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The Iran, Hezbollah, Venezuela Axis

Friday, March 22nd, 2013

Iran laundering billions through Venezuela, former senior official says

BY: Adam Kredo

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Nicolas Maduro / AP

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Nicolas Maduro / AP

Iran has illegally laundered billions of dollars through the Venezuelan financial sector and is currently stashing “hundreds of millions” of dollars in “virtually every Venezuelan bank today,” according to a former senior State Department official.

“It’s a huge blind spot in those trying to implement sanctions” on Iran, Roger Noriega, a former United States ambassador and assistant secretary of state for western hemisphere affairs, told the Washington Free Beacon.

Venezuela served as Iran’s closest Western ally under the late President Hugo Chavez, who allowed the rogue regime to establish a military and financial presence at the highest levels of the Venezuelan government.

Iran’s foothold in the country is expected to grow exponentially under the rule of Chavez’s likely successor, Vice President Nicolas Maduro.

Noriega and other experts warned House lawmakers at a Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Wednesday that Iran’s terrorist proxy Hezbollah is gaining power in Venezuela.

Hezbollah, which carries out terrorist attacks on Iran’s behalf, has helped Tehran access Venezuela’s sophisticated financial sector, experts said.

“It’s easy to say billions have been laundered through various Iranian enterprises and institutions through the Venezuelan economy,” Noriega told the Free Beacon in an interview Thursday. “The Iranians have seized on this as a way to evade sanctions.”

Hezbollah has not only infiltrated Venezuela’s governmental bodies. The organization has also established terrorist training facilities on the country’s Margarita Island, according to Noriega.

Hezbollah has been able to form from this Caribbean haven “a marriage of convenience” with various narcotics traffickers and drug gangs that bring the terrorist “threat to our doorstep,” Noriega told lawmakers Wednesday.

The Mexican drug lord Joaquin Guzman, ringleader of the deadly Sinaloa Cartel, is known to have spent time on Margarita Island where he likely established ties with Hezbollah, according to Noriega.

“Our [belief] is that the brokered a relationship, a collaboration between Hezbollah and that narco group,” said Noriega, who also served as the U.S. ambassador to the Organization of American states from 2001 to 2003.

Hezbollah has been able to profit from its partnerships with drug traffickers and smugglers, money that likely goes to fund its terrorist operations across the globe.

Lawmakers and experts believe the U.S. government has failed to properly combat Hezbollah’s Latin American activities or even take the issue seriously.

“We have to do more and we have to do it quicker,” said Rep. Brad Sherman (D., Calif.), explaining that economic sanctions and other measures have failed to stymie Iran’s illicit behavior.

“The presence of Hezbollah in the region could serve as an important part of Iran’s [ability] to retaliate for [Western] efforts to curtail its nuclear program,” Sherman said.

The State Department, however, has mostly ignored the issue, Noriega said.

“They pass off statements of concerns,” he said. “That’s the best they’re able to do.”

Senior U.S. officials “minimize discussion of this problem and it has to change,” Noriega added. “At this point it’s bordering on criminal negligence.”

Hezbollah’s presence in the country is likely to grow as Venezuela determines Chavez’s successor, according to Noriega.

The terror group is likely “to emerge with potentially more powerful roles [in the Venezuelan government] because of their relationships with Maduro,” said Noriega. “This could go from bad to worse. If anything, they’ll have greater access at the highest levels.”

The only way for the U.S. to effectively combat this threat is to take action against the narcotics traffickers tied to Hezbollah.

U.S. authorities must investigate the money laundering activities, capture operatives as they travel across the region, and seize various bank assets associated with these groups, Noriega said.

“You track their involvements and do your best to intercept these people,” he said.

But “it all starts with an acknowledgement of the problem,” Noriega added. “It’s very frustrating, the State Department’s ostrich-like response.”

‘Lost control:’ Iran’s Ahmadinejad under fire from conservative critics for picture of him consoling Hugo Chavez’s mothe

Monday, March 11th, 2013

National Post Staff and Associated Press | 13/03/11 | Last Updated: 13/03/11 10:50 AM ET

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad finds himself in yet another controversy after pictures — both real and doctored — showed him comforting family members of the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.

One photograph, which showed Ahmadinejad embracing Chazez’s grieving mother at Friday’s funeral, set off a firestorm back in Iran.

The image shows Ahmadinejad holding the hands of Elena Frias de Chavez, 78, and their faces appear to be touching. Muslim men are traditionally not allowed to touch women who are not family members.

Religious conservative critics complained that Ahmadinejad behaved inappropriately for the president of an Islamic state and committed a “haram” — a term used to describe a forbidden act under Islam.

Mohammad Taghi Rahbar, the Friday prayer leader of Iran’s second city, Isfahan, said Ahmadinejad had “lost control”.

“Shaking hands with a non-mahram [unrelated by family] woman, under any circumstances, whether young or old, is not allowed. Hugging or expressing emotions is improper for the dignity of the president of a country like the Islamic Republic of Iran,” he told the Mehr news agency.

Iranian government officials responded that the image was faked and a second photo was released that showed Ahmadinejad in the same pose hugging a man. However, that image was quickly debunked as being badly Photoshopped — the other man in the picture was actually Egyptian opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei.

