Here is an op-ed I recently wrote for The Majalla. After "new imperialism" has gone away, have we reached a "new hegemony" age?
When in the US, Ahmadinejad always wears the same sneering grin. He wore it when he said Osama bin Laden was hiding in Washington DC and when he claimed the Holocaust never existed. The US never liked this grin and is doing everything they can to wipe it off his face. The "Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act of 2012", which has passed in Washington before the new year, is an agreement between Washington that something must be done about Ahmadinejad's suspicious and increasing presence in the Western Hemisphere. It asserts a plan is to be conducted within 180 days after its passing. During that time, Washington is going to have to justify a lot of suspicions with even less facts.
Iran's relationship with Latin America is no conspiracy. Since 2006, pictures of Ahmadinejad shaking hands with anti-imperialistic leaders in the region have been piquing Western intrigue. Venezuelan president Chavez and Ahmadinejad, both presidents of major oil producers, have made it an imperative venture to defend the sovereignty of their oil supply and pricing to the US. Both countries made $5 billion investments in lucrative industrial projects, such as cement factories and dairy production facilities. Chavez helped strengthen Ecuador-Iran relations. Cuba, Nicaragua, and Argentina are benefiting from Iran's ventures, as well. Iran's relationship with Latin America is industrial, academic, militaristic, and ideological.
The 'Western Hemisphere Act' however, sees this economic relationship as a front for Iranian terrorism. It was introduced to the House three months after two men with Iranian passports attempted to hire a Mexican drug trafficker to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the US. FBI Acting Assistant Director Mary Galligan told NBC News, "Mr. Arbabsiar’s (the Mexican trafficker) plea today confirms what our investigation had already uncovered: that he plotted to murder the Saudi Ambassador with members of Iran’s elite Quds Force." The Quds Force is a unit of Iran's Revolutionary Guard. After they fought the Iran-Iraq war, they "exported" Iran's Islamic Revolution to other parts of the Middle East by using disenfranchised groups, such as the Kurds and Syrian rebels, to fight secular leaders as proxies. They have been known to operate in Venezuela before the incident.
The ideology behind the Quds Force never seemed to target the US, but link them with the Hezbollah, the US's number one threat save al-Qaeda, and there you have an enemy: according to the Act, the US Department of Defense believes the Quds Force financed the Hezbollah, who financed and trained the Argentinian Shiites as proxies in the 1994 bombing of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association. Is Washington playing telephone with themselves here or connecting the dots with ones they drew?
One dot they have to connect these suspicions together has to do with the Lebanese diaspora (which the Act calls the “Shia diaspora” to emphasize some emigrants were of the same sect as the Hezbollah).The Act is referring to the large influx of Lebanese Shiite immigrants who fled to the West, namely to Argentina and Venezuela since the eighteenth century with Shiite émigrés magnifying in numbers after the Lebanese Civil War. The Shiites have kept trade relations with Lebanon, however. Washington is suspicious these 'socioeconomic ties’ turned aggressively political and created Hezbollah fighting machines.
The 1994 bombing was Argentina's deadliest and resembled the Hezbollah "mega-bomb" style of bombing seen when they crumbled the Azrieli Towers in Tel Aviv. Senate and House members say Iran's 17 cultural centers and 11 embassies built in Latin America are fronts to recruit, train, and fundraise plots like these and Arbabsiar’s towards the US.
When it comes to national security, there is nothing more psychologically damaging than a hindsight bias. A hindsight bias is characterized by a “knew-it-all-along” feeling after a major event occurred and then a distorting of the facts known at the time to make them add up to the event. With the threat of terrorism being something relatively new and something the US recognizes they funded and helped create (e.i. weapons for the muhajadeen during the Afghan-Civil War and multiple military interventions), the US has been pinching their arms about clues they should have seen before everything hit the fan and al-Qaeda used their own weapons against them. Let's not forget the embarrassing tale of double agent Ali Mohamed who trained al-Qaeda recruits in US mosques and community centers, meanwhile working with the US Special Forces. He was actually banned from the CIA for telling a mosque believed to be fronted by the Hezbollah in Germany that he was an American spy assigned to 'infiltrate the community'. It is this kind of clue the US is trying to see and stop before they are the ones who suffer the damage again of their own myopia. However, many of these “clues” presented in the Act are just vapid links that the US doesn’t want to look back at and pinch their arm about again.
Obama has requested "an outline of the steps his Administration has undertaken to counter Iranian influence in the Western Hemisphere." Chavez, who believed the US led his failed coup in 2002, feels that one day his country will be militarily targeted by the US. He warns against a US invasion of Iran and says he would stand by his allies. To “counter” terrorism, the US needs to rectify its seeds through their strategies. Hegemony was one of these seeds they planted, so they must remember a military intervention will only whip the beast they seek to destroy- even if Ahmadinejad continues to wear that grin of his.