Iran´s inroads in South America 2010-2011
By Dr. Ivan WitkerHead of International Studies
Chair at the Institute for Political and Strategic Studies (Academia Nacional de
Estudios Políticos y Estratégicos, ANEPE) in Santiago de Chile and lecturer in
International Security at the Universidad Alberto Hurtado. First published in Letras Internacionales, ORT University in Montevideo, Uruguay
The ongoing deployment of extra-hemispheric powers in the region is not exactly a gentle breeze across the region. Among Latin America’s policy-makers and scholars two contradictory visions have erupted when evaluating these deployments. On one side are those who assess it just in accordance with the globalizing tendencies that would span the world in despite of country, culture, economy or society features. On the other side are those who assess it sceptically differentiating intensities of the pursued objectives by one or other extra-hemispheric power. Indeed, China, India, Russia and Iran, by far the most active ones, have shown different goals and
motivations. The receptivity has been also uneven. However, in the niches and
interstices where the extra-hemispheric influence circulates the relative
absence of the once ubiquitous U.S. influence as common feature is also
...Taking into account its features it could be said that the main motivations
for the Iranians are both obtaining influence in the US backyard and building
strike back capabilities at the US in his own hemisphere as well. To get
influence in the area, Tehran is deploying capabilities in several countries of
the hemisphere, but focused in five South American countries: Argentine,
Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador and Venezuela. With each of them Iran is undertaking a
many-sided relationship containing a fair amount of sui generis drives, which
have sparsely along with the traditional diplomacy. Consequently the task of
identifying these drives might contribute to fathom why for the first time in
its long history are the Persians so interested in this remote area of the
Iran’s deployment combines skillfully drives of both, soft and hard power
employing a wide array of others of mixed features as well. Let them categorize
i. Straight soft power drives
(as diplomatic ties or such pure friendly cultural –twinning cities, signing
university agreements- and so on),
ii. Mixed featured drives (such as
humanitarian relief, material and spiritual support to Shii communities in the
region, to mosques and other religious centers using them to propagate opinions
of Islamic revolutionary perspective) andiii. Hard power drives (such as
military or industrial agreements linked to security and defense matters or
business topics related to them or directly covert activities supporting
Hezbollah). Priorities are defined according to the development of the own
strategy and the local receptivity. These trends speak out clearly: Iran's
relationship with Latin American countries is becoming increasingly a key issue
of hemispheric security agenda.
The diversity of the drives has led scholars to take two positions toward
Iran’s deployment throughout the region, both benign. Some of them are looking
at with relatively indifference assessing it rather as a by-product of the
Ayatollah’s eccentricities while others are primarily looking at as an
inevitable outcome of the globalization and thus geopolitically associated to
the relative loss of U.S. influence in South America. However, none of them
realize either its nature or its consequences.
Nature and consequence go together.
The first is defined by its fundamental feature: its entire strategy is under supervision of Pasdaran. As known it is
the main instrument for penetration abroad.
All Tehran’s strategic imperatives are attached directly to Pasdaran. That means that nuclear plans as well as the strategic competition with the US, the construction of bases capable of retaliatory strike at the heart of America and last but not least, the whole strategy of promoting Islamic fundamentalism and the aim of isolating Israel, depend on Pasdaran.
In other words, Iran's deterrence capability is subordinated to this state-in-the-state body. Seen in that context, the generation of complicities with like-minded governments is in extremis essential.
A lot from the latest Tehran’s officials trips throughout the region can be
deduced. Indeed, quasi-parallel to the tour of President Barack Obama through
Brazil, Chile and El Salvador in March 2011, the Iranian Deputy Foreign
Minister, Behrouz Kamalvandi made an own tour stopping in Quito, Bogota and La
Paz. A few weeks later, in early June 2011 arrived in Caracas the influential
and highly controversial Iranian Defense Minister, Ahmad Vahidi, who flew later
to La Paz. These steps weren’t soft power drives. They could only be directly connected to the forecasts of Argentinean analyst Pepe Eliaschev, who holds the view that by the end of 2011 Iran will complete the designation of 150 staff positions dedicated to Latin America. He added that a bulk budget of U.S. $ 4,500 million should have been already allocated for the deployment in the region. Thereof $87 million should have been already transferred to the on-the-ground field under direct supervision of the Pasdaran commandant Qassem Soleimani. And much more, some US$ 7 mills have gone straight to Hezbollah.
