Congressional sources reported to The Washington Free Beacon that Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif is touring Latin American countries that are known for being antagonistic toward the United States, such as Cuba, Venezuela and other countries that are believed to be providing shelter to Hezbollah and other terror groups.
One senior congressional source told the Free Beacon that Iran aims to recruit "potential terrorists who want to cause the U.S. harm."
Terror ties in Latin America could provide access to the U.S., the source said. The potential terrorists "can travel easily to Venezuela, and once there, they can get to Nicaragua or Cuba without passports or visas, which poses a national security risk for our nation," a source told the Free Beacon.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen released a statement about Zarif's tour, saying, "The threat to U.S. national security interests and our allies should be setting off alarm bells."
The Florida Republican urged the White House to take action. "The Obama administration has failed to prevent Russia and China from expanding in our hemisphere, and now Iran is once again stepping up its efforts to gain a greater presence to carry out its nefarious activities," she said.
According to Ros-Lehtinen, the foreign minister's visit is a warning to the U.S. "The timing of Zarif's trip is significant, as Iran could use many of these rogue regimes to circumvent remaining sanctions, undermine U.S. interests, and expand the drug trafficking network that helps finance its illicit activities," she said.
Zarif spoke in Havana, Cuba and said that Iran is determined to strengthen its presence in Latin America, according to the FARS News Agency.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran has age-old and strong relations with the American continent and the Latin American countries," Zarif said, and pointed out 60 Iranian businessmen and private sector leaders that accompanied him. "This composition shows the importance that private and government sectors of the Islamic Republic of Iran attach to broadening of relations with Latin America."
Senior Iran analyst for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies Behnam Ben Taleblu said that Zarif focused on promoting "an anti-American and anti-capitalist world order."
He said that Zarif emphasized opposition to the United States. "The Iranian foreign minister harped on themes of steadfastness and resistance to American legal and economic pressure," Taleblu said.
According to Zarif, Iran and Cuba are linked because of their resistance to "U.S. atrocities."
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