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Since the Iranian regime toppled the Shah in 1979, their goal has been to export the Islamic revolution. The regime views Latin America as an easy target through which to spread anti-American propaganda and flex Iranian influence. In addition to a missionary network that includes media outlets, educational institutions and mosques, Iran has also worked to strengthen its ties with Venezuela, possibly even providing Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro with long-range missiles capable of reaching the US.
There is now an “air bridge” between Iran and Venezuela, an inconspicuous way to transport senior regime members, intelligence officials and weapons between the two countries under the guise of a passenger or cargo route. In May, a Boeing 747 cargo plane landed in Ciudad del Este, Paraguay, with no cargo but only the 18-member crew–consisting of seven Iranians and 11 Venezuelans–including a board member of the U.S.-sanctioned Iranian airline Fars Air Qeshm, and a senior member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Many of these flights coincide with a spike in Iranian activity in Latin America, including in similar-minded countries like Cuba and Nicaragua.
What is the IRGC – which is supposed to be under international sanctions – doing on our doorstep in Latin America? Where is the Biden Administration in tackling this looming threat? Here to discuss this will be Emanuele Ottolenghi.
About our Speaker: Dr. Emanuele Ottolenghi is a senior fellow at FDD and an expert at FDD’s Center on Economic and Financial Power (CEFP) focused on Hezbollah’s Latin America illicit threat networks and Iran’s history of sanctions evasion. His research has examined Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, including its links to the country’s energy sector and procurement networks. His areas of expertise also include the EU’s Middle East policymaking, transatlantic relations, the Arab-Israeli conflict, and Israel’s domestic politics. Prior to joining FDD, Emanuele headed the Transatlantic Institute in Brussels and taught Israel Studies at St. Antony’s College, Oxford University.
He is author of The Pasdaran: Inside Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Iran: The Looming Crisis, and Under a Mushroom Cloud: Europe, Iran and the Bomb. Emanuele blogs at The Hill. His columns have also appeared in leading outlets including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and London’s The Sunday Times. He obtained his PhD in political theory at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, preceded by undergraduate studies in political science at the University of Bologna.