Other indicators show a set of mixed featured drives. Among them, for
instance, is the number of Iranian newly opened embassies in the region. Tehran
held until 2007 only five embassies in Latin America, of which only three of
them in South America. By 2011, the number of embassies leaded by a resident
ambassador has grown significantly. In the middle of 2011 they increased to
eleven. Excepting Guyana and Suriname, Iran’s already got diplomatic
representation in all South American countries. Only in Paraguay doesn’t have a
mission’s chief. However, the concurrent ambassador from Montevideo visits the
Paraguayan capital Asunción utterly infrequent once a month, not to mention the
constant visits of high officials from Tehran. A relevant leaked new on Iran's
relations with Paraguay was the alleged request of M. Ahmedinejad early April
2011 to Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo asking for asylum for Muammar
Nevertheless, the implementing timing and emphasis of the Iranian deployment
will ultimately depend mostly on the receptivity of each South American country.
For that reason, it seems to be useful to analyze the specific developments
occurred during 2010-2011.
a) Iran-Argentine: caught by the past
During 2010-2011, the Argentine-Iranian relations have continued to be very
strongly marked by the reverberations of the brutal attacks on the Israeli
embassy and the AMIA in 1992 and 1994, respectively.
An attempt to reverse the deteriorating relations took place in September
2010 on the edge of President Cristina Fernandez´s speech to the UN General
Assembly, where she launched a proposal of a solution à la Lockerbie to the
judicial process against the Iranians officials accused to instigate the AMIA
bombing. It should mean that by mutual agreement the whole trial should be
transferred to a third country. However, it remains unclear the purpose of the
proposal, because it provoked a bitter response from Iran as it might be
Next to that, the period 2010-2011 was featured
by an in-depth report of Pepe Eliaschev in the Buenos Aires´ daily Perfil.
According to Perfil´s story during a meeting between Argentinean Foreign
Minister Hector Timerman and his Syrian counterpart Walid al-Mohalem and Syria´s
president Bashar al-Assad on January 23 in the Syrian city of Alepo, the
Argentinean official suggested that his country is no longer interested in
investigating the two bombing attacks in order to reinforce the commercial ties
with Iran. The alleged meeting took place during President Cristina
Fernandez´s official trip to Kuwait, Qatar and Turkey in January 2011. The
report also indicates that Iran believes Timerman´s comments could mean
Argentina will stop asking Interpol for ordering the arrests of Iran’s current
Defense minister Ahmad Vahidi as well as other officials suspected of having
some grade of participation in the attacks. According to Eliaschev´s report
in September 2010 and February 2011 there were direct talks although discrete
between little-known officials of Argentine and Iran. These explosive
revelations threaten to cancel a visit of Minister Timerman to Israel scheduled
for late March. The reason was the obvious irritation among Israeli officials.
Subsequently, statements by Timerman denying that Argentine would be willing to
forget the on-going investigations helped to mitigate the tensions and minister
Timerman did finally fly to Jerusalem.
A second highly significant bilateral issue was given by media reports early
April 2011 stating that recruiting and fundraising shadowy activities are
carried out jointly by Hezbollah and Hamas in the Brazilian side of the
notorious Tri-Border zone. It was also mentioned that the former Iranian
diplomat Moshe Rabbani held several visits there using a false passport. Shortly
afterwards, Rabbani, accused to be the mastermind of the attack on AMIA, gave an
interview to a Buenos Aires based broadcast radio station, considered to be next
to the pro-Iran Kirchnerite Luis D'Elía, denying the version of his travels
through Brazil. Additionally, the controversy surrounding the shadowy activities
of the Iranian embassy in the Argentinean capital has continued. Judge Rafael
Rafecas, for example, reported that the embassy has continued funding many
anti-Jewish groups especially this leaded by activist Luis D'Elía.
