President Barack Obama has signed a law to counter Iran’s alleged influence in Latin America, through a new diplomatic and political strategy to be designed by the State Department, the AFP news agency reported.
Enacted on Friday, the Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act, passed by lawmakers earlier this year, calls for the State Department to develop a plan within 180 days to “address Iran’s growing hostile presence and activity”.
Although the strategy is confidential and only accessible to lawmakers, it must contain a public summary.
The text also calls on the Department of Homeland Security to bolster surveillance at US borders with Canada and Mexico to “prevent operatives from Iran, the IRGC [Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps], its Quds Force, Hezbollah or any other terrorist organization from entering the Untied States.”
And within Latin American countries, the text provides for a multi-agency action plan to provide security in those countries, along with a “counterterrorism and counter-radicalisation plan” to isolate Iran and its allies.
Washington has repeatedly stated it is closely monitoring Tehran’s activities in Latin America, though senior State Department and intelligence officials have indicated there is no apparent indication of illicit activities by Iran.
Iran, placed under a series of international sanctions because of its suspected nuclear weapons programme, has opened six new embassies in the region since 2005 – bringing the total to 11 – and 17 cultural centres.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has made regular visits to Latin America, though he only toured the region twice this year.
Tehran has particularly close ties with Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela, where it has strengthened its presence through investments.