Meanwhile, Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles on Sunday launched what many consider a doomed candidacy to replace Hugo Chavez with a no-holds-barred attack against a government he accused of coldly betraying Venezuelans’ trust.

Chavez’s political heirs have toyed with Venezuelans’ hopes, lying to them about his deteriorating health by suggesting he could recover and even producing decrees he supposedly signed, said Capriles, whom Chavez defeated by a 12-point margin in October.

He did not make direct reference to the decision to embalm Chavez and put him on permanent display, but he said: “You are playing politics with the president’s body.”

Capriles accused the socialist government that Chavez left behind after 14 years in power of meticulously planning a campaign to assure the election of Nicolas Maduro, Chavez’s desired successor.

“Who knows when President Chavez (really) died,” he asked. The government says Chavez succumbed to cancer on Tuesday after a nearly two-year battle. It has offered almost no clinical information.

Capriles also called Defense Minister Diego Molero a “disgrace” for publicly backing Maduro. The constitution forbids the military from taking political sides.

“Don’t fool yourselves that you’re the good and we’re the bad,” Capriles said in a 45-minute speech at his eastern Caracas campaign headquarters. “No, you’re no better than us. I don’t play with death. I don’t play with pain.”

AFP/Getty Images

AFP/Getty ImagesIranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, centre, waves alongside Venezuelan Minister of Foreign Affairs Elias Jaua, centre-right, outside of the funeral of the late President Hugo Chavez in Caracas Friday.

A picture of Chavez behind him, Maduro appeared almost immediately afterward on state TV, accusing “the losing, miserable candidate” of defaming Chavez and his family.

He called Capriles a “fascist” trying to provoke violence by insulting the “crystalline, pure image of Commander Chavez.”

“You have made the biggest mistake of your life,” Maduro said. He said that if Chavez’s family seeks legal action “don’t say afterward that you are being politically persecuted.”

Capriles, a state governor, acknowledged facing long odds against a candidate who wields vast public resources and a state media machine – and has the backing of the country’s electoral council.

“As one person said today, `Capriles, they are taking you to a slaughterhouse. Are you going to be lowered into its meat grinder?’” he said.

Capriles said, however, that he felt he had no other choice.

“How am I not going to fight?” he said. “How are we not going to fight? This is not Capriles’ fight. This is everybody’s fight.”

In some upper-class districts of the capital, people launched fireworks, shouted and honked horns as Capriles announced he would run. Political analysts wondered where the Capriles they witnessed on Sunday had been during last year’s campaign.

Capriles laid out potential major themes for his campaign, bemoaning violent crime, persistent poverty and a troubled economy that led the government to devalue the currency last month by more than 30 percent.

The electoral council has set the vote for April 14. Formal campaigning begins just 12 days earlier.

Unlike Capriles, Maduro made repeated references to the possibility of violence in the superheated, abbreviated campaign ahead.

Yet he also called for calm.

“We have to continue to rise above every provocation with peace, peace, peace and peace,” Maduro said. “Respect, respect, respect.”

Presidencia handout/AFP/Getty Images

Presidencia handout/AFP/Getty ImagesA woman pays tribute to the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, at the Military Academy chapel on March 7, 2013 in Caracas.

Opposition critics say Maduro’s swearing-in Friday as acting president was unconstitutional. The charter designates the National Assembly interim head of state if a president-elect cannot be sworn in.

Capriles decided to run fully aware that a second presidential defeat could end his political career.

Political consultant Oswaldo Ramirez, who is advising the Capriles campaign, said the candidate must strike a balance between criticizing the failures of Chavez’s government and Maduro’s role in it, without being seen as attacking the late president.

“He can’t speak badly of Chavez, because this feeling on the street is still in full bloom,” Ramirez said.

Public opinion was as divided as always Sunday in a country that became dramatically more polarized during Chavez’s 14-year rule.

“It’s not fair,” said Jose Mendez, a 54-year-old businessman of the choice the opposition leader faces. “(Maduro) has an advantage, because of everything they have done since Chavez’s death, all the sentiment they’ve created … But the guy has nothing. He can’t hold a candle to Chavez.”

But Ramon Romero said the opposition was just making excuses, and had no chance of victory in any case.

“Now their odds are even worse,” said the 64-year-old waiter and staunch Chavez supporter. “They don’t care about anyone, and we (the voters) have been lifted out of darkness.”

Bitter-‘sweet embrace’: Ahmadinejad slated for hugging Chavez’s relative

Sunday, March 10th, 2013

Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad offering his condolences to Hugo Chavez’s mother Elena Frias, during the funeral of late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in Caracas. (AFP)

Sunday, 10 March 2013


Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is under the spotlight once again for another controversial move.

But this move is much “softer” than nuclear war games or the occasional lashing out at Israel or America.

This time, it’s a hug.

Ahmadinejad came under heavy criticism after a picture on Friday showed him embracing a woman at the funeral of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, according to the website of the Iranian parliament reported.

While the identity of the woman who received Ahmadinejad’s apparent act of sympathy was at first unclear, the woman appeared to be Chavez’s mother Elena Frias, according to AFP news agency.