All these facts featured the period 2010-2011
confirmed that the Iranian-Argentine bond is altered in its foundations. The
intensity of the reverberations of the attacks on the Israeli Embassy and AMIA
continue to emanate and has put necessarily the question about the further
development of that problem whose solution seems to be too far in the
b) Iran-Bolivia: teetering on the abyss
Although Bolivia and Iran established full relations only in 2007, President
Morales and his Iranian peer have celebrated several reciprocal visits.
2010-2011 were years especially fruitful for the bilateral relations. Looked
from the standpoint of the Iranian strategy, the developments suggest a
consolidation of Bolivia as his second most important partner in the region. On
the other hand, Bolivia has been rewarded by the Iranian assistance, which has
rising in various fields such as agriculture, industry, health, hydrocarbons,
communication and lately defense including aircraft- to U.S. $ 1200 million
becoming Iran Bolivia’s second assistance donor surpassing the European Union.
Mid September at the edge of UN General Assembly, the Bolivia’s government
speaker Ivan Canelas announced for beginning 2012 the next visit Ahmedinejad to
Documentary evidence put Bolivia midst in the
Iranian deployment. First of all, the opening of the Iranian embassy in La
Paz in September 2010 and President Morales's trip to Tehran a month later and
the travels made by several high officials of the Iranian government for Bolivia
during the first half of 2011 are milestones.
Furthermore the Morales´ trip to Tehran and Tabriz can be celebrated as a big media success, because both countries pompously announced on the edge of the trip the determination to “reciprocal assistance” in order to build a nuclear power plant in Bolivia.
It is well known that the absolute absence of critical mass and general
precariousness of Bolivia to launch up such ambitious project. But the
announcement could be useful as coverage for subsequently activities of Iranian
specialists and officials throughout South America. For that reason it should be
very suspicious the approval of a bill by the Bolivian Congress in June 2011 to
facilitate tourism between the two countries. Virtually it does not exist, and
will not take any form in the next years.
Further drives of hard power were shown on the joint statement between Iran
and Bolivia issued after the trip Morales stating that for both countries, the
U.S. is “a common enemy” and also, the announcement of creating a binational
bank for the management of future projects in Bolivia. Advances in that
direction were seen a month before the Morales´ visit, when the Minister of
Industries and Mines of Iran Ali Akhbar Mehravian attended the presentation of
credentials by Ambassador Alireza Ghozeilee in La Paz, that also coincided with
the opening of the Iranian embassy in La Paz. The portfolio held by minister
Mehravian indicates the emphasis that Iran is giving to this bond. Consequently,
during his visit, both countries signed agreements related to the oil, gas and
petrochemical industries. Furthermore, Mehravian opened the Bureau of the
Iranian Oil in Santa Cruz and offered a new line of credit for U.S. $ 254
million that will expand existing projects and review new ones around the
extraction of lithium as well.
First hints of the strategic position of Bolivia within the Iranian
deployment began to become clear during 2010, when the Minister of Economy and
Finance of Bolivia, Luis Arce made public in October 2010 an agreement between
the two countries for both, the purchase of Iranian military equipment and the maintenance of aircraft of the Bolivian Air Force (FAB), and an agreement for
military training as well. This ministerial announcement was made public
just two weeks after Morales came from Iran, where he paid visit Tehran and
Tabriz. In the latter he was guest of a tractor enterprise, which plans to build a factory in Cochabamba.
