Madam Secretary

Clinton concerned about Iran and China in Latin America

  Secretary Clinton said on May 1 that Iran and China have made “quite disturbing” gains in Latin America. She asserted that while the Bush administration worked to isolate countries such as Cuba and Venezuela, Iran and China were hard at work cultivating “very strong economic and political connections.” Defending the Obama administration’s strategy of ...

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Secretary Clinton said on May 1 that Iran and China have made “quite disturbing” gains in Latin America. She asserted that while the Bush administration worked to isolate countries such as Cuba and Venezuela, Iran and China were hard at work cultivating “very strong economic and political connections.”

Defending the Obama administration’s strategy of reaching out to Cuba and Venezuela, Clinton warned, “I don’t think in today’s world — where it’s a multipolar world, where we are competing for attention and relationships with at least the Russians, the Chinese, the Iranians — that it’s in our interest to turn our backs on countries in our own hemisphere.”

Is it believed that since the 1990s, Iranian-backed Hezbollah has had a base of operations and intelligence gathering in Venezuela. As for other Iranian activity in the Western Hemisphere, Clinton said (referring to the Nicaraguan capital), “The Iranians are building a huge embassy in Managua, and you can only imagine what it’s for.”

Clinton’s negative remarks about Iran come at the same time that the Obama administration is trying to engage more with the country, an expert on Latin American politics told the Chicago Tribune. Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki definitely had a strong reaction. On TV this weekend, he said, “Clinton’s statements are in direct contradiction with those of the U.S. president.” He added, “At a time when even Obama admits that decades of U.S. interference and gunboat diplomacy in South America have led to so many unresolved issues, it does not make sense for Clinton to drag Iran into regional disputes.”

Meanwhile, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is scheduled to visit Venezuela, Brazil, and Ecuador later this week. Might it no longer be in the United States’ interest to turn its back on Venezuela and Cuba?

Photo: BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images

Preeti Aroon was copy chief at Foreign Policy from 2009 to 2016 and was an FP assistant editor from 2007 to 2009. @pjaroonFP

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