Members of a U.S. congressional panel expressed concern Thursday that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s ties to several Latin American leaders could pose a threat to U.S. national security. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs that senior Iranian officials are “now more willing to conduct an attack in the United States.” He said Iran is trying to penetrate and engage in the Western Hemisphere.
The chairwoman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, said some people might question whether the Iranian-Latin American connection is a threat, but she said there is cause for concern.
“Iran’s [President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad recently returned from his ‘Tour of Tyrants’ trip to visit Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba and Ecuador. Media reports have indicated an increased presence of Iran’s Quds Force in these countries and offices of Iran’s intelligence services surfacing throughout the region,” said Ros-Lehtinen. “The fact that the military arm of a state-sponsor of terrorism has its operatives within multiple countries in our hemisphere is certainly cause for alarm and merits congressional focus.“
Obama administration officials say the United States is keeping a close watch on Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s ties to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. During Ahmadinejad’s recent visit to Venezuela, he and Chavez praised each other and joked about concerns in the West about Iran’s relations with Latin America.
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