Strongly provocative towards the US in connection with the Iranian issue, was
the speech at the opening of IX biannual conference of the Americas defense
ministers in Santa Cruz attended by US Defense secretary Robert Gates late
November 2010. “Nobody will stop me from negotiating with any country. Bolivia,
under my leadership, will have agreements and alliances with everyone” told
Morales as reply to Gates, who had warned previously about dealings with
Subsequently, in March 2011, the Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Behrouz
Kamalvandi paid a visit to Bolivia outstanding “the strategic role that Bolivia
is taking in the unfolding of Iran in the region”. Kamalvandi announced both the
creation of a Geoscientist Centre oriented to study geological data from Bolivia
and a network of antennas for a national television channel as well. The central
objective of the Geoscientist Centre is to localise uranium deposits. So far, studies on location and characteristics of Bolivian uranium deposits are obsolete and not accurate. Uranium may exist in the Cordillera de Los Frailes in Cotaje (Potosí) and Mammon, the east region near the Brazilian border, in the Noel Kempff Mercado Natural Park and in the Chiquitano Forest (both later known also as Pantanal ecosystem). After visiting Mehravian´s, Bolivian Planning Minister, Viviana Caro couldn’t formulate it better: "we intend to perform work,but what is needed is an updated geological map in which Iran will work”. It
will be argued too that lithium could be used as accelerator alternative uranium
enrichment. Kamalvandi has signed during his visit supplementary agreements to
exploit lithium (exploring were guaranteed primarily during the previous visit
of Ghozeilee). Additionally, Kamalvandi has committed an open credit line of $
270 million to build dams.
However, the most significant issue of the period was the arrival to La Paz
and Santa Cruz in early June 2011 of Iranian Defense Minister and AMIA bombing
suspect Ahmed Vahidi, who arrived offering “all types of military aid”. The high
official attended the inauguration of the first educational ALBA Military entity
confirming thus, the hypothesis about the strategic character of the Iranian
deployment in Bolivia. Nevertheless, Vahidi was abruptly invited to abandon
Bolivia due to the Argentinean government’s disappointment while attending a
graduating ceremony of cadets from Bolivia, Venezuela and Panama at the Military
Aviation School (COLMILAV). The Casa Rosada threatens to cancel the following
week scheduled visit of Morales to Buenos Aires. Promptly, Bolivia apologized
for the diplomatic incident. Interpol issued an arrest for Vahidi and five other
Iranian officials in 2007 after a Buenos Aires court accused them of being
involved in the terrorist attacks against Israel’s embassy and AMIA. Vahidi
enjoys diplomatic immunity, which complicates the efforts to bring him to trial,
although in 2007 Interpol notified law enforcement bodies in other countries
according to the Argentine arrest warrant against him. Both Morales and his
Defense minister Cecilia Chacón, who invited him, dodge to comment the
disgraceful incident with journalists. Vahidi refuses likewise to comment it
directly but welcomed its passage through Bolivia and reiterated that full
cooperation with Latin American countries is reckoned still as priority for
Bolivia’s stance toward Iran was reiterated during the visit to Tehran of
Galo Silvestre Bonifas, chair of the Bolivian Parliament Foreign Policy
Commission mid October during which he met Majlis´s National Security and
Foreign Policy Committee Alaeddin Boroujerdi and other officials. Silvestre
voiced there his country’s “full support” for Iran in the international arena.
In return, Majli´s speaker Ari Larijani praised the Bolivia’s revolutionary
Summing up, the bilateral relations have entered during 2010-2011 into a
qualitatively new era, acquiring strategic overtones, although, the enthusiastic
receptivity of Morales´ government should take care of some formal aspects.
Otherwise it could lead to unexpected frictions with third parties as it was the
case of Argentine’s complaints due the Vahidi´s visit. The distasteful moments
experienced by the key Pasdaran official in Bolivia will force Iran to act more
Iran-Brazil: getting neolulism
Hard reverberations of President Ahmedinejad's 2009 trip to Brazil have got
the relation between the two countries in early 2010. But quickly the optimistic
point of view has melted away. It has got changing signals.
Along 2010 prevailed the pragmatic spirit of President Lula da Silva, who
paid big attention to the Iranian issue by both, wanting to play a negotiator
role, and expressing harsh criticism to the imposed sanctions against the Tehran
regime as well. Zenith of it was Lula’s attempt to arrange with Turkey, on the
edge of the summit of the G-15 in Tehran, which he attended, a swap deal with
Iran, where Turkey would act as an intermediary for Iran in order to get highly
enriched uranium from abroad. But the deal didn’t gain traction and was
overshadowed by US and other sanctions. Another positive signal of Lula’s
pragmatism happened shortly before, in April 2010, when Petrobras announced it
would keep offices in Tehran and will develop new investments in the Caspian
Sea, despite the unfavourable international climate. It went on in June 2010
when, in a divided voting, the Security Council adopted sanctions against Tehran
(Resolution 2040) with the negative votes of Brazil and Turkey (both
non-permanent members of the body at the time). This pragmatic approach underlay
the Lula’s vision of international affairs favouring the maintenance of the
dialogue with all sorts of regimes and rejected a priori the imposition of
sanctions. Lula stated that sanctions affect the poorest at the end of the day.
