Islamo-Bolivarianism: The Green-and-Red Menace in Latin America

American neoconservatives are pushing absurd theories of a nefarious alliance between Iran, Hezbollah, and Latin America. Their outlandish tales would be humorous if the implications were not so dire.

Source: Al Akhbar

If you’re an average follower of world events, you may not know that Iran is installing intermediate-range missile launch pads on the Paraguaná Peninsula in Venezuela. You may not know that two Iranian terrorist trainers are operating on Venezuela’s Margarita Island; that gang members sporting tattoos in Farsi are infiltrating the US; or that Hezbollah is advising Mexican drug cartels in the art of narco-tunnel construction.

Roger Noriega, however, knows all of these things. A visiting fellow at the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute, Noriega’s CV includes service as Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs in the Bush II administration and participation in a variety of democracy promotion projects, ranging from Iran-Contra to the 2004 overthrow of democratically-elected Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

In recent years, Noriega has embarked on a valiant crusade to alert the world to the existential threat posed to the US by an alliance between the Islamic Republic and left-leaning regimes in Latin America – specifically that of Hugo Chávez, thanks to whom Margarita Island has displaced the Tri-Border Area between Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay as the alleged regional Islamic terror hub.

Via dogged investigation, Noriega has uncovered an abundance of damning evidence confirming the dangers of the Islamo-Bolivarian pact. For example, the discovery that it is possible to travel by commercial airliner from Caracas to Tehran with only one stop in Damascus is an obvious smoking gun indicating nefarious anti-US activity on the South American continent.

This chilling factoid was incidentally reiterated by Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon during his 2009 excursion to Honduras for the 39th General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS): “We know that there are flights from Caracas via Damascus to Tehran.” As I have pointed out elsewhere, it is also possible to fly with minimal difficulty from Caracas to places like Tel Aviv. The fact that Israel does not technically qualify as an American state meanwhile raises the prospect of other, non-Iranian types of continental infiltration.

For all of Noriega’s fear mongering with regard to foreign meddling in Latin America, he himself is no stranger to the practice. Following the coup that took place in Honduras shortly after the OAS meeting, Noriega’s Washington, DC lobbying firm Visión Américas was hired by Honduran businessmen to defend the repressive coup government.

Noriega’s hysterics over alleged ties between drug traffickers, Hezbollah, and the Venezuelan government are furthermore risible given his own contributions to Iran-Contra, when the US illegally funneled weapons to Iran while facilitating the enrichment of Nicaraguan paramilitaries via none other than the cocaine trade. Seeing as this policy launched a crack cocaine epidemic that devastated South Central Los Angeles, it seems that the safety and well-being of the US citizenry may at times face more acute threats from the US government itself than from, say, the Caracas-Tehran one-stop.

As for the safety and well-being of the Latin American citizenry, Iran’s meddling in the region has thus far not involved orchestrating coups, backing murderous dictators and military juntas, or experimentally infecting Guatemalans with syphilis.

In Noriega’s view, the golden age of enlightened US intervention throughout the Americas has come to an abrupt and tragic close thanks to the reckless obliviousness of Barack Obama, who is “Ignoring Latin America” and blissfully unaware of Islamo-Bolivarian encroachments on the homeland. It is not quite clear, of course, how the current ignorant administration has nonetheless managed to facilitate illegal regime change in Honduras, pursue rampant regional militarization, and wage a criminal war on drugs.

In a May 2012 dispatch on the proliferation of Noriega’s philosophies in the mainstream media, NACLA blogger Keane Bhatt remarked:

“Noriega is not fazed by facts. He promotes his fantastical claims in many major news outlets, often based on anonymous sources. Take, for example, his 2010 Foreign Policy article, ‘Chávez’s Secret Nuclear Program,’ whose subtitle reads: ‘It’s not clear what Venezuela’s hiding, but it’s definitely hiding something – and the fact that Iran is involved suggests that it’s up to no good.’ (State Department officials dismissed this suspicion with ‘scorn.’)”

So much for that silly old rule in professional journalism that you cannot combine a sensational headline declaring a covert Venezuelan nuclear program with a subtitle specifying that it’s not actually clear what’s going on in Venezuela.

A similar eschewal of consistency and logic meanwhile occurred in Noriega’s testimony before the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations earlier this year, when he said, “Iranian officials have made no secret of the regime’s intention to carry its asymmetrical struggle to the streets of the United States and Europe.”

The evidence supplied in support of this ominous pronouncement was that “in a May 2011 speech in Bolivia, Iran’s Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi promised a ‘tough and crushing response’ to any US offensive against Iran” – a sentence which, as anyone with a basic command of English can confirm, unfortunately places Iranian actions in the defensive category and the US in the role of aggressor.

In the end, Noriega’s arsenal of alarmist delusions would be far more entertaining if it did not represent a concerted effort to establish a casus belli.

Belén Fernández is the author of The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work, released by Verso in 2011. She is a contributing editor at Jacobin magazine, and her articles have appeared at Al Jazeera, the London Review of Books blog, and numerous other publications.