The Chilean Election Gives Iran a New Foothold in South America

The Islamic Republic has long been involved in Latin America, and its presence there made possible its current good relations with Venezuela, as well as the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires. With the election last week of the far-left politician Gabriel Boric to Chile’s presidency, Iranian influence can be expected to expand. Emanuele Ottolenghi writes:

President Boric’s progressive domestic agenda will have to contend with his lack of a parliamentary majority. There will be no similar constraints on foreign policy, where his leftist instincts, backed by a strong anti-Israel domestic constituency, will likely put him in sync with Iranian influence operations in Latin America.

Iran has two cultural centers in Chile. The one in the capital, Santiago, is run by a Hizballah cleric . . . with family ties to sanctioned Hizballah financiers and strong personal connections to Hizballah’s West Africa fundraising and recruitment operations.

Hizballah’s illicit finance networks also operate in Chile, facilitating drug trafficking and money-laundering operations. Despite a well-documented presence there for nearly two decades—including U.S. Treasury sanctions against Chile-based, Hizballah-run companies—the South American country has until now refrained from designating Hizballah a terrorist organization. There was hope this could change, after Argentina, Paraguay, Guatemala, Honduras, and Colombia did so between July 2019 and January 2020. With Boric in power, this is now unlikely to happen.

Owning and championing Palestinians’ most radical demands is at the core of Iran’s revolutionary agenda and the Trojan horse it has often used to gain supporters across Latin America. Chile has always offered a propitious terrain, given its large Palestinian diaspora. And now, the rise to power of a millennial politician wedded to these same radical anti-Israel views offers Iran a great opportunity.

Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Latin America


Iran’s Options for Revenge on Israel

On April 1, an Israeli airstrike on Damascus killed three Iranian generals, one of whom was the seniormost Iranian commander in the region. The IDF has been targeting Iranian personnel and weaponry in Syria for over a decade, but the killing of such a high-ranking figure raises the stakes significantly. In the past several days, Israelis have received a number of warnings both from the press and from the home-front command to ready themselves for retaliatory attacks. Jonathan Spyer considers what shape that attack might take:

Tehran has essentially four broad options. It could hit an Israeli or Jewish facility overseas using either Iranian state forces (option one), or proxies (option two). . . . Then there’s the third option: Tehran could also direct its proxies to strike Israel directly. . . . Finally, Iran could strike Israeli soil directly (option four). It is the riskiest option for Tehran, and would be likely to precipitate open war between the regime and Israel.

Tehran will consider all four options carefully. It has failed to retaliate in kind for a number of high-profile assassinations of its operatives in recent years. . . . A failure to respond, or staging too small a response, risks conveying a message of weakness. Iran usually favors using proxies over staging direct attacks. In an unkind formulation common in Israel, Tehran is prepared to “fight to the last Arab.”

Read more at Spectator

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Syria