A dangerous alliance to the US and Latin America. The United States faces threats from transnational organized crime activity and the government of China, Russia, Cuba, Venezuela and Iran and their IRGC, stalk the countries of Latin America.
The group of countries made up of the People’s Republic of China, the Russian Federation and the Islamic Republic of Iran, with the decision to consolidate an alliance with economic, political and military components that envisions the possibility of breaking with unipolarity and counteracting the hegemony that currently maintains the West, has raised alarm in Washington and the countries under its influence.
Iran 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; but the United States has a vital political, economic, security and defense interests in the Western Hemisphere, in this sense, the United States needs to implement, with a vision of global integration a comprehensive new strategy to counter Iran’s growing Hostile presence and activity in the Western Hemisphere, and for other purposes.
On April 8 2019 the U.S. announced that it would officially designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organization. The decision was take effect on April 15 2019, and comes after nearly two years of consideration based on acts committed by the IRGC over time. Iran has threatened to retaliate against the United States for the designation; so far, the government has proceeded to designate the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) a terrorist organization. It also listed the U.S. Government as a state sponsor of terrorism. It may take further action against U.S. military presence in the region.
This was the first time that the U.S. has designated an entire government entity as a terrorist organization. These developments are likely to worsen tensions between the U.S. and Iran, whose relationship has been deteriorating since the onset of U.S. sanctions years ago. In addition to offering a snapshot of the situation, this report will discuss the decision’s hand in worsening U.S.-Iran relations, as well as implications for U.S. operators, to defend and secure their border with Mexico against other threats such as fentanyl and drug trafficking, irregular immigration and trafficking in people, weapons and threats that may derive from hostile actions by its main competitors China and Russia in Latin America.
In the lead-up to the designation announcement, Iranian leadership cautioned against the move with numerous threats to regional stability. On April 7 2019, the IRGC chief stated that the designation would lead to an end to the “calm for U.S. military” in the region.
Numerous Iranian officials have blamed the U.S. relationship with Israel, another anti-Iran Western partner, as the reasoning behind the April 8 2019 decision.
The U.S. was discussing the potential of categorizing the IRGC as a terrorist organization for years. A senior commander of the powerful security force threatened that such designation “could be perilous for U.S. forces in the region,” highlighting a negative trend in already adverse relations between the two countries. The designation will likely deepen already deteriorating U.S.-Iranian relations. Terrorist designation precludes the U.S. from working with a given group. The IRGC’s prominent role in various levels of Iranian politics reduces the U.S. government’s ability to work with global counterparts affiliated with the organization.
Relations between the U.S. and Iran have been negative for nearly four decades; the countries have not had diplomatic relations since 1980.
Over time, tensions have waxed and waned depending largely on shared or conflicting policy issues. Iran often publicizes its animosity towards the U.S. post-incident. In September 2018, for example, Iran accused both the U.S. and Israel of involvement in an attack on a military parade in Ahvaz.
It is not uncommon for Iranian government figures to place blame on the U.S. government and its actions, and vice versa. Let’s travel back to the years 2018 – 2019; Iran was suffered the worst flooding on its territory in 40 years, with at least 26 of Iran’s 31 provinces affected. On April 2, 2019, the Ministry of Iran’s foreign affairs cited US sanctions as one of the reasons the natural disaster had been so destructive, claiming that sanctions restrictions prevented aid from reaching flood victims. He The US Department of State responded by reiterating its willingness to assist relief efforts and attributed the seriousness of the floods to an inadequate Iranian response.
US sanctions against Iran have disrupted the Iranian security landscape, as well as the ability of organizations of the private sector to operate in the country. The Iranian leadership has referred to the sanctions as “economic terrorism” in the past.
The United States reinstated the sanctions in November 2018 after a two-year interlude; its impact on the ability of Western companies to do business in or with Iranian actors was significant. As such, there is not much more of a direct impact than the current designation may have on US private sector involvement.
According to the Department of State, Hezbollah, with Iran as its state sponsor, is considered the “most technically capable terrorist group in the world” with “thousands of supporters, several thousand members, and a few hundred terrorist operatives,” and officials from the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Qods Force have been working in concert with Hezbollah for many years.