Furthermore he stressed the need to respect the culture, customs and laws of all
countries, arguing that otherwise there will be fed chaos in the international
However, with the takeover of Dilma Rousseff´s as new Brazil’s President
gradually a new atmosphere between the two countries was set. Dilma has a little
differentiating vision of world politics. Therefore it is possible to expect
new premises in the Brazilian foreign policy. Dilma´s neolulism seems to be less
pragmatic and more committed with more focus on human rights, for instance, of
the women ones particularly. And Iran will be put as test of this post
Two given factors could lead to a clash with Tehran. Dilma, for example, was
much tougher than their predecessor and mentor about the capital punishment
imposed on the Iranian woman Sakineh Ashtiani convicted of adultery and
sentenced to death by stoning.
When she was candidate, Dilma said it was "unacceptable and medieval" and asked President Lula to order his ambassador in Tehran, Antonio Luis Salgado to meet with officials of the Iran’s foreign ministry to notify that Brazil was able to guarantee Ashtiani asylum. She went further saying it’s not her position when Lula order Brazil’s abstention at UN Human rights council votes on Iran after knowing Ashtiani´s sentence.
Once in office, Dilma congratulated herself to welcome in her country the
Iranian dissident lawyer and Nobel Peace Prize holder 2003 Shirin Ebadi
provoking distress at Iranian Foreign Ministry. Moreover, the short Dilma´s
administration the Brazilian Ministry of Culture already had several folds
criticizing the censorship of Paulo Coelho’s books in Iran.
Perhaps the most significant change occurred early 2011 when for the first
time in 10 years, Brazil (together with Panama and Colombia and Cuba and Ecuador
against) voted supporting a rapporteur to monitor the human rights in Iran
proposed by the US.
It was the first great divergence in foreign policy between
the current administration and Lula’s. Moreover, Foreign minister Antonio
Patriota told Folha do Sao Paulo mid September that Brazil held now “some
suspicions that Iran´s nuclear program is not entirely for peaceful ends”,
reducing its previous strong support.
Although, the readjustments of Brazil’s policy
toward Iran won’t have a serious role in the frame of the Iranian goal to
establish a foothold in the region, Ahmadinejad's administration is reacting
cautiously toward these new signals. Tehran has already shown its discomfort but
hereafter will pay more attention to exploring and to exploit new spaces and
interstices in as much as Brazil doesn’t breakdown the relationship. According
to this cautiousness, Tehran announced, for instance, it will establish a trade
centre during the second half of 2011 in order to facilitate business between
the two countries. Both are aware that the deterioration of bilateral relations
will hurt both Tehran and Brasilia as well. It’s not to forget that for
Brazilian business should be interesting not to jeopardize the triangulation of
food, meat and sugar that are doing Brazilian companies installed in Dubai and
Needless to emphasize, this readjustment will be politically monitored by
Washington and other central powers. During 2010-2011 there have been several
situations that could generate more concern. For example, according to late 2010
Wikileaks disclosures, the Iranian company Machine Sazi Tabriz (MST) has been
buying dual-use material of the Brazilian Machines and Mello SA Equipamentos. In that case, Siemens succeeded to stop shipments to major Mello SA due that they could be submitted to MST.
Summarizing, the Brazilian-Iranian relationships are undergoing out-cooling moments due to internal political changes in Brasilia. In that score neither hard nor soft power drives will be there on the top of the agenda, but instead those of mixed features. Therefore, great attention should be paid on all kind of subtle Iranian movements.
Iran-Ecuador: scouting a Lilliputian
An important chapter in relations between Iran and South America during
2010-2011 was represented by Ecuador. Despite the ups and downs, this link moved
through various levels showing clearly upward trends.
