Tehran Probes for Footholds in America’s Back Yard

Iran’s parliament (majlis) Speaker, Gholam-Ali Haddad Aadel, set out on a Latin American jaunt this week. His mission: to lay the foundations of a terrorist network within striking distance of the USA.

DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s Iranian sources report that Aadel touched down in Caracas, Havana and Brasilia. The formidable delegation he led was made up of Iran’s agriculture, industry and minerals ministers, a sprinkling of majlis members, but also a group of tough-looking intelligence and terror experts.

The ministers and the lawmakers held formal talks with Venezuelan and Cuban leaders, Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro, while behind the scenes the “experts” huddled with their opposite numbers to explore ways to cooperate in their clandestine business.

While both Latin American governments are far from being fans of Washington, neither is keen on gratuitously prodding their powerful next-door neighbor. Nonetheless, DEBKANet-Weekly‘s counter-terror sources report headway was made on a number of tentative issues that are susceptible to further development as real hazards.

1. Tehran was granted permission to use Venezuela’s diplomatic mail for transmitting “sensitive” documents to the United States. This will make it possible for Tehran to post intelligence briefings to its agents inside the United States.

2. Venezuela will consider drawing up for the Iranians a list of undercover operatives in the US, as potential candidates for terror and espionage. Tehran values this concession very highly because most of the American Arab, Iranian and Muslim agents it is running at present have fallen under tight US surveillance and are therefore no use for missions.

3. Cuba offered a similar list with the names of Cuban expatriates in the United States, mainly in Florida, who actively support the Castro regime.

4. The Iranian delegation angled for permission to set up operations and training centers for their intelligence and terror operatives in South America. Tehran proposed to use these centers to bring together and train Syrian, Egyptian, Iraqi and other Muslims living in the triangle between Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil. Venezuela and Cuba were asked for permission to locate in their countries camps to train recruits from Brazil and Chile as spies and terrorists.


Chavez is tempted to give the Americans a nuclear scare


Chavez did not give an immediate reply to the request but promised to think it over. Castro was more forthcoming, He promised an answer in weeks, but stressed that if a single word about the project leaked to the American or world media, he would withdraw.

The incentive the Iranians offered Chavez was nuclear collaboration between the two countries. Although Iran has still not acquired its own bomb, the Venezuelan ruler found the proposition attractive. He envisaged the impact the very suggestion of a nuclear bomb being developed in Latin America would have on Washington. He predicted a scare on the scale of the Cuban missile crisis.

Castro was offered a different kind of lure for his collaboration: a promise of substantial financial aid to repair Cuba’s national water works, upgrade its farm industry and build a cement factory and a power plant. If things went well, Iranian crude would also gush free of charge.

Nuclear cooperation was the focus of Aadel’s talks in Brasilia on Feb. 23. According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Iranian sources, the majlis Speaker, after applying for Brazilian diplomatic backing in international forums on the nuclear question, asked for closed-door conversations with Brazilian intelligence chiefs and heads of its nuclear program on covert cooperation.

For some years, Brazil worked on a project to manufacture nuclear fuel, until it was brought to a halt at US insistence. Still, the Brazilians would like to bring the project to completion. The Iranian proposition was to buy the technology already developed in Brazil before the suspension and secretly employ the Brazilian nuclear scientists who were engaged in the project. Iran would profit from this know-how, while the Brazilians would get the opportunity to complete their experiments and improve their knowledge.

The Brazilians agreed to consider the proposition, albeit without much enthusiasm.

DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s counter-terror sources have also caught up with the Iranians working on rebuilding their spy networks in Japan. Those cells were broken up when Tokyo expelled thousands of legal and illegal Iranian laborers from the country and closed its borders to Iranian entry.

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