Most of those who criticized the embrace are Iranian conservatives who staunchly supported the president during the Iranian presidential elections held in June 2008.

Iranian MP Mohammed Dehghan said, in an implicit reference to Ahmadinejad, that such an act by a prominent executive official opposes the behavior of a Muslim who is constrained by religious commitments.

Dehghan also criticized the “perverted group” – a term used by Supreme Leader of Iran Ali Khamenei’s supporters to describe the circle close to Ahmadinejad – warning of the wide spread of this group in Iran.


He also called on religious scholars to seriously confront Ahmadinejad’s “un-Islamic” acts.

Former MP Hojatoleslam Mohammed Taghi Rahbar, who supported Ahmadinjed during the previous presidential elections, said the president lost control over the situation during the funeral of Chavez.

The Iranian president has previously sparked the conservatives’ outrage after he announced a national day of mourning following the death of Chavez. The move was described as “an illegal precedent.”

Prominent Shiite religious figures have called on Ahmadinejad to be better knowledgeable on his religion. They have also called on him to avoid making statements relevant to religion during the rest of his presidential term, which ends in August, to prevent stirring domestic tensions.

In his eulogy of Chavez, Ahmadinejad said the former “will come again along with Jesus Christ and Al-Imam al-Mahdi to redeem mankind.”

The statement sparked further criticism as some Iranian clerics accused Ahmadinejad of committing a sin by saying that “Chavez’s soul will return and that he will come again after the appearance of the (Hidden) Imam.”

Video: Chavez urged Shiites’ 12th Imam to ‘come SOONER’

Saturday, March 9th, 2013

Venezuelan president called on Muslim Mahdi, Jesus to ‘rush’ their return




Late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who died of cancer this week, urged the Shiite Muslims’ 12th Imam, Mahdi, to return to Earth sooner than prophesied, as revealed in a video released by Rajanews, a media outlet of Iran’s ruling Islamic regime.

Shiites believe Mahdi, the last Islamic messiah, will only come back to Earth after a great conflagration engulfs the Middle East, setting the stage for global Armageddon. When Mahdi returns, Shiites believe, Jesus Christ will be at his side. Chavez was a Catholic.

Rajanews praised Chavez as a serious world leader who supported the Palestinian cause despite the absence of some Arab leaders. Chavez said in the video that global enmity “is located in Gaza” and that the fight for Gaza and the Palestinian cause “is beneficial for Venezuela, too.”

Chavez, in a meeting with Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian National Authority, talked of his belief in the Coming of Mahdi, according to the video, and said, “The ultimate war of them all is the war in Gaza.”

In the video, which is not dated, but appears to have been captured during a signing of agreements at the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, Nov. 27, 2009, Chavez told his audience “Quds (Jerusalem) is a holy place for all of us Christians. I spoke with (Iranian President Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad about the day that Islam’s Quran says both (Mahdi and Christ) will return. Jesus, holding hands with the 12th Imam, Mahdi. … Then peace will come upon the world. I tell Christ and Mahdi to come sooner, rush now, come sooner … because we witness the threats posed to the world, my God!”

Chavez served as president of Venezuela from 1999 until his death on March 5. He was diagnosed with cancer, undergoing surgery and chemotherapy in Cuba in 2011 and another operation in 2012. Although he had hoped to have recovered from his illness, he announced in December that he needed further cancer surgery in Cuba.

Iranian media on Thursday blamed the United States for Chavez’s death as part of a plot to kill off several Latin American leaders, who also have been stricken with cancer.

Ahmadinejad, who attended Chavez’s memorial service in Caracas Friday, implied in a letter of condolence to the interim president of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, that Chavez would return alongside of Jesus.

“I have no doubt that he will return alongside all the righteous and Jesus,” Ahmadinejad wrote, “and the only remainder of the righteous generation, the complete human being, will come and help the nations with the establishment of peace, complete justice, kindness and evolvement.”

Sources in Iran report many Iranians celebrated Chavez’s death and were hopeful, with him gone and with Syrian President Bashar Assad on the verge of collapse, the clerical regime in Iran could be next.

Reza Kahlili is a pseudonym for a former CIA operative in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and author of the award-winning book “A Time to Betray” (Simon & Schuster, 2010). He serves on the Task Force on National and Homeland Security and the advisory board of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran (FDI).

Leaders from Cuba to Iran honor Chavez at funeral

Friday, March 8th, 2013
A supporter of Venezuela's late President Hugo Chavez kisses a portrait of him as she waits for a chance to view his body lying in state, at the military academy in Caracas March 8, 2013. Chavez will be embalmed and put on display 'for eternity' at a military museum after a state funeral and an extended period of lying in state, acting President Nicolas Maduro said on Thursday. REUTERS-Carlos Garcia Rawlins

1 of 15. A supporter of Venezuela’s late President Hugo Chavez kisses a portrait of him as she waits for a chance to view his body lying in state, at the military academy in Caracas March 8, 2013. Chavez will be embalmed and put on display ”for eternity” at a military museum after a state funeral and an extended period of lying in state, acting President Nicolas Maduro said on Thursday. Credit: Reuters/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

By Daniel Wallis and Mario Naranjo

CARACAS | Fri Mar 8, 2013 1:32pm EST

(Reuters) – Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Cuba’s Raul Castro joined about 30 other heads of state at Friday’s funeral for Hugo Chavez in an emotional farewell to the charismatic but divisive Venezuelan leader who changed the face of politics in South America.