The IRGC’s Qods Force has a long history of supporting Hezbollah’s military, paramilitary, and terrorist activities, providing it with guidance, funding, weapons, intelligence, and logistical support, and in 2007, the Department of the Treasury placed sanctions on the IRGC and its Qods Force for their support of terrorism and proliferation activities.
The IRGC’s Qods Force stations operatives in foreign embassies, charities, and religious and cultural institutions to foster relationships, often building on existing socioeconomic ties with the well established Shia Diaspora, and recent years have witnessed an increased presence in Latin America.
According to the Department of Defense, the IRGC and its Qods Force played a significant role in some of the deadliest terrorist attacks of the past two decades, including the 1994 attack on the AMIA Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires, by generally directing or supporting the groups that actually executed the attacks.
Reports of Iranian intelligence agents being implicated in Hezbollah-linked activities since the early 1990s suggest direct Iranian government support of Hezbollah activities in the Tri-Border Area of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay, and in the past decade, Iran has dramatically increased its diplomatic missions to Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Argentina, and Brazil. Iran has built several cultural centers in Latin America, and it currently maintains 11 embassies, up from 6 in 2005.
Hezbollah and other Iranian proxies with a presence in Latin America have raised revenues through illicit activities, including drug and arms trafficking, counterfeiting, money laundering, forging travel documents, pirating software and music, and providing haven and assistance to other terrorists transiting the region.
Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Venezuela expressed their intention to assist Iran in evading sanctions by signing a statement supporting Iran’s nuclear activities and announcing at a 2010 joint press conference in Tehran their determination to “continue and expand their economic ties to Iran” with confidence that “Iran can give a crushing response to the threats and sanctions imposed by the West and imperialism”.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration concluded in 2008 that almost one-half of the foreign terrorist organizations in the world are linked to narcotics trade and trafficking, including Hezbollah and Hamas.
In October 2011, the United States charged two men, Manssor Arbabsiar, a United States citizen holding both Iranian and United States passports, and Gholam Shakuri, an Iran-based member of Iran’s IRGC Qods Force, with conspiracy to murder a foreign official using explosives in an act of terrorism.
Arbabsiar traveled to Mexico with the express intent to hire “someone in the narcotics business” to carry out the assassination of the Saudi Arabian Ambassador in the United States. While in the end, he only engaged a U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency informant posing as an associate of a drug trafficking cartel, Arbabsiar believed that he was working with a member of a Mexican drug trafficking organization and sought to send money to this individual in installments and not in a single transfer.
These events are important for two reasons: first, because the links between drug trafficking and Islamic terrorism are confirmed, and secondly, that these groups are increasingly closer to the United States, operating in its territory and in the territory of their neighbor countries.
Analyzing the details of yesterday and today, the militarization of the United States border with Mexico and the hardening of the US national security and defense policy in relation to Mexico is no longer the exclusive domain of the radical wing of the Republican Party, it is the option Strategy by Lisa Monaco and Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall. They play an important role today because they were important pieces in the past. Let’s go back to the date again May 24, 2011, Manssor Arbabsiar, an American Arab, cousin of a senior official in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Qods Special Forces, held a meeting in Mexico with an alleged drug trafficker.
The reason for the meeting was to hire the services of a Mexican cartel to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States.
The attack was planned as a terrorist attack using C-4 explosives at a restaurant the Saudi official frequented in Washington, had the attack been completed, it could have resulted inresulting in the deaths of hundreds of people, including several US senators, as collateral damage.
Arbabsiar traveled to Mexico to meet with the alleged drug trafficker on at least four occasions between May and July 2011. On July 14 of that year, he and the alleged representative of the Mexican cartel paid a $100,000 advance for the job.
On August 1 and August 9, 2011, Arbabsiar made international wire transfers to send the money in token of the deal.
The complete service, which would be liquidated after the assassination of the Saudi Arabian ambassador, would be priced at $1.5 million.
However, the Mexican cartel required Arbabsiar’s physical presence as collateral for the remaining payment. On September 28, 2011, Arbabsiar took a flight from the United States to Mexico, but never set foot on Mexican territory again.
Mexican authorities returned him to custody at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport, where he was arrested by the United States government.
In reality, the alleged drug trafficker who was hired to assassinate the Saudi ambassador was a DEA informant, and the $100,000 that Arbabsiar sent to the Mexican cartel was transferred to the account of a front company owned by the FBI.
