Iran and Venezuela have embarked on a new campaign to produce uranium and to establish new terror operations in South America, according to a new Israeli Foreign Ministry report. The document, which was leaked to Ynetnews.com, says Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is helping Iran make military, diplomatic, and intelligence inroads in South America.
The report, prepared in advance of a visit to South America by Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, states that Tehran is setting up Hizballah cells in Venezuelan territory. In an interview with the Jerusalem Post, Ayalon warned that Iran has terrorist "sleeper cells" in South America, including those that carried out the March 17, 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, in which 29 people were killed and more than 240 wounded, and the July 18, 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in the Argentinean capital, in which 85 were killed and more than 200 wounded.
The report points to collaborative efforts by Chavez and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to damage U.S. interests in South America:
"Since Ahmadinejad's rise to power, Tehran has been promoting an aggressive policy aimed at bolstering its ties with Latin American countries with the declared goal of 'bringing America to its knees.' "
Iran and Venezuela have set up a direct flight route that regularly serves "Iranian technicians" and established a $200 billion fund aimed at garnering the support of more South American countries for the cause of "liberation from American imperialism," according to the Israeli Foreign Ministry report. Venezuela has also issued permits that allow Iranian residents to travel freely throughout South America.
Bolivia and Venezuela deny Israeli charges that they are providing uranium to Iran. Both nations have uranium deposits, and Chavez and Bolivian President Evo Morales have been among the most vociferous defenders of Tehran's nuclear activities at the United Nations and elsewhere.
During a November 2008 visit to Caracas by President Dmitriy Medvedev, Russia and Venezuela signed a framework agreement for nuclear cooperation that includes Russian technical assistance for uranium mining. That – and the fact that Chavez has aggressively sought nuclear cooperation with Iran – has many of Venezuela's neighbors worried.
As the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace explained in a recent profile of Venezuelan nuclear program: "Given Venezuela's close cooperation with Iran, those states and companies that would contemplate nuclear cooperation with the Chavez government should consider whether they might help recreate the alarming history of Iran's nuclear program and subsequent international crises."