Chavez died this week aged 58 after a two-year battle with cancer, devastating millions of mostly poor supporters who loved him for putting the country’s vast oil wealth at their service, but giving hope to foes who saw him as a dictator.

A frequent visitor to Caracas and fellow “anti-imperialist,” Ahmadinejad received a standing ovation as he took his place in a guard of honor by Chavez’s coffin, then broke protocol to touch the casket and clench his fist in a revolutionary salute.

“It’s as if the world has come together around Hugo Chavez,” said Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua.

“His voice and his thoughts reached far beyond our shores.”

Chavez’s preferred successor and acting president, Nicolas Maduro, laid a replica of the sword of 19th century independence leader Simon Bolivar on top of the coffin, which was draped in the country’s red, yellow and blue flag.

A singer in a cowboy hat serenaded the mourners with music from Chavez’s birthplace in Venezuela’s “llanos” plains.

The late president’s body is to be embalmed and shown “for eternity” – similar to how Communist leaders Lenin, Stalin and Mao were treated after their deaths.

His remains will lie in state for an extra seven days to accommodate the millions of Venezuelans who still want to pay their last respects to a man who will be remembered as one of the world’s most colorful and controversial populist leaders.

Huge crowds of “Chavistas” gathered from before dawn for the ceremony at a military academy where his body was lying in state. Many were dressed in the red of the ruling Socialist Party, carrying his picture and waving Venezuelan flags.

“I asked God to grant him life, not me,” said Leonida Munoz, 73, wearing a T-shirt bearing the image of Chavez’s eyes. “He deserves to live more than I do.”

She said she had been waiting more than 26 hours to view the Chavez’s coffin. More than 2 million people have filed past the casket since Wednesday, many sobbing, some saluting, and others crossing themselves.

In Caracas were most of Chavez’s highest-profile Latin American friends, such as Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa and Brazil’s former leader, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

“Most importantly, he left undefeated,” Castro said, referring to Chavez’s four presidential election wins, among a string of other ballot victories in his 14-year rule.

“He was invincible. He left victorious and no one can take that away. It is fixed in history.”

Celebrity mourners included U.S. civil rights leader Reverend Jesse Jackson, Sr., who led a prayer at the service, Oscar-winning U.S. actor and director Sean Penn, and renowned conductor Gustavo Dudamel.

Dudamel, who heads Venezuela’s Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, led musicians at the funeral playing classical numbers including the national anthem.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and Ahmadinejad were among the more controversial figures. Ahmadinejad has caused a storm back home for saying Chavez would be resurrected alongside Jesus Christ and a “hidden” imam who Shi’ite Muslims believe will rise up to bring world peace.

The United States was not sending senior officials.

Former U.S. Representative William Delahunt and U.S. Representative Gregory Meeks were attending, amid speculation of a possible post-Chavez rapprochement between the two ideologically opposed governments.


A government source said Chavez slipped into a coma on Monday before dying the following day of respiratory failure. The cancer had spread to his lungs, the source added.

Chavez never said what type of cancer he was suffering, and for privacy, chose to be mainly treated in Cuba.

His death paved the way for a new vote in the OPEC nation that boasts the world’s biggest oil reserves. But it is unclear when the election will be held.

At the gates of the academy, activists handed out photos of Chavez along with printed quotes of his call for supporters to vote for Maduro should anything happen to him.

The constitution stipulates that an election must be called within 30 days, but politicians say the electoral authorities may not be ready and there has been talk of a possible delay.

Maduro, 50, a former bus driver who became foreign minister and then vice president, looks certain to face opposition leader Henrique Capriles, 40, the centrist governor of Miranda state who lost to Chavez in last October’s election. He will be sworn in as caretaker leader after the funeral on Friday.

The Supreme Court ruled on Friday that Maduro would not have to step down to campaign. Capriles called the decision a “constitutional fraud.”

Opposition sources say the 30 or so political groupings making up the Democratic Unity coalition have again agreed to back Capriles, whose 44 percent vote share in 2012 was the best performance by any candidate against Chavez.

Contrasting with the outpouring of grief at the funeral, senior opposition figure Leopoldo Lopez cautioned that the post-Chavez era would not automatically bring a brighter future.

“The uncertainty goes on, as does the gross meddling by Cuba and the flagrant violation of the constitution. Our people continue to be overwhelmed by insecurity, inflation and food shortages,” he said. “We call on all Venezuelans to join the struggle to build a peaceful way out of the crisis.”

Two recent opinion polls gave Maduro a strong lead over Capriles, and Western investors and foreign diplomats are factoring in a probable win for Maduro and a continuation of “Chavista” policies, at least in the short term.

The latest survey, by respected local pollster Datanalisis, gave Maduro 46.4 percent versus 34.3 percent for Capriles. It was carried out on in mid-February, before Chavez’s death.

