For quite some time, right-wing dogma has warned that Iranian Terror is taking hold and expanding in Central and South America thanks to improving relations between Iran and several Latin American governments, as well as due to growing Hezbollah cells. In fact, Mitt Romney, Rick Perry and Rick Santorum all warned of these menaces at various points during the GOP primary debate, prompting a rating of "Mostly False" from PolitiFact after a detailed analysis of those claims. Like so much inane right-wing dogma, this has now been formally embraced by top-level Obama officials. This menace, of course, was what was invoked by the laughably absurd claim that Iran's Quds Forces had formed an alliance with Mexican drug cartels to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador on U.S. soil, and today, this fear-mongering tale got another big boost from a leading Obama official:
Tehran's efforts to expand its circle of influence in South America is tantamount to exporting state-sponsored terrorism into the region, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said.
"We always have a concern about in particular the [Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps] and [their] efforts . . . to expand their influence not only throughout the Middle East but into [South America] as well," Panetta told reporters Monday.
"That, in my book, that relates to expanding terrorism. And that's one of the areas that I think all of us are concerned about," he added.
Both the inanity and irony of this are so glaring as to be virtually self-evident. First there's the fact that the U.S. has been "expanding its circle of influence" in Iran's immediate vicinity -- and in Iran itself -- for roughly six decades now; indeed, the U.S., right this moment, has Iran almost entirely encircled militarily. For Iran to do anything comparable, it would have to not merely establish relationships with a few isolated South American governments, but would have to militarily occupy Canada and Mexico for more than a decade with a couple hundred thousand Revolutionary Guard troops, then station a huge naval fleet off the U.S. coast near, say, Cuba, and then target U.S. facilities with cyber-attacks and drone surveillance.
Then there's the fact that it is the U.S., not Iran, that has a long and demonstrated history of "expanding its circle of influence in" -- and exporting Terrorism to -- Latin America, including American support for Nicaraguan contras, El Salvadoran death squads, Brazilian military dictatorial rule, a Chilean authoritarian coup aimed at that country's democratically elected leaders, Colombian human rights abusers, and so much else. Of course, the notion that the U.S. has the exclusive right to dominate North and South America is almost as old as the country itself, but still: for the U.S. to accuse anyone else of exporting Terrorism to Latin America is really a remarkable feat of propaganda.
Finally, there's the notion that anything that the Iranian government does -- including establishing standard relationships with other sovereign governments -- is "terrorism": just the latest in an endless line of examples proving that this is the most meaningless, manipulated and dangerous term in our political lexicon. As Panetta's comments yet again prove, the term really connotes nothing other than: Muslims who seek to impede the will of the U.S. Government.
But support for America's empire generally, and the related, specific demonizing of Iran as some sort of Grave Enemy, requires the constant hyping of threats. Iranian Terror Threats in South America! is just as mythical and deceitful as Saddam-and-his-WMDs-are-joined-at-the-hip-with-Al-Qaeda!, and they come from the same rotted root.
UPDATE: As John Glaser notes, the State Department issued a 2010 report on Terrorism and proclaimed that "There were no known operational cells of either al-Qa’ida- or Hizballah-related groups in the [Western] hemisphere." Someone should tell that to Leon Panetta.