November 9, 2008

Ex-spy talks of Iran role in South America

@H= Iran has successfully established a strategic foothold in Latin America at the expense of the United States, claims a former CIA official.
In a Saturday article published in the Los Angeles Times, former CIA operative John Kiriakou said the Bush administration's policy of ignoring Latin America has helped Iran make 'major diplomatic inroads under Washington's nose.'
""Over the last year, Iran has worked diligently to expand relations with a host of Latin American countries, most of which have populist leaders who harbor a strong distrust of the United States and are looking for a powerful friend to help them rebuff Washington's influence,"" said Kiriakou.
The former CIA agent added that Venezuela, Paraguay and Bolivia are among critical Latin American countries that have cemented strategic alliances with the Islamic Republic, saying that stopping Iranians in their tracks in Latin America would be a tough challenge for the United States.
""The growing Iranian influence -- inconceivable a decade ago -- is the result of the decision by the United States to stop paying attention to the region. And it will only be reversed if the US changes its policy,"" he said.
Kiriakou claimed that there is a strong likelihood that Iran has established an intelligence presence in Latin America to keep tabs on Washington and undermine US counter-terrorism efforts.
He urged the new US president to engage Latin American countries in active diplomacy in a bid to persuade them to isolate the Islamic Republic.
""Trade agreements must be negotiated, an immigration policy must be conceived and implemented, and the new administration must pay our neighbors the attention that is necessary to win them over,"" said the former spy.