(Additional reporting by Andrew Cawthorne, Deisy Buitrago, Marianna Parraga, Pablo Garibian and Simon Gardner in Caracas, and Rosa Tania Valdés in Havana; Editing by Jackie Frank)

Iran’s Ahmadinejad criticized over Chavez remarks

Friday, March 8th, 2013

DUBAI | Fri Mar 8, 2013 11:12am EST

Supporters of Venezuela's late President Hugo Chavez hold a portrait of him as they wait for a chance to view his body lying in state, at the military academy in Caracas March 8, 2013. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawling

(Reuters) – Senior Iranian clerics have criticized President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for saying Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez will be resurrected alongside Jesus Christ and the hidden imam who Shi’ite Muslims believe will rise up to bring world peace.

Iran declared a day of national mourning on Wednesday after the death of Chavez, who shared the Islamic Republic’s loathing for what they both called U.S. imperialism.

Ahmadinejad was among at least two dozen leaders travelling toVenezuela to attend Chavez’s funeral on Friday.

In a condolence letter posted on his personal website on Wednesday, Ahmadinejad said he was certain that Chavez “will return” along with Jesus Christ and Imam Mahdi, who devout Shi’ite Muslims believe went into hiding in the 10th century and will reappear one day to spread justice in the world.

But Ahmadinejad’s comments angered some religious officials in Iran.

“The terms Mr Ahmadinejad used to describe the Venezuelan president are not appropriate for us,” the semi-official Mehr news agency quoted Ghorbanali Dorri Najafabadi, a cleric and a senior member of the Assembly of Experts, as saying.

“One can naturally send a diplomatic letter without getting into religious discussions,” hardline Friday prayer leader Ahmad Khatami was quoted as saying by Iranian media, adding that he believed Ahmadinejad’s decision to do so was wrong.

According to the parliamentary news agency ICANA, lawmaker Mohammad Taqi Rahbar said on Thursday Ahmadinejad’s comments were “certainly wrong and exaggerated”.

While the return of the 12th imam is a core Shi’ite belief, the issue of which mortal souls will return with him on resurrection day is rarely discussed in the Islamic Republic.

Ahmadinejad, whose second and final term in office ends in June, has increasingly fallen foul of more conservative elements within Iran’s establishment. Among their criticisms is that Ahmadinejad and his close allies are overly preoccupied with the return of Imam Mahdi.

Ahmadinejad and Chavez had sought closer ties between their geographically distant countries, although action on joint social and military projects often lagged behind their rhetoric.

Chavez died on Tuesday at age 58 after a two-year battle with cancer.

The United States had looked askance at Venezuela’s warm relationship with Iran, fearing that Caracas could give Tehran an economic lifeline as it struggles to stave off pressure from sanctions over its nuclear activities.

Iran denies seeking a nuclear weapons capability and says it has the right to develop its own nuclear fuel cycle under its membership of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

(Reporting by Zahra Hosseinian; Editing by Jon Hemming)


Thursday, March 7th, 2013

‘Masters of the U.S. empire undoubtedly responsible for giving him cancer’





Iranian media outlet MehrNews Wednesday all but laid the death of Hugo Chavez on the doorstep of the CIA, implying the Venezuelan president’s death was part of a conspiracy to infect several Latin American leaders with cancer.

While it said it is not 100 percent certain that the CIA killed Chavez (it could have been “non-governmental assassins for the bankers”), MehrNews said that no matter how you look at his death, “The masters of the U.S. empire are undoubtedly responsible for giving Chavez and other Latin American leaders cancer.”

MehrNews quoted a speech over a year ago that Chavez made on Venezuelan national radio:

“I don’t know but … it is very odd that we have seen (former Paraguayan President Fernando) Lugo affected by cancer, (Brazilian President) Dilma (Rousseff) when she was a candidate, me, going into an election year, not long ago (Brazilian politician) Lula (da Silva) and now (Argentine President) Cristina (Fernandez). … It is very hard to explain, even with the law of probabilities, what has been happening to some leaders in Latin America. It’s at the very least strange, very strange.”

MehrNews said that, “We know that the bankers who own the U.S. government routinely try to kill any Latin American leader who refuses to be their puppet … so if you think Hugo Chavez died a natural death, I am afraid that you are terminally naïve.”

Meanwhile, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in a letter to the interim president of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, expressed his deep sadness over the death of Chavez, whom he called a courageous, highly spirited and honorable leader, a martyr of the South American country.

“Hugo Chavez is alive for justice, love and freedom,” Ahmadinejad wrote. “He is alive for faith and holiness of human being. He is alive for the nations that are alive yearning for the establishment of independence, kindness and justice.

“I have no doubt that he will return alongside all the righteous and Jesus, and the only remainder of the righteous generation, the complete human being, will come and help the nations with the establishment of peace, complete justice, kindness and evolvement.”

The Islamic regime called for a national day of mourning over the death of Chavez. Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast, referring to a possible role of “enemies” in Chavez’s cancer said, “Experts should examine Chavez’s death and in case they find any evidence, they should inform the public.”

Russian Communist Party official Gennady Zyuganov also called into question Chavez’s death. “How did it happen that six leaders of Latin American countries which had criticized U.S. policies and tried to create an influential alliance in order to be independent and sovereign states fell ill simultaneously with the same disease?” Zyuganov asked. “In my view, this was far from a coincidence.”

