Once Russia invaded Ukraine, international news once again became headline news. For news junkies and for those who follow international affairs, it was a welcome switch.
Until the invasion, international news had been benched, or relegated to the back pages, for two long decades. In fact, there are media companies that closed their foreign bureaus. And for many of those companies which remained open, staffing was scaled back and budgets were slashed.
One of the lessons of Russia’s aggressive invasion, we are now reminded, is that foreign news desks and foreign coverage and expertise is essential to our understanding of the world we all live in.
Without foreign coverage, Vladimir Putin would have waltzed into Ukraine and, much like Crimea, within a few days Russia would have had total control of yet another country. Only a few would have even known what was happening until it was over.
That should be a lesson for all of us. Pay more attention to foreign affairs.
Know this: The evil leaders of the world count on the fact that the West, particularly the United States, does not pay attention to foreign events. Does not, in many ways, even care about foreign events.
Take, for example, an incident that is unfolding before our eyes — at this very moment.
On June 8th, a Venezuelan cargo plane landed at Cordoba International airport in Argentina. 19 crew members were aboard,14 from Venezuela and five from Iran.
The decal on the plane, a Boeing 747, reads Emtrasur Cargo. This plane used to be owned by Mahan Air, an Iranian airline. Venezuela bought it a year ago.
It is extremely unusual for a cargo plane to have any crew outside of the pilot and the co-pilot. This one had 19 crew members. In terms of aviation, that alone sets off bells and whistles.
The passports of all crew members were confiscated. As of this writing, one person cum crew member has been confirmed to be part of a terrorist organization, he was the pilot. He is a member of the Al Quds unit of the IRGC, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. The Al Quds unit is responsible for operating outside of Iran —- not just in Syria and Lebanon, around the world. This unit has now set their sights on South America.
South America is Al Quds’ new desired hub of operations.
According to the manifest, the plane was carrying automobile parts. Car parts can look very much like parts for weapons. Most probably, these parts were being flown over to repair planes and for Venezuelan oil rigs.
Venezuela, which has one of the world’s largest oil reserves, is under sanctions. Their pumps have fallen into total disrepair and the oil cannot be extracted. They need parts and they need oil. And they are secretly importing oil from Iran in violation of the sanctions against both their countries.
Grounding a plane is a serious move, it means that there is much more to the story. Something very big is happening.
This plane was grounded on June 8th and it is still grounded. In 2011 the United States designated the IRGC a terrorist group for their support of the Al Quds unit. The designation reads: “providing financial, material and technological support to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force”.
The Israeli Embassy in Argentina has gotten involved. The embassy posted a statement that reads:
"These events testify to the attempts by the Islamic Republic of Iran — through the IRGC and the Quds Force — to continue establishing and spreading its influence all over the world … This includes South America, with the goal of serving as a terror base for the entire continent."
Israel’s assessment was corroborated by Venezuelan political scientist Walter Molina Galdi who tweeted: "The Israeli Embassy in Argentina confirms that one of the [individuals aboard] the detained Conviasa plane is a member of the Quds force, a division of the IRGC, which are considered terrorists by the US."
The United States is also watching very closely.
The U.S. Ambassador to Argentina released his own statement: “We are following with great interest the judicial and law enforcement investigations into the crew and the plane and thank the investigative efforts of Argentine authorities to clear up the situation.”
Even Iranian news is reporting on the grounding of the Venezuelan plane. They know, as we know, that whatever is really going on — Iran is at the center.
Argentina is not immune to terrorist attacks. Argentinians still remembers two horrific acts of terror that shook the heart of Buenos Aires.
The first attack took place on March 17,1992 outside the Israeli embassy; 29 people were murdered in the blast and 242 more were injured.
Two years later, on July 18,1994, the AMIA Jewish Community Center was attacked. It was a suicide bombing with a van packed with explosives. The blast destroyed an entire city block. 85 people were murdered and 300 were injured.
In both cases, courts found that Iran was behind the terror.
Argentina has decided that they will not be a weigh station or transit point for terror.
It is possible that Argentina found out that these Al Quds members were going to set up operations in South America. Stopping Iran — or at least slowing them down, would be a very valuable step in fighting terror and its expansion in South America.
Iran and Venezuela are moving to blunt the sanctions imposed upon them and to organize responses. The presidents of Venezuela and Iran have just signed a 20 year mutual assistance agreement.
The final chapters of this story have not yet been written. Iran and Venezuela are committed to establishing a center of operations in South American. They will not give up. But each time we can put a chink in their terror chain, we have gained time and we have saved lives.
Good going, Argentina. We thank you.
And, hopefully, we will be learning more about this story through our headline news.
Micah Halpern is a political and foreign affairs commentator. He founded "The Micah Report" and hosts "Thinking Out Loud with Micah Halpern," a weekly TV program, and "My Chopp," a daily radio spot. Follow him on Twitter @MicahHalpern. Read Micah Halpern's Reports — More Here.