Two new reports show that, while America seems understandably fixated on Mexico's internal drug war, there's mounting evidence that Iran and its terrorist proxy Hezbollah are burrowing into the country. In a blog posting Friday, Todd Bensman of the San Antonio Express-News reported that Mexico welcomed Iranian emissaries late last month. They agreed to expand "political, economic, and cultural" ties.
Mexico's newfound embrace of Iranian investment appears to be an outgrowth of the Obama Administration's attempt to thaw U.S. relations with Tehran. State Department officials he contacted knew nothing of the Mexican-Iranian talks. A spokesman did read a prepared, but largely empty, statement:
"Many countries in the hemisphere have relations with Iran and it is their sovereign right to pursue relations with any country that they choose."
National security analysts were mixed about the degree this poses a threat to America. Columbia University professor and former National Security Council staffer Gary Sick shrugged it off. But former FBI Deputy Assistant Director Oliver "Buck" Revell, told Bensman that Tehran could use a Mexico base to target the United States from Central America. The lawless nature of the area, caused by the drug war, could let Iran "build a counterespionage capability" on the American border, Bensman writes.
That already may have happened. The Washington Times on Friday reported Hezbollah is using Mexican drug routes to smuggle drugs and people into the U.S. The Times quoted the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency's recently retired assistant administrator and chief of operations saying Hezbollah – Iran's proxy – is using "the same criminal weapons smugglers, document traffickers and transportation experts as the drug cartels." That assessment was backed up by six American law enforcement, counterterrorism and defense experts. As the newspaper reports:
"One U.S. counterterrorism official said that while 'there's reason to believe that [Hezbollah members] have looked at the southern border to enter the U.S. ... to date their success has been extremely limited.'
However, another U.S. counterterrorism official confirmed that the U.S. is watching closely the links between Hezbollah and drug cartels and said it is 'not a good picture.'"
Read Bensman's report here. Sara A. Carter's story in the Times is here.