According to the Russian news agency RIA Novosti, Chavez had once said, “Fidel (Castro) always told me, ‘Chavez, take care. These people have developed technology. You are very careless. Take care what you eat, what they give you to eat … a little needle and they inject you with I don’t know what,’ … after he (Castro) had been diagnosed with cancer.”

Embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad called the death of Chavez “a huge loss for the Syrian nation.”

“The death of our brother and dear friend and the president of Venezuela, while a big loss for the Venezuelan nation and all free-minded of the world, is also a huge loss for me and the Syrian nation,” Assad told Sana, the official news agency of Syria.

Chavez served as the president of Venezuela from 1999 until his death on March 5. He was diagnosed with cancer, undergoing surgery and chemotherapy in Cuba in 2011 with a further operation in 2012. Although he had hoped to have recovered from his illness, he announced in December that he needed further cancer surgery in Cuba.

Reza Kahlili is a pseudonym for a former CIA operative in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and author of the award-winning book “A Time to Betray” (Simon & Schuster, 2010). He serves on the Task Force on National and Homeland Security and the advisory board of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran (FDI).


Chavez Considers Joining Iran to Stop Syria Bloodshed, Blames US

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

Published September 13, 2012

Fox News Latino

President Hugo Chavez’ Cancer Battle in Pictures. As Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez secretly battles cancer the world has watched from afar to witness the changing faces of the sick leader.

CARACAS, Venezuela –  Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez, a vocal supporter of Syrian leader Bashar Assad, will evaluate a proposal to join a team of non-aligned nations to solve the crisis in Syria he believes is the fault of the U.S.

Chávez has remained a vocal supporter of Assad, who has been widely criticized for using Syria’s military to fight a popular uprising that activists estimate has killed at least 23,000 people since it started 18 months ago.

Chávez said he will look at the proposal by Iran late last month to form a group with other non-aligned countries like Venezuela, Egypt, Lebanon and Iraq that would try to end the bloodshed.

“We’re going to evaluate the proposal and hopefully we can somehow help to achieve peace in Syria, whose people are being run over by this imperialist, violent politics,” Chávez said at a news conference.

“From here I send my greetings to President Bashar Assad and the Syrian people who are resisting an imperialist aggression.”

Chávez, a fierce critic of the U.S. government, has accused Washington of stirring up violence in Syria similar to the fighting in Libya that brought the ouster and killing of his ally Moammar Gadhafi.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, another Chávez ally, visited Venezuela last January amid tensions with the U.S. over Tehran’s nuclear program.

Venezuela’s government says the conflict in Syria should be resolved peacefully without foreign intervention.

On another international peace effort, Chávez said he has not yet picked an official who will accompany talks between Colombia’s government and leftist FARC rebels to end the Western Hemisphere’s longest-running conflict.

Turning to the Oct. 7 presidential election, Chávez rejected a challenge to debate the opposition’s candidate, Henrique Capriles.

“A debate? A debate against whom?” Chávez said. “A debate isn’t possible when you’re facing against nothing.”

Chávez also paid tribute to victims of the Sept. 11 terror attack on the United States, but used the 11th anniversary as an opportunity to criticize the U.S. government.

“The causes of Sept. 11 are not well known yet,” he said. “What is true is that the Yankee empire took advantage of this event, independent of its cause, to unleash the wildest imperialistic aggression in the history of mankind.”

Reporting by the Associated Press.


Sunday, September 9th, 2012

Reports: Terror cells preparing to strike from South America




The deputy chief commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards warned this past week that any aggression against Iran will expand warfare onto the turf of its enemies.

“Our nation is ready to rub the enemies’ snout into dust and send thousands of coffins to their cities,” Gen. Hossein Salami told Fars News Agency.

“Any aggression against Iran will expand the war into the borders of the enemies,” he warned. “They know our power, and we won’t allow any aggression against our land.”

The general cited two reasons for what he called the greatness of the Islamic regime: “One is that the supreme leader, who is the deputy of the Hidden Imam [the Shiites' 12th Imam], rules with power, knowledge, penetrating the hearts; the other is the martyrs who shed their blood for the greatness of the country.”

In praising those martyrs, he said, “God states in the Quran that martyrs are alive and not to consider them as dead, as they had the art to exchange death to life and reach eternal life.”

Salami likened the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to a sun shining on the Islamic world, and that despite all the international sanctions and threats, Iran is progressing on all fronts.

Fars News Agency also reported a stern warning by Gen. Hassan Firoozabadi, head of the Army’s Joint Chiefs of Staff. Although he accused the U.S. and European nations of supporting al-Qaida and “terrorists” in Syria, he warned that America and the European countries should expect major attacks by al-Qaida and other terrorist groups in their homelands.

As reported earlier this year, terror cells have been placed on high alert to attack targets in the U.S. and Europe should Iran be attacked. Hundreds of terror cells have infiltrated America and, in collaboration with Hezbollah, are awaiting orders to strike American targets.

Thousands of cells have also been placed in Latin America.

