From Iran Sanctions to “Influence Phobia”

In what can be seen as a blatantly overt interference in Iran’s affairs, US President Barack Obama has recently enacted a law “aimed at countering Tehran’s alleged influence in Latin America” through a new diplomatic and political strategy to be designed by the State Department.

Iran has strongly slammed the move as an overt intervention.

“It is an overt intervention in Latin American affairs… that shows they are not familiar with new world relations. The United States still lives in the Cold War era and considers Latin America as its back yard”.

Strategically dubbed as ‘Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act of 2012’, the act calls for the State Department to develop a plan within 180 days to “address Iran’s growing hostile presence and activity”.

Also, the text calls on the Department of Homeland Security to bolster surveillance at US borders with Canada and Mexico to “prevent operatives from Iran, the IRGC [Iranian Revolution Guards Corps], its Quds Force, Hezbollah or any other terrorist organization from entering the United States.”

In recent years, the Islamic Republic has formed a solid alliance with a number of Latin American countries which have readily welcomed Iran’s good will gestures. Without a doubt, the influence of Iran has travelled far beyond the Middle East and has reached Latin America, a fact which has ruffled many feathers in Washington.

Time and again, the US has declared that it closely monitors Iran’s activities (i.e. influence) lest the ever-increasing influence of the country may disturb its political and military equations in the Middle East in particular and the world in general.

The new act which can be viewed but as a salad of lame excuses concocted by the US to ‘counter’ Iran’s influence has been formulated with the express intention of stifling an already sprouting intellectual apology for Iranian nuclear energy program which the US and the West have always sought to depict as anything but intended for peaceful purposes.

The act directly indicates that the US is hell bent on blocking the route to any ways which may be used to assuage the ‘painful effect of the sanctions’ on Iran and that the country “is pursuing cooperation with Latin American countries by signing economic and security agreements in order to create a network of diplomatic and economic relationships to lessen the blow of international sanctions and oppose Western attempts to constrict its ambitions.”

The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars has conducted a research on Iran’s influence in Latin America and has aptly called it ‘Iran in Latin America: Threat or ‘Axis of Annoyance’?’. According to the research, the growing and multi-layered relationship between Iran and Latin American countries since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s election in 2005 “is driven by a combination of factors. These include, for both sides, and economic self-interest, shared anti-U.S. and anti-imperialist ideology, and the desire—especially evident in the Brazilian case—to play a larger role on the world stage, assert foreign policy independence, and diversify international partners beyond the United States.”

It should be noted that the phobia of Iran’s influence in Latin America has long started to pinch the US government. This has provided the advocates of Washington’s policies to disseminate unfounded lies in the media about Iran. In an article, Rep. Allen B. West voices his agonized exasperation over Iran-Venezuela ties: “Right here, under our noses, a strategic alliance is being formed between Iran and Venezuela.”

Mr. West offers a poor case against Iran and accuses the country of forming “a complex financial web to bypass international sanctions against the ayatollahs and an operational infrastructure for carrying out terrorism against the nations of the free world, especially the United States and Israel.” According to Mr. West, the United States and Israel constitute parts of the free world. By any standards, this slanted definition renders all other definitions of the ‘free world’ grotesquely appalling.

Mr. West goes to extremes when he brings up the threadbare allegation of Washington that Iran sought to ‘hire an operative known as Mansour Arbabsiar’ to assassinate Saudi Ambassador Adel A. al-Jubeir. Accusative lies and fabrications of this nature abound in Western media. Interestingly, Mr. West repeats Israel and the welfare of Israel several times in his article as if to pledge his allegiance to Tel Aviv.

He even recklessly accuses Iran of introducing “into the modern Middle East the concept of religiously sanctioned suicide terrorism” and lays bare his ignorance of the fact that Iran has been constantly a victim of terrorism backed and financed by terrorists groups such as MKO which was  recently delisted by Washington as a terrorist organization ‘for not inscrutable reasons’.

For Washington and allies, Iran is not a real threat but rather an ‘axis of annoyance’, a thorn in their side, a political counterbalance to their sinister modus operandi in the region.

Dr. Ismail Salami is an Iranian journalist, political analyst and lexicographer. A former editor in chief of the Tehran Times Daily, he is currently professor of English literature at the University of Tehran. Read other articles by Ismail.