Newly elected Venezuelan Minister Tareck El Aissami

Pictured: Minister Tareck El Aissami | ELEONORA DELGADO | AP Images

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One of the little-discussed elements of the global jihadist war on the West — wholly ignored in the Obama administration’s appeasement and collusion with the Iranian mullocracy as codified in the JCPOA — is Tehran’s hostile activity in our own hemisphere.

The deadliest illustration of these activities occurred in 1994 when Hezbollah allegedly carried out the bombing of the Argentinian AMIA Jewish Center, killing 85 and injuring more than 100.

That 22-year-old attack is now again a live issue on account of the reopening of a legal case accusing ex-Argentinian President Christina Fernandez de Kirchner of covering up Iran’s involvement in the bombing and seeking to shield the Islamic Republic from prosecution. The case had been closed only because the prosecutor originally pursuing it, Alberto Nisman, died under highly suspicious circumstances in 2015.

While the Argentina-Iran link deserves America’s attention in its own right, it is representative of a far more ambitious Iranian project in Latin America that has been unfolding for several decades.

El Aissami, a Hezbollah-tied socialist, is the would-be successor to President Nicolas Máduro should he fail to survive a recall election in 2017.

Joseph Humire, executive director of the Center for a Secure Free Society (SFS), describes the extent of Iran’s activities in a trenchant 2015 analysis for the Gatestone Institute:

During the last 32 years, Iran has achieved a resounding success in promoting an anti-US and anti-Israel message in Latin America. Iran's state-owned television network, HispanTV, broadcasts in Spanish 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in at least 16 countries throughout the region.

Formally, Iran has also doubled the number of its embassies in Latin America — from six in 2005 to eleven today.

Informally, according to U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM), Iran has established more than 80 Islamic cultural centers promoting Shi'a Islam throughout Latin America. The number represents more than a 100% increase from 2012 when, according to estimates by USSOUTHCOM, Iran only controlled 36.[4]

Most importantly, however, Iran has established an unprecedented military and intelligence footprint that extends from Tierra del Fuego, at the southern tip of Argentina, up to the Rio Grande, bordering the United States. Iran is active in every country in Latin America.

The lack of transparency, political corruption, high levels of crime and violence — and the growing anti-American and anti-Jewish attitudes in Latin America — enable Iran to enjoy its success. Due to the efforts of a handful of regional governments seeking to revolutionize the region, this trend has only increased in the last decade. Thanks to the legacy of the late Hugo Chávez and his contemporaries such as Nicolás Maduro, Rafael Correa, Evo Morales, Daniel Ortega, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Salvador Sánchez Cerén, and others, Iran is now more powerful in Latin America than ever before.

Which brings us to the news that Tareck El Aissami was selected as Venezuela’s new vice president.

Mr. El Aissami, a Hezbollah-tied socialist, is the would-be successor to President Nicolas Máduro should he fail to survive a recall election in 2017.

The aforementioned Mr. Humire described the scale of El Aissami’s lawlessness — benefiting Iran’s global jihad — in testimony before the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs in 2015:

Over the years, El Aissami developed a sophisticated, multi-layered financial network that functions as a criminal-terrorist pipeline bringing militant Islamists into Venezuela and surrounding countries, and sending illicit funds and drugs from Latin America to the Middle East. His financial network consists of close to 40 front companies that own over 20 properties with cash, vehicles, real estate and other assets sitting in 36 bank accounts spread throughout Venezuela, Panama, Curacao, St. Lucia, Southern Florida and Lebanon. This network became integrated with the larger Ayman Joumaa moneylaundering network that used the Lebanese Canadian Bank to launder hundreds of million of dollars and move multi-ton shipments of cocaine on behalf of Colombian and Mexican drug cartels as well as Hezbollah.

In an article noting the presence of joint ventures between two U.N.-sanctioned Iranian military-owned companies and Venezuela’s military industry in the state Mr. El Aissami previously governed, Aragua, The Wall Street Journal’s Mary Anastasia O’Grady described him thusly:

One part master of Middle-Eastern networking, one part honorary Cuban revolutionary, and one part highly ambitious chavista …

By way of background, El Aissami’s father Carlos headed the Venezuelan branch of the Baath Party, and before the invasion of Iraq held a press conference in which, “he described himself as a Taliban and called Osama Bin Laden, ‘the great Mujahedeen, Sheik Osama bin Laden.’” El Aissami’s great uncle Shibli served as assistant to the secretary general of the Baath Party under Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi wing.

The progeny of Middle Eastern socialists, El Aissami was himself indoctrinated in leftism while a university student as part of the “Utopia 78” movement. This served as the precursor for his rise under the late Hugo Chávez to interior minister from 2008-2012, then governor of Aragua, and now the man one vote away from Venezuela’s presidency.

Ms. O’Grady’s description of the new Venezuelan vice president is telling. It describes Mr. El Aissami as a living embodiment of the Latin American leftist-jihadist nexus.

Mr. El Aissami’s rise highlights the multifaceted and global nature of the challenge we in the West face from totalitarianism, whether leftist or Islam-based.

Socialists and jihadists form a symbiotic relationship both theoretically and practically, in terms of wishing to achieve totalitarian control under their respective belief systems, while aiding each other’s efforts to undermine the liberal nations that stand in their way.

They aid each other by warring against liberty through both ideological and military means.

Latin America, the leftist parts of which are in large part rife with crime, lawlessness, and political corruption, represents a perfect breeding ground for the leftist-jihadist nexus. The large-scale trading of drugs, weapons, and technology benefits both sides: The Iranians get to project power in America’s backyard, while their client states get to enrich and strengthen themselves. America loses on both counts.

Mr. El Aissami’s rise highlights the multifaceted and global nature of the challenge we in the West face from totalitarianism, whether leftist or Islam-based.

Such ideologies are ascendant throughout the world and dedicated ultimately to our destruction. The actors animated by such ideologies are willing to use any and all means to achieve their goals and have been given free rein for the last eight years under President Obama.

When the Trump administration assumes office, it will be imperative to perform a comprehensive study of all of these various state and non-state actors, the extent of their alliances, and the dangers each of them pose.

The next task — perhaps the most critical task of the presidency as pertains to national security and foreign policy — will be devising a robust and all-encompassing plan to deter or defeat such enemies wherever they challenge us.

Indeed, this will be the task of our generation.

Editor's note: This piece has been updated to correct a typographical error.



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Ben Weingarten is Founder & CEO of ChangeUp Media LLC, a media consulting and publication services firm. A graduate of Columbia University, he regularly contributes to publications such as City Journal, The Federalist, Newsmax and PJ Media on national security/defense, economics and politics. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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