Has the danger of Iranian activity in Latin America been exaggerated? It seems odd that serious analysts are asking such a question, given Tehran’s 32-year record of sponsoring terrorism, killing Americans, aiding rogue dictators, and undermining democracy across the globe. But since many commentators are now arguing that Iran’s hemispheric threat has been overblown, it’s worth reviewing a few basic facts.
In October, we learned that Iranian agents had been plotting with Mexican gangsters to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington at a D.C. restaurant. The foiled scheme spoke volumes about Tehran’s capacity for lethal aggression, not to mention its disregard for the most basic norms of international behavior. As Iran expert Reuel Marc Gerecht said at the time, the assassination plan indicated that the regime “is becoming more dangerous, not less, as it ages.”
But let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that the Saudi plot was an aberration, and that Iran generally has no intention of using its Latin American connections to launch terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. Even under that excessively optimistic scenario, Tehran’s hemispheric activity would still be a major concern, for three reasons.