In February 2010, Ecuador was pushed to freeze a
US$ 120 million loan granted by the Export Development Bank of Iran (EDBI) to
fund bilateral trade due to the fact that the EDBI was sanctioned by US Treasury
Department for helping to finance Iran’s weapons of mass destruction
Additionally Financial Action Task Force (FATF, an organization
that combats money laundering), warned Ecuador to include it in the List of
Non-abiding body's recommendations. Some days earlier, the Ecuadorian central
bank had had to dispel US concerns about the same matter.
Another high profile case committed President’s Correa advisor and foreign
trade Deputy Minister Galo Borja, who was forced to resign after it was revealed
that his private firm BorjaInBorja Co. was doing business with Iran.
These forced situations triggered off a rather important political debate
inside Ecuador about features and scope of the bonds to Iran at large.
Despite these setbacks, President Correa said that he will not stop getting closer to Iran and has kept another controversial decision by opening an embassy in Tehran. The embassy opening was officially announced in April 2010, it was opened in July 2011 and Thomas Bliss named as first Ecuador’s ambassador to Iran.
A case of hard power signals was the Iranian
proposal to fund with US$ 30 million several joint mining projects that appears
to lay the groundwork for future extractive activities. A significant shadowy
initiative seems to have been the proposal to establish a
Chemical-Geotechnical-Metallurgical Research Centre to jointly implement a comprehensive study and topographic and cartographic analysis of Ecuadorean territory. It has been an outcome of an early January trip of the ministry of non-renewable natural resources´ officials to Tehran to check the implementation of 6 agreements signed 2008. A similar interest had previously shown Russia 2009. Parallel to that, the International Atomic Energy Agency unveiled plans to help Ecuador explore for uranium and study the possibility of developing nuclear energy for peaceful purpose.
Summarizing, despite the enormous imbalance between the two countries, the
active and fruitful bilateral relationship during 2010-2011 helps to explain the
Iranian efforts to intensify the relation trying to find out new areas for
further cooperation and carrying on to use the 2009 provided US$ 120 million
Iran-Venezuela: anchoring the outpost
Steps taken by the two countries during 2010-2011
might be taken as a test of the Iranian’s deployment deepness throughout the
region. Hitherto, the relation between the two countries features itself as
driver of a foothold in South America. Nevertheless, the worsening of President
Chavez health could emerge as a black swan factor in the trend.
The most relevant hard power signal of Iranian penetration is a report from
the German newspaper Die Welt related to the building of an Iranian missile of both short and medium range base on the peninsula of Paraguaná. According to the report, the decision is based on a bilateral strategic cooperation agreement signed secretly on October 19, 2010 during a visit of President Chavez to
Tehran, the ninth during his tenure.
In May 2011, both countries decided the location and started the construction phase. The operation should have been authorized personally by Air Force Pasdaran´s commander Amir al-Hadjizadeh. That gives itself a solid proof of the meaningfulness of this deployment for the Ahmadinejad’s administration.
Paraguaná is roughly 60 miles from the border with Colombia. According to Die Welt, the location was selected by military engineers of the Khatam al-Anbia, a conglomerate belonging to the Pasdaran, who paid visit Venezuela for this
purpose in February 2011.
The base will harbour Pasdaran´s specialists and will
be equipped with missile Shahab-3 (range between 1300 and 1500 kms.) Scud-B
(285-330 km) and Scud-C (300, 500 and 700 kms). Venezuelan officials should have congratulated themselves of such step, due an additional protocol envisaging
"technology transfer" aiming to develop a joint surface missile of medium range.
Another drive of hard power is the agreement signed during the 2010 visit of
President Chavez which creates a jointly outlet of the firm IRISL Group for the
maritime transport of crude oil not only between the two countries but also to
and off third countries.