“The Quds Force has established a command and control center in both Bolivia and Venezuela,” a former Iranian official with knowledge of the regime’s terror network recently revealed. “Though it has presence in Europe and other parts of the world, it has focused on Latin America. Thousands of such cells have been placed in Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Venezuela.”

recent report from within Nicaragua indicated that Iran has established a training base in the northern part of that country, where operatives, including Hezbollah terrorists, are being readied for an attack on U.S. and Israeli interests should a war break out with Iran.

Hassan Abassi, a former Guard commander and a current strategist, has stated that many of the cells are of Latin American origin, including from Mexico, and that several hundred targets have been identified in the U.S. for a possible attack.

“If America dares to destabilize the Islamic Republic of Iran, it should have no doubt that we will destabilize America,” Abassi said.

Another senior commander of the Islamic regime, Gen. Masoud Jazayeri, recently warned America, “In the face of any attack, we will have a crushing response. In that case, we will not only act in the boundaries of the Middle East and the Persian Gulf; no place in America will be safe from our attacks.”

Khamenei has also warned America that any conflict will expand beyond the region. That same warning was issued days ago by Hassan Nasrallah, the general secretary of the terrorist group Hezbollah.

The response by Iran in case of an attack on its nuclear facilities will be “very great,” Nazrallah said.

Thousands of Revolutionary Guards and paramilitary forces of the Basij are set to conduct exercises in the coming weeks within Iranian cities on the occasion of the week of holy defense, an annual event commemorating the Iran-Iraq war. According to a source within the Guards intelligence division who has defected to Europe, the exercise is a practice to use force against the Iranian population and to militarize and take control of major cities because the regime expects another uprising over deteriorating economic conditions and major resentment by the majority of Iranians against the Islamic regime.


Report: Venezuela supplied Iran with F-16 to prepare for possible strike

Sunday, June 24th, 2012

Timing of the story’s publication probably timed to coincide with the current visit of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Venezuela, which began Friday.

By Barak Ravid | Jun.24, 2012

Venezuela has transferred at least one F-16 fighter to Iran in an attempt to help it calibrate its air defenses, in preparation for a possible Israeli or U.S. strike on its nuclear facilities, reports Spanish newspaper ABC.

ABC, one of the three largest Spanish dailies and aligned with the ruling rightist party, wrote that the transfer, in 2006, was supervised by one of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez’s closest aides. The paper’s Washington correspondent, Emili J. Blasco, said the story was based on both sources in Venezuela’s air force and classified documents, following a tip- off by a non-Western intelligence agency.

The timing of the story’s publication was probably timed to coincide with the current visit of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Venezuela, which began Friday. Ahmadinejad told Chavez that Iran will always support Chavez’s Venezuela: “We appreciate your opposition to imperialism,” he said.

Chavez reportedly told his guest that “we are aware of the threats on Iranian sovereignty and independence. You can count on our support. I will support Ahmadinejad under all circumstances, since our ties with Iran are a holy issue for us.”

In 1983, years before Chavez came to power, Venezuela purchased 23 F-16 fighter jets. At least half of these have been transferred in recent years to other states, in breach of the 1983 agreement with the U.S.

At least one F-16 was transferred to Iran in 2006. According to the report, the jet was disassembled and packed in several sealed and unmarked wooden containers. These were loaded on a Boeing 707 Venezuelan air force plane that took off from the El Libertador Air Base, stopping in Brazil and Algeria before landing in Tehran, where it was reassembled. Venezuelan pilots instructed Iranian pilots and technicians as to the jet’s capabilities.

According to the news report, the F-16 was given to Iran so it could test its antiaircraft radar systems and become familiar with its capabilities, in preparation for a possible strike.

The trial flights in Iran were used to calibrate the Iranian air defense systems. Iranian officers also studied the speed of the F-16 on the radar screens.

It is as yet unclear how useful the jet fighter is for Iran’s preparations, since the model transferred is relatively dated. The Israeli Air Force currently uses more advanced models fitted with Israeli electronic systems.

Apart from the plane supplied in 2006, information exists regarding further jet fighters supplied in 2009, when the director of the Venezuelan military industry paid a visit to Tehran. According to the ABC report, the minutes of the talks in Tehran, signed, among others, by Iran’s Deputy Defense Minister, imply that Venezuela promised to speed up the transfer of more jet fighters.

Meanwhile, Iran’s deputy chief of staff, Gen. Mostafa Izadi, said yesterday that an Israeli strike agains Iranian nuclear facilities would lead to the “collapse of the Zionist regime.”

Izadi said that Israel “cannot harm Iran. If the Zionists attack us, they will be the ones annihilated in the end.”

Iran to Build Oil Facility in Venezuela, Tehran Times Says

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012


By Ladane Nasseri - May 1, 2012

Iran and Venezuela signed an agreement valued at $130 million to build an oil-platform facility in the South American country, Tehran Times reported, citing an Iranian Offshore Engineering and Construction Co. official.

Transferring equipment from Iran to Venezuela is one of the project’s main challenges, said Amir Saeed Najafi Haghi, the managing director’s deputy for projects affairs. He gave no further details about the plan, according to the newspaper.

