Remember when Ronald Reagan warned more than 20 years ago that Soviet- and Cuban-backed revolutionaries were just “two days’ driving time from Harlingen, Texas?” Well, the folks at Commentary, now under the editorship of John Podhoretz, are busy raising a similar specter, only it’s Iran this time.
Check out this week’s post by the incredibly prolific Gordon Chang entitled “Iran in Latin America,” in the magazine’s online blog, ‘Contentions,’ in which he recounts the various strategic inroads by Tehran among Washington’s Latin neighbors, particularly in the Andes and, most recently, Nicaragua, whose president, Reagan (and Elliott Abrams) nemesis Daniel Ortega, hosted the director of Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), Ezzatollah Zarghami, just last Sunday! According to one of Chang’s sources, Bill Samii, currently with the Center for Naval Analyses, “Iran is trying to create a geopolitical balance with the United States,” presumably by forging ties with friendly states in what used to be called America’s “soft underbelly” or “backyard.” As additional evidence of Iranian penetration, Chang cites a recent feature article from Nicaragua’s Atlantic Coast that ran in the Hearst newspapers. Among other things, it suggests — with the help of a former senior FBI official — that Iran’s embassy in Managua could become a base for terrorist operations against the U.S. In fairness, the article also quoted Peter Rodman, Rumsfeld’s assistant secretary for international security affairs as pooh-poohing such a scenario.)
“There is nothing left to the Monroe Doctrine.,” lamented Chang, suggesting that the Bush administration is “abandon[ing] Latin America to Iran and that country’s terrorist allies…” To meet the threat, however, Chang was somewhat restrained in his policy advice, calling for the quick ratification of the various free-trade agreements with Latin American countries (currently Panama and Colombia) that are now languishing in Congress.
Not so, another ‘Contentions’ contributor, David Hazony, who suggested that stronger measures were necessary to deal with Iran’s inroads in the hemisphere in a follow-up post titled “Cold War II.” “Iran is replicating the Soviet Union’s efforts to build global power and confront the United States on multiple fronts,” he wrote.
“…[T]herefore the proper response by the West is, as with the cold war. to confront and rollback Iran at every turn. Nor is it reasonable to respond that Iran is much smaller and weaker than was the USSR, and therefore should not be taken so seriously; It is through these methods that Iran becomes stronger and more powerful over time. The proper response to determined, implacable enemies (no matter how unpopular this may sound during election season) is to defeat them, especially when they are relatively weak, rather than waiting for them to become intolerably menacing.”
None of this particularly new; Frank Gaffney has been warning about the Ahmadinejad-Chavez-Ortega axis in apocalyptic terms since before the Sandinista leader reclaimed the Nicaraguan presidency last year. But, nonetheless, the neo-conservative compulsion to see in the visit of an Iranian broadcasting executive to one of the hemisphere’s poorest nations (and made much poorer as a result of Abrams’ efforts 20 years ago) a harbinger of an existential threat on a par with the Soviet Union is truly a sight to behold.