American general in command of the Central and South American regions reports on the ‘alarming and concerning’ presence of Iranian soldiers.
By Paul Shindman, World Israel News
The senior commander of American forces for Central and South America says Iran is sending weapons and soldiers to Venezuela in a bid to help prop up its President Nicolás Maduro, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.
“We’re real concerned about what Iran is up to, not just globally, but here in this hemisphere,” said Admiral Craig Faller, the head of the U.S. Southern Command.
“We see a growing Iranian influence in there” Faller said, adding that his command had tracked the “alarming and concerning” presence of soldiers from Iran’s elite Quds Force, which previously fought in Syria to preserve the rule of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. The Quds Force is on the U.S. list of terrorist organizations and in January its commander, General Qassem Soleimani, was assassinated in Iraq by an American airstrike.
Faller pointed out that other regimes hostile to American interests are present in Venezuela, including thousands of Cubans who “basically own” Venezuela’s intelligence service and protect Maduro, adding that several hundred Russians are also in Venezuela to help “keep key elements of Maduro’s military just ready enough.”
Maduro claims he won Venezuela’s 2018 national election, but sixty countries recognize opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the legitimate president. Under Maduro’s authoritarian rule, civil rights in the country have been heavily restricted and the once wealthy oil-based economy has collapsed under allegations of corruption, plunging the country into poverty.
Iran has been working to support Maduro and extend its influence in South America and gain a foothold closer to North America. In October, the U.S. warned that it would destroy any Iranian long-range missile shipments sent to Venezuela.
In 2018, the U.S., Israel and Colombia reported evidence linking a Maduro accomplice to the Iran-backed Hezbollah terrorist organization in Lebanon, which is known to have operated in South America for years.
Hezbollah maintains a massive global narcotics and money laundering operation that as been investigated by American intelligence.