Iran’s direct support for the repressive and illegitimate regime of Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela has grown dramatically recently. In its highest visibility form, this support was seen with the sanctions-busting Iranian oil tankers sailing through North American waters this summer.
Additionally, Iran’s national Mahan Air, an airline linked to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) made nearly 20 trips to Venezuela in a brief period this year. In return, the Iranian terror-regime got nearly half a billion dollars in Venezuelan gold bars in its “oil for gold” exchange.
But Iran is getting much more than just gold from Maduro.
We now have a report from a highly respected Washington, D.C. think tank that shows direct ties between Iranian terror proxies Hezbollah, and the Maduro dictatorship, as well as the involvement of the IRGC in Venezuela and the rest of Latin America.
The report, published by the Atlantic Council and the Center for a Secure Free Society, notes that Maduro’s regime has resisted U.S. pressure and sanctions by forming “an extensive relationship with several foreign terrorist organizations, including Hezbollah and its terror sponsor the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
As the Washington Free Beacon says, “The relationship is centered on keeping the anti-U.S. Maduro in power and solidifying Iran’s terrorist footprint in Latin America, which has long served as an operational hub for Hezbollah forces.”
In return for the lifeline provided by Iran’s oil and gasoline shipments, the report claims, Maduro has opened Venezuela to Iranian operatives and terror affiliates like Hezbollah. This new report of Iranian-Venezuelan terror links in the Western Hemisphere should renew concerns about threats at the U.S. southern border.
According to the report, “The Hezbollah support network in Venezuela is embedded to the Maduro regime’s illicit economies of drugs, weapons, gold, contraband, etc. moving through a trade-based money-laundering network (TBML) based out of Colombia and Panama.”
But the ties extend beyond just Hezbollah, notes the report. Iran’s IRGC is also active in Venezuela and the rest of the region. The terrorist regime’s paramilitary force operates in Venezuela “due to the heightened capability of Hezbollah’s support network,” says the report, adding, “Hezbollah’s influence within, and infiltration of, Lebanese expat communities gives Iran a gateway to grow its footprint in Venezuela.”
The Free Beacon notes that “By integrating itself into Venezuela’s rogue economy, Hezbollah and other Iranian affiliates have been able to launder the money needed to fund their operations.” It notes further that:
Hezbollah has gained the ability to obtain “countless government ID documents” from the Maduro regime, allowing the terror group’s operatives unfettered travel across the region.
Fortunately, the Trump administration’s Department of Justice exposed some of this network this summer, writes The Free Beacon, when it indicted Adel El Zabayar, a former member of Venezuela’s National Assembly, for working to establish “a crime-terror pipeline that the Maduro regime used to facilitate a ‘cocaine-for-weapons’ scheme between Hezbollah and Colombia’s FARC.”
However, this threat is only continuing to grow and metastasize. Much more U.S. attention needs to be directed to this growing threat in America’s backyard.