New report: Iran funds terror through counterfeiting, drug trade

Thursday, March 8th, 2012


The Daily Caller

By Reza Kahlili

A report from the Green Experts of Iran, an opposition group with sources inside the Islamic republic, has provided details of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ connections to drug trafficking, money laundering and counterfeiting. The report confirms an interconnected web of criminal enterprises, run by the Guards and often facilitated by Iranian diplomatic consulates, intended to fund the Iranian military’s worldwide terror operation.

The Revolutionary Guards’ Mafia-like network in Europe has grown steadily since Iran’s 1979 revolution.

Last year the U.S. government designated Iran as a “Primary Money-Laundering Concern,” and imposed new sanctions on Iran’s energy sector.

And on Wednesday the U.S. government named Gen. Gholamreza Baghbani, a general in Iran’s elite Quds force — a branch of the Guards — as a narcotics “kingpin,” citing his career of facilitating heroin trafficking from Afghanistan into Iran.

The Green Experts of Iran report, written in Farsi, reveals a grand project by the Guards called “Time for the Collapse.” The Guards, according to this plan, intend to destabilize the West through terror, drugs and money laundering.

News media have widely reported that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in his power struggle with those loyal to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has talked of many secret ports across Iran that are used by the Guards for illegal smuggling.

About 17 months ago, the report states, members of a drug gang were arrested in Baku, Azerbaijan. Among them were two Iranians whom Iran’s consulate shielded from prosecution. But other members of the gang were citizens of Azerbaijan, Albania and Tajikistan. They confessed to their connection to the Revolutionary Guards’ drug network.

In connection with that arrest, the Green Experts report explains, modern counterfeiting equipment was confiscated — along with information that the Guards had placed similar counterfeiting operations on the borders of Russia and across East Asia.

That information, the report states, led to more arrests 11 months ago in Macau, an island protectorate of China, resulting in the seizure of high-quality forged U.S. treasury bonds. Those bonds, the report said, were already being easily transacted through regional banks, and arousing no suspicion.

Ultimately, authorities tracked the forged currency to a criminal network in Europe which was distributing large sums of counterfeit dollars and euros, in collaboration with the Guards, since at least July 2011.

Information from arrests in Europe showed that the Guards and the Iranian intelligence apparatus were involved in a major money-laundering scheme that involved the assistance of Iranian consulates.

The Green Experts report states that an organized-crime family in Albania has collaborated with the Guards for years, running a major money-laundering operation that sends fake currency into Europe. The Guards have been successfully recruiting mostly poor Albanians, sending them to Iran for intelligence and military training, and returning them to work for their European network.

Investigations have shown that one center for distribution of phony banknotes is an Iranian-affiliated company in Hong Kong.

The Revolutionary Guards’ illicit activities have expanded throughout Europe, including to England, Germany, France and, in cooperation with Italian Mafiosi, to northern Italy.

Arrests just weeks ago in Zurich, Switzerland also led to confiscation of an improbable $6 trillion in fake U.S. bonds and the arrests of eight individuals in Italy. As part of the investigation that led to those arrests, $2 billion in fake bonds were also seized in Rome.

Those arrested in that law-enforcement operation were widely reported to have been trained in Iran. They were part of the Guards’ smuggling network, and were planning to buy plutonium from Nigerian contacts.

The bonds they were carrying had been transported in 2007 from Hong Kong to Zurich.

On Feb. 21, Azerbaijan officials announced the arrest of a gang with links to the Revolutionary Guards and the militant terrorist Hezbollah group. The gang members, who were involved in drug trafficking, were armed with explosives and intended to commit acts of terrorism against foreign nationals, Azerbaijan said.

According to a respected Iranian opposition website called Balatarin, a company belonging to former Revolutionary Guards commander Mohsen Rafiqdoust transfers drugs in small packages from Iran via boats and airplanes to Albania, Romania and Bulgaria. These packages are then distributed through Western Europe in trucks belonging to Albanian and Romanian companies.

The same report suggests that the Guards’ drug operation nets $20 billion annually.

A former Guards intelligence officer confirmed this in November, saying that the Guards are trying to undermine the West through their links with global crime networks.

While the trafficking of drugs funds terrorist activities, drug cartels also transport arms and explosives and move terror cells’ personnel from place to place. The Guards run this operation out of Venezuela and into Latin America as a means to enter Mexico and from there into the U.S., according to an April 2010 Pentagon report.

The Guards also use Iranian industries under their control to expand their terrorist activities. One example is Iran Khodro Company, the leading Iranian automaker with many branches outside Iran.

In 2011 a shipment of 286 pounds of heroin was intercepted in Nigeria along with 13 containers of arms and ammunition. The heroin was hidden in auto parts destined for the Iran Khodro branch in Senegal, which is operated by the Quds Forces.

Green Experts are an opposition group tied to the Green Movement in Iran that opposes the reign of Khamenei. The movement proposes free elections and the release of Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, Green movement leaders who have been under house arrest since the 2009 uprisings in Iran.

Reza Kahlili is a pseudonym for a former CIA operative in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and the author of the award winning book, “A Time to Betray.” He teaches at the U.S. Department of Defense’s Joint Counterintelligence Training Academy.


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