It would seem there’s a great power vacancy in Latin America and now, several powers are looking to muscle their way in. This represents a growing national security threat to the United States.
China hawks have long been concerned with Chinese involvement in Central and South America. Whether’s its economic aid, gaining potential control over the Panama Canal, or reaching out to diaspora communities, the Chinese are active in our backyard.
Recently, the Russia’s made a big, though largely meaningless show of force sending its naval forces (better at eliciting laughs than fear) to Venezuela. Russia was also apparently considering a nuclear deal with Venezuela. There was also some talk of stationing bombers in Cuba.
Now, it would seem lesser powers are moving in as well.
The government of Iran is following the lead of new ally Venezuela by taking its anti-American message to Bolivia, an impoverished but strategically positioned country in the heart of South America.
A nemesis to U.S. interests in the Middle East for 30 years, Iran is now pouring millions of dollars of aid into Bolivia — including construction of a milk factory in Achacachi. Its real motive, however, is joining Bolivia and Venezuela to counter U.S. interests in Latin America, analysts said. ”Is Iran in Bolivia a nuisance to the United States? Of course it is,” said Abbas Milani, the co-director of the Iran Democracy Project at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. “Iran will try to shore up support for Bolivia’s president and help the anti-American message of its regime. And being in Bolivia will give Iran more pawns to play in its dealings with the Europeans and the United States.”
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, a constant U.S. critic, brought Iran and Bolivia together, even though the two countries have little in common but natural gas, large stretches of desert and official antipathy toward the United States. His government flew Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to visit Bolivian President Evo Morales in September 2007. Morales traveled to Iran a year later.Chávez has organized Ecuador, Nicaragua, Bolivia and Cuba into a trade and political alliance that regularly lambastes capitalism and U.S. influence in Latin America.
While this seems to be the equivalent of moving a pawn, it could potentially be a growing threat if it continues. Low energy prices, however, may limit Iran’s involvement. South America watchers will want to play close attention to continued Iranian involvement there (as Hezbollah already operates in the Triborder region) and pay attention to Nicaragua.