Iran has developed a terrorist infrastructure in the Western Hemisphere to target local Jews and gain the capability of attacking the United States, according to Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon.
Yaalon warned that Tehran, which works closely with the Lebanese Shiite jihadist group Hezbollah, uses diplomatic cover to conceal its efforts to foment terror in Latin America, the Times of Israel reported.
“The Iranians use diplomatic mail [pouches] in order to transport bombs and weapons, and we know that there are states in South America, like Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Bolivia, where the Iranian have terror bases, both in the embassies and among the local Shiite Muslim populations,” Yaalon said.
“They built this infrastructure for the eventuality that they will have to act against Jews, Israelis or Israeli interests, but it is important to them as an infrastructure that enables them to act within the United States,” he added during a meeting on Monday with visiting Guatemalan President Otto Fernando Perez Molina.
Yaalon pointed to the foiled Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington. In June, a federal judge sentenced Manssour Arbabsiar, 58, an Iranian American who pleaded guilty to participating in the scheme, to 25 years imprisonment, according to the Times of Israel.
Prosecutors said Arbabsiar tried to recruit someone he thought was a Mexican drug cartel operative to bomb a Washington restaurant frequented by Saudi Ambassador Adel Al-Jubeir.
But the supposed cartel member was actually an undercover federal agent, and Arbabsiar was arrested in September 2011. He admitted to conspiring with members of the Iranian military in putting the assassination plot together, according to CNN.
In August, the Washington Post reported that U.S. and Latin American intelligence officials said that Tehran sought to recruit Latin Americans for espionage operations targeting U.S. computer systems.
In May, a report by an Argentinean prosecutor said Iran was using cultural and religious programs as a cover for gaining the ability to provide support for “terrorist attacks decided by the Islamic regime.”
The report highlighted the work of Mohsen Rabbani, an Iranian cleric and government official who runs programs for Latin American students in Iran, according to the Post.
Rabbani, who helped start Iran’s largest Spanish-language website, was accused by Argentina of aiding the July 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people.