Toward these shadowy developments, the US administration doesn’t remain
unmoved. Some counter-measures were taken. The most retaliation-marked one
entered into force in May 2011 when the State Department applied sanctions to
the state oil company PdVSA, referring to the 1996 regulations. Hereafter PdVSA
won’t participate in any contract directly with Washington and won’t have access
to financing programs for export and import of licenses for American oil
technologies as well. As a warning, these sanctions could be severe in the
coming months if there is no change in behaviour of PdVSA.
Last but not least, during 2010-2011, the Chavez government took another step
highly significant to understand how deep the bilateral relationship is.
According to the consultancy Stratfor, the personal guard of President Chavez
was undertaken by Pasdaran´s personnel. The roughly 300 members or IRGC-QF
should be focused on intelligence operations, paramilitary training for the
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and security assistance for the
government of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
Although the abrupt end of the uncontrolled flights between Caracas and
Tehran via Damascus in September 2010 triggered some hearsay, the consultancy
Stratfor revealed that this Conviasa/Iranair connection service was just
temporarily suspended. The Airbus 340 serving the route is undergoing
maintenance and spare parts are being not always available.
Finally, in July 2011, US representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Connie Mack
and David Rivera sent a letter to the Secretary of State requesting information
about some suspected projects in agricultural sector funded both by the
Argentinean and Iranian governments and weren’t executed. According to the
suspicion, they may have served as means of payment for Iranian acquisition of
dual-use technology. Suspicions are oriented on over-funding these programs
aiming primarily to modernize nuclear power plants in Argentina (Atucha I and Embalse) but incidentally to acquiring too know-how or dual-use materials which have been diverted to Iran.
Amid its nuclear ambitions and strategic
competition with the U.S., Iran has developed a complex strategy toward Latin
America, focused on five South American countries. Its deployment includes both,
hard and soft power drives, as well as others of mixed features. All used in a
cunning combination regarding the specific realities of each country.
Being Pasdaran the strongest shackle of its
deployment the building up of a deterrence force seems to be its main objective.
Iran is aiming to possess a vast network of resources with counter-strike
capabilities if the conflict between the West and Tehran regime deepens.
The most significant outcome of the Iranian
activities carried out during 2010-2011 in South America was the highly
receptivity in order to establish a foothold there. In this context, building
trust and articulating complicities with South American countries are becoming
vitals. Both in qualitative and quantitative terms, Venezuela and Bolivia are
the most receptive countries. Venezuela could be depicted as an up-building
foothold meanwhile Bolivia is on the way to.
One Interesting question is why the Iranian
deployment in South America, despite evidence, ranks relatively low on the
Obama’s agenda. One possible explanation is that attitudes and tougher action
might aggravate the already deteriorated relations with Venezuela and Bolivia,
with the consequent impact on other member countries of ALBA and thus,
implicitly, severe the hemisphere’s policy.
 Discussed by Caro Isaac and M. Isabel Rodríguez
in “La presencia de Irán en América Latina a través de su influencia en los
países del ALBA” Atenea N° 500, p. 22, Santiago de Chile, 2009 as well as by
Ortiz, Roman “Iran y el terrorismo en América Latina: ultimo aviso”, 18/X/2011,
“Obama, Irán, América Latina”, 21/III/2011, Infolatam´s Op-Ed,
http://www.infolatam.com and finally by Bailey, Norman “What are the Persians
doing over here?”, Center for Hemispheric Policy, University of Miami, Miami,
 Charts and comments on Pasdaran´s organizational
structure in Bednarz, Dieter y Erich Follath “Iran, die Schattenkrieger”, Der
Spiegel N° 7, 2010, Hamburg.
 Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps´ Quds Force
(IRGC-QF) members usually are stationed in foreign embassies, charities and
religious or cultural institutions as intelligence officers to develop ties with
the Shiite diaspora and other potential allies. More in Sullivan, Mark “Latin
America: terrorism issues” Congressional Research Service, Washington DC, 2011
http://www.crs.gov and Wehrey, Frederic y Jerrold Green et al “The rise of
Pasdaran”, Rand Corporation, Sta. Monica CA, 2009.
http://www.noticiasypunto.obolog.com 31/03/2011 .
