WASHINGTON – U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates accused Iran Tuesday of engaging in "subversive activity" in Latin America, saying it concerned him more than Russia's recent naval forays in the region.
"I'm concerned about the level of frankly subversive activity that the Iranians are carrying on in a number of places in Latin America particularly South America and Central America," Gates told lawmakers.
"They're opening a lot of offices and a lot of fronts behind which they interfere in what is going on in some of these countries," he said.
Gates gave no specifics in leveling the accusation against Iran at a Senate hearing in response to a question about Russia's recent naval exercises in the Caribbean with Venezuela.
The secretary said nonchalance was the best response to the Russian ship visits.
"In fact if it hadn't been for the events in Georgia in August, I probably would've tried to persuade the president to invite the Russian ships pay a port call in Miami because I think they would've had a lot better time than they did in Caracas," he said.
"But basically I think at 40-dollar (per barrel) oil, the Russian navy does not bother me very much," Gates added.
"It's important for us to keep perspective about their capabilities," he said.
"When they complained about our escorting their Blackjack bombers to Venezuela, I wanted to say that we just wanted to be along there for search and rescue if they needed it."