Through its ties with Venezuela and other nations in Latin America, Iran is building an anti-U.S. alliance in the Western Hemisphere that poses a direct, imminent threat to the United States, an influential U.S. lawmaker said Thursday.
The remark from House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, author of sanctions legislation targeting Iran that was recently passed by a near-unanimous vote, comes amid an increasingly visible campaign by right-wing politicians and allied institutions to build the case for further sanctions and other acts of economic warfare against the Islamic Republic – and, perhaps, set the stage for military action.
The administration of President Barack Obama has implemented stringent sanctions against Iran that have helped cripple its economy and, as the president himself noted in his State of the Union address last month, refused to take the prospect of all-out war off the table.
Its right-wing critics, however, allege the Obama administration has done too little to counter what they portray as an almost apocalyptic threat.
At a hearing Thursday of the House Foreign Affairs Committee focused on Iran’s dealings in Latin America, Norman Bailey of the conservative American Foreign Policy Council even charged that the Islamic Republic, through its allies Hezbollah, had constructed “numerous military camps inside Venezuela, as well as in South Lebanon, with the express purpose of training young Venezuelans to attack American targets.”
He also claimed Iran had “established missile bases in Venezuela”, though adding that those reports were as of yet “unconfirmed”.
In reality, though, there is no factual basis for either claim. Indeed, were there anything to them, one would imagine U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper might have mentioned them during his Jan. 31 testimony before Congress on threats to the U.S.
And, indeed, reports of Iranian missiles in Venezuela were last year explicitly rejected by the Pentagon, with a spokesman saying that not only were said reports unconfirmed, but in fact there was “no evidence” to support the claim and “therefore no reason to believe the assertions… are credible.”