 Deep discussion about historical development of
bilateral relations in Witker, Ivan “Iran’s Expansion in Latin America and its
Security Implications for Chile and Argentina”, Research from the Field
quarterly, May 2010, Buenos Aires http://www.researchfromthefield.com and as
well in Witker, Ivan “Los guiños de Mefisto: la expansión de Irán en América
Latina y sus implicancias para la seguridad de Chile y Argentina”, chapter of
Bartolomé, Mariano (ed.) “Seguridad y Defensa en tiempos del Bicentenario”,
CHDS-NDU, Washington DC, 2010. Spanish edition: Instituto de Publicaciones
Navales, Buenos Aires, 2010.
 Eliaschev, Pepe “El gobierno negocia con Irán
dejar de lado la investigación de los atentados”, Perfil 26/III/2011, Buenos
 Trade between the two countries has markedly
increased during 2010-2011 mainly due rising Iranian imports of Argentinean
soybeans. More in Guelar, Diego “Qué pasa con Irán. Política dura y comercio
fácil con Argentina”, La Nación 21/IX/2011
Hulse, Janie “Argentina reaches out to Iran
despite AMIA charges”, Research from the Field quarterly, Buenos Aires, May 2011
 Agencia de Noticias Fides “Ministro de
Comunicaciones de Bolivia: Presidente de Iran visitará Bolivia”, ANF 20/09/2011,
La Paz http://www.noticiasfides.net
Jorisch, Avi “Why Iran and Bolivia are in
business”, LADDO´s Op-Ed, 12/V/2011 http://www.ciempre.com
 “First Iranian ambassador presents credentials
to Bolivian President Morales”, MercoPress 08/09/2010
 “Bolivia construirá planta nuclear con Irán”, El
Nuevo Herald 31/10/2010 http://www.elnuevoherald.com and “Iran to help Bolivia
develop N-program”, PressTV 30/10/2010
 “Iran ´partner´ in the industrialization of
Bolivia´s lithium reserves”, MercoPress, 30/10/2010
 “Bolivia comprará aviones militares a Irán”,
Infodefensa 03/11/2010 http://www.infodensa.com
 “Larijani louds Bolivia anti-West stance”,
PressTV 28/10/2010 http://presstv.com/detail/207001.html
 An outlook on bilateral developments occurred
quite recently before 2010 in “Brazil – Iran Foreign relations”, Iran Tracker
 Aguirre, Mariano “Brazil-Turkey and Iran: a new
global balance”, OpenDemocracy, 09/06/2010
 “Lula da Silva asks Unsasur and Mexico support
for his Iran uranium agreement”, MercoPress 27/05/2010
 “An Iranian banana skin, Brazil´s foreign
policy”, The Economist 24/06/2010 http://www.economist.com
 Brandt, Fábio “Irã deve provar que programa
nuclear é pacífico, diz ministro de Dilma”, interview with Foreign Minister
Antonio Patriota, Folha de Sao Paulo, 16/IX/2011 http://www1.folha.uol.com.br
 Ferrand, Nicole “The growing concern of Brazil
& Iran”, The Americas Report, 25/06/2011
 “Ecuador closer to Iran which promised US$ 200
million loan” MercoPress 19/1/2009 http://en.mercopress.com
 “Ecuador strongly defends relations with Iran,
in spite of black list”, MercoPress http://en.mercopress.com
 “Iran´s man in Ecuador”, Americas Forum,
 An outlook on bilateral developments occurred
quite recently before 2010 in Bailey Norman “Iranian penetration into the
Western hemisphere through Venezuela”, House Committee on Foreign Affairs,
Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, Washington DC,
 Wergin Clemens y H. Strausberg “Iran plant Bau
einer Reketenstellung in Venezuela”, Die Welt, 25/X/2010 and “Iranische
Raketenbasis in Planungsphase”, Die Welt, 13/V/2011
 “Venezuela e Irán arman una base militar”,
Perfil, Buenos Aires 15/I/2011 http://www.perfil.com
 “US imposes sanctions on Venezuela´s PDVSA for
engaging in trade with Iran”, MercoPress 24/5/2011
 “Quds force in Iran”,
The views expressed in this publication are solely
those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the
International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT).