sabotages and undermines all those stabilization and coexistence agreements,” the ambassador says. “This is creating a competition between nations that could be dangerous. This directly affects any citizen, regardless of where they live.”
Cantor stresses that terrorist financing makes Iran a global danger and we have already witnessed this.
“If we look at the big picture, it is clear that there are connections. Terrorists in Europe or Latin America are connected to Iran. This same continent, America, should be very clear: there were two monumental attacks developed by Iran in Buenos Aires, in 1992 and 1994, against Jewish and Israeli targets.”
Third: Iranian terrorism in America’s backyard
Yes, Tehran is quite far from Washington. But Washington is only 1,864 miles from Caracas. And Caracas is 621 miles from Bogotá, or 807 miles from the Panama Canal, which is fundamental for trade in this continent. Why is this relevant? Because of what we said before: Hezbollah’s activities are not only in the Middle East but have been exported to the Americas, mainly to Venezuela.
“Undoubtedly, when we talk about Latin America, we must consider the Iranian impact. Especially in terms of Venezuela and its surroundings. We know that Iran’s and Hezbollah’s activities in Venezuela generate an economic income that, so far, Iran could take advantage of to finance terrorism.”
Ambassador Christian Cantor says that “Hezbollah right now has to create its sources of income and it does that in Venezuela. It is the ideal place for this. There they can do any illegal activity, from excavation, oil, drug trafficking or arms sales.”
Nicolás Maduro, the socialist dictator of Venezuela, has become the revolver of anyone who wants to harm the United States. No matter the ideology. If the point is to hurt the United States and the region, Caracas welcomes you with open arms. In that sense, it is no secret that Iran has magnificent relations with Miraflores and that Hezbollah operates freely in the Venezuelan islands.
“Iran, together with the Maduro regime, is violating different sanctions. This ends up generating wealth for Iran as well. Every dollar that strengthens Iran is a dollar that the regime allocates to acquire more weapons, to support terrorism and to create more nuclear capabilities.”
Today Venezuela is Iran’s beachhead in the continent. It is a strategic point, from which Ali Khamenei could benefit tremendously and do a lot of damage. Christian Cantor explains it very well:
“We know that today in the region, from Venezuela, there are activities in terms of armaments, missiles and drones. These are operations in the region that are very worrying. Iran does not have the same destabilization capacity in America as it has in the Middle East, but, even if they are very small activities, they can have a very serious impact.”
“It’s very worrisome,” Cantor says, “I’m going to talk about facts: we know very well the way that the Iranian drones and missiles they use from Yemen can damage the oil capabilities of different countries like Saudi Arabia or the Arab Emirates. We have seen it. We have seen Iranian drones trying to carry explosives for terrorist groups. We’ve seen missile strikes into Israel. We know the threats. We don’t make them up, it happens.”
Now, imagine that same destabilization capability, but just a few miles from where your children play in the park. That’s developing, little by little.
“It’s unlikely to replicate exactly the level of destabilization that Iran achieves in the Middle East. But it is not an exaggeration to say that Iran can achieve different scenarios in the Americas that, even if they are smaller than the attacks in the Middle East, have a tremendous impact.”
Recently, the Colombian Minister of Defense said that his country’s national security priority was Iran. This is precisely what he is referring to. To Venezuela, to Hezbollah, to drones, spies, and missiles. In this regard, the Israeli ambassador in Bogotá says: “I do not want to say that Iran is Colombia’s priority. I am not Colombian, but what I can say is that different scenarios provoked by Iran, which are not hypothetical, can have a tremendous impact on Colombia”.
“If that infrastructure they have in the Middle East develops in other parts of the world, it could be dramatic,” Cantor says.
This is already happening. So it is not hysterical to discuss it and act accordingly. That is why Ambassador Christian Cantor’s recommendation is clear: “It is imperative that the fight to push back against Iranian activities takes place in the continent.”
This is not just Israel’s cause, because it is Iran’s neighbor. No. Israel’s cause is not only theirs, but it is a Western cause in which all countries, especially those of the American continent, must be involved.
Orlando Avendaño is the co-editor-in-chief of El American. He is a Venezuelan journalist and has studies in the History of Venezuela. He is the author of the book Days of submission // Orlando Avendaño es el co-editor en Jefe de El American. Es periodista venezolano y cuenta con estudios en Historia de Venezuela. Es autor del libro Días de sumisión.