Arbabsiar and a co-conspirator from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Qod Special Forces were indicted by the US Department of Justice on charges of conspiracy to assassinate a foreign official, conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction, and conspiracy to commit an act of international terrorism.
The main architect of this operation was Lisa Monaco, the then assistant attorney for Homeland Security in the Department of Justice in the administration of Democratic President Barack Obama.
The Arbabsiar case highlighted the depth of the US intelligence apparatus’s knowledge of the Mexican crime scene.
A year and a half later, Monaco became the White House Homeland Security and Counterterrorism adviser and remained in that position until the end of the Obama administration in 2017.
Today, in the Joe Biden government, Lisa Monaco is the second highest-ranking official in the Department of Justice and leads, along with Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall -who is the current White House Homeland Security and Counterterrorism adviser-, the Implementation of the national security policy in relation to Mexico and in relation to the fight against fentanyl trafficking.
Monaco and Sherwood-Randall directed the meetings in Washington to which the heads of all the intelligence and national security agencies of the Mexican State were summoned, including the Secretary of National Defense, General Luis Cresencio Sandoval; the Secretary of the Navy, Admiral José Rafael Ojeda; the director of the National Intelligence Center, General Audomaro Zapata; and the Attorney General, Alejandro Gertz Manero.
Monaco and Sherwood-Randall achieved what had never been possible before in the history of the bilateral relationship: sitting down with the entire Mexican national security apparatus to establish new conditions for the war on drugs.
One day after this work meeting, on April 14 2023, the Department of Justice, OFAC of the Treasury Department, and the DEA announced a new offensive against the Sinaloa Cartel, specifically against the faction dominated by the sons of Joaquín. ‘El Chapo’ Guzman.
President Joe Biden has designated Lisa Monaco and Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall as the officials responsible for solving the fentanyl crisis.
These are two women whose careers are very brilliant and have an excellent track record.
Lisa Monaco began her career as an adviser to then-Senator Joe Biden on the powerful House Judiciary Committee in the 1990s. During the Bill Clinton administration, she was an adviser to Attorney General Janet Reno. In the George W. Bush administration, she was appointed prosecutor for the District of Columbia, where she was an important part of the task force that dismantled Enron. She was also an FBI Bureau Chief during the Robert Mueller III administration and was later appointed Assistant Attorney General for Homeland Security during the first term of the Obama administration.
Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall also began her public service as a foreign policy and defense policy adviser to then-Senator Joe Biden. President Clinton named her head of the Russia-Ukraine region at the State Department. With Barack Obama, she was first national security adviser for European affairs to the National Security Council and later was appointed undersecretary for Energy. During the transition period of the Joe Biden government, Sherwood-Randall was considered the option to be Secretary of Energy, but the second most important position in the National Security Council was finally highlighted.
This year, Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall has met twice in the National Palace with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. On March 9, 2023, the official reason for the meeting was to discuss shared policies to combat fentanyl trafficking and arms trafficking.
The May 2 2023 meeting between Sherwood-Randall and López Obrador was much more assertive. The US official informed the Mexican government that President Biden will deploy 1,500 active troops on the border.
This follows the decision at the end of April, in which an executive order from the White House expanded the powers of the Pentagon to collaborate in the fight against drug trafficking.
In the same way, another event that should be kept on the radar is the one that occurred in the year 2011, particularly in the month of October of that year, the actions by the Department of the
Treasury wheneffectively shut down the Lebanese Canadian Bank.
Subsequent actions by the United States Government in connection with the investigation into Lebanese Canadian Bank resulted in the indictment in December 2011 of Ayman Joumaa, an individual of Lebanese nationality, with citizenship in Lebanon and Colombia, and with ties to Hezbollah, for trafficking cocaine to the Los Zetas drug trafficking organization in Mexico City for sale in the United States and for laundering the proceeds.
It shall be the policy of the United States to use a new comprehensive government-wide strategy to counter China, Rusia, Cuba, Venezuela e Iran’s, and the transnational organized crime activity growing hostile presence and activity in the Western Hemisphere, but is very important, the working together with United States allies and partners in the region to mutually deter threats to United States interests by transnational organized crime activity and the Government of China, Rusia, Cuba, Venezuela and Irán, especially the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the IRGC’s Qods Force, and Hezbollah.