House bill di­rects State to mon­i­tor Iran closely

Is­lamic na­tion steps up ac­tiv­ity in the West

The Washington Times Daily - - World - BY GUY TAY­LOR

The House will con­sider bi­par­ti­san leg­is­la­tion that aims to push the State Depart­ment to adopt a more vig­i­lant pos­ture to­ward Iran’s ac­tiv­i­ties in Latin Amer­ica.

The House For­eign Af­fairs Com­mit­tee passed “The Coun­ter­ing Iran in the Western Hemi­sphere Act of 2012” Wed­nes­day.

The leg­is­la­tion, which has 73 co-spon­sors, would re­quire the State Depart­ment to com­pile a de­tailed re­port on the ac­tiv­i­ties of Iran’s Is­lamic Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guard Corps and its elite Qods Force as well as Le­banon’s Hezbol­lah mili­tia and the Pales­tinian mil­i­tant group Ha­mas in Latin Amer­ica.

“With ten­sions build­ing be­tween Iran and the United States over their (Iran’s) nu­clear am­bi­tions and er­ratic be­hav­ior, we have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to take steps now to guard against the very real threats that Iran could pose to Amer­i­cans on U.S. soil,” said Rep. Jeff Dun­can, South Carolina Re­pub­li­can and the bill’s chief spon­sor.

“Congress is rec­og­niz­ing the se­ri­ous­ness of the threat,” Mr. Dun­can said.

The bill notes that Iran has es­tab­lished 11 em­bassies in Latin Amer­ica, up from six in 2005, and that the Is­lamic repub­lic has built 17 cul­tural cen­ters on the con­ti­nent, as well.

Un­der the leg­is­la­tion, the State Depart­ment would be re­quired to de­liver its re­port to Congress within 180 days, along with a “strat­egy to ad­dress Iran’s grow­ing pres­ence and ac­tiv­ity.”

Ques­tions about the full scope of that ac­tiv­ity arose in Oc­to­ber, when the Jus­tice Depart­ment filed charges re­veal­ing a failed plot by Ira­nian of­fi­cials to use a Mex­i­can drug car­tel to as­sas­si­nate a Saudi diplo­mat in Washington.

Last month, Di­rec­tor of Na­tional In­tel­li­gence James R. Clap­per told a Se­nate com­mit­tee that Iran could try to launch ter­ror at­tacks against tar­gets in­side the United States if it feels threat­ened.

Democrats and most pol­icy an­a­lysts have re­mained skep­ti­cal, and have cau­tioned against fram­ing Iran as a global bo­gey­man amid in­creased ten­sions be­tween the Washington and Tehran over the Is­lam repub­lic’s se­cre­tive nu­clear pro­gram.

Christopher Sa­ba­tini, se­nior di­rec­tor of pol­icy at the Amer­i­cas So­ci­ety and Coun­cil of the Amer­i­cas in New York, said the Ira­nian threat in Latin Amer­ica is be­ing over­played by Repub­li­cans while other re­gional de­vel­op­ments — such as Brazil’s sur­pass­ing this week of Bri­tain as the world’s sixth-largest econ­omy — are be­ing ig­nored.

“It’s per­verse that the U.S. Congress and the Re­pub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates are fo­cused al­most ex­clu­sively on the Ira­nian threat in the limited dis­cus­sions they have on Latin Amer­ica,” he said. “It smacks of the clas­sic Cold War back­yardism.”

The leg­is­la­tion, Mr. Sa­ba­tini said, could rem­edy the sit­u­a­tion by “es­tab­lish­ing some sort of cred­i­ble con­sen­sus voice that adds a level of clar­ity and ev­i­dence to this de­bate.”

House Democrats ap­pear to agree: Five are listed among the bill’s co-spon­sors.

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