Millions of potential Muslim terror recruits living in Latin America: Israelis
May 19th 2012 · 11 Comments
While not widely known by Americans, there are millions of Arabs and Muslims living in Latin America, the majority of them Sunnis — with a Lebanese Shi’ite minority – who are the principle objective of Iran’s propaganda activities, according to a report by an Israeli terrorism think-tank.
According to the Israeli-based Meir Amit Information Center, there are two main communities in Latin American countries: one group’s roots are in India, Indonesia and Pakistan, while the other is mainly Arabs from Syria and Lebanon, descendents of immigrants who moved to Latin America in the 19th and 20th centuries. It’s these groups that are “targeted” for recruitment by Iranian intelligence officers and their partners in the terrorist organization Hezbollah.
“While the percentages of the Arab-Muslim populations in each country are not statistically significant, their socio-economic status is relatively high,” Meir Amit analysts say.
The two largest Arab-Muslim communities in Latin America are in Brazil and Argentina. There are about a million to a million and a half Muslims in Brazil, including about 10,000 Brazilians to converted to Islam (less than 1% of the entire population).
At the same time, about 700,000 followers of Islam live in Argentina (about 2% of the population), most of them descendents of immigrants from Syria and Lebanon. Large concentrations of Muslims can also be found in Chile, Paraguay, Peru, Venezuela, Mexico and the Caribbean Islands, the Israeli group’s report claims.
Unfortunately, Latin American police forces and intelligence agencies lack the sophistication and training to deal with the radical Islamists in their midst. Most of the countries experiencing Iran’s activities are busy fighting drug cartels and organized crime gangs. There are also Marxist rebels still operating — with varying degrees — in several Latin countries.
The spread of Muslims throughout Latin America, especially Shi’ite Muslims originating in Lebanon, are a convenient environment for Iran and Hezbollah to establish subversive, terrorist and occasionally criminal networks. Iran also conducts extensive ideological, religious, cultural and social activities within the Muslim communities to disseminate Khomeini’s radical Shi’ite Islam.
Iran’s intensive efforts to export the Islamic Revolution to Latin America take many forms: financing the construction of mosques and cultural and religious centers; translating books and ideological and religious material into Spanish and distributing them throughout Latin America; providing local residents with religious-political training in Iran, who then return to their own countries imbued with radical Islam and anti-American, anti-Israeli ideology; sending Iranian clerics to preach and spread Khomeini’s ideology in Latin America; and establishing a Spanish TV station, HispanTV, that broadcasts 24/7. The sophisticated TV station began broadcasting on February 1, 2012.
In addition, the Iranian activists provide assistance in establishing Spanish-language Internet sites similar to those utilized by Middle Eastern terrorists.
In the overall Iranian view, Latin America is a secondary arena. Its principle venues for widespread subversion and terrorism remain Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, the Palestinian territories, Central and Southeast Asia, the Persian Gulf and Sudan.
Nevertheless, Iran and Hezbollah find Latin America attractive for purposes of terrorism, subversion and crime. As elsewhere, in Latin America their activities are led by the Quds Force in collaboration with various other bodies and entities within the Iranian regime.
Iranian activity in Latin America, as in other arenas, combines exporting the Islamic Revolution with terrorism and crime, worries Washington and is often represented as a threat – or at least a potential threat – to American interests. However, specialists, officials in the administration and members Congressmen who monitor Iranian and Hezbollah activity in Latin America sometimes differ as to how serious they think the threat and its significance are, according to the analysts.
“Latin American experts in the United States, however, give greater importance to the threats to American interests, including the threat of terrorism, resulting from Iran and Hezbollah’s extensive activities in Latin America. One of them is Roger F. Noriega, who testified many times before Congressional committees. He is familiar with Latin American affairs: between 2003 and 2005 he was the American ambassador to the Organization of American States and today is a fellow of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and one of a team of experts monitoring Iranian activity in Latin America,” the Israeli think-tank stated.
A version of this column originally appeared in island-adv.com.
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By Jim Kouri