Iran is recruiting young adults from Latin America, including foreign students for special study inside Iran, direct outreach to countries through the construction of mosques and cultural centers, and a new cable network that broadcasts Iranian programming in Spanish.
In some cases, Iranian officials have sought to enlist Latin Americans for espionage and hacking operations targeting U.S.computer systems, U.S. and Latin American law-enforcement and intelligence officials told The Washington Post
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A report issued in May by an Argentinean prosecutor cited evidence of “local clandestine intelligence networks” organized by Iran in several South American countries. The document accused Tehran of using religious and cultural programs as cover for a “capability to provide logistic, economic and operative support to terrorist attacks decided by the Islamic regime.”
Singled out in the report is an Iranian cleric and government official Mohsen Rabbani, who runs several programs in Iran for Latin American students, according to the Post..
A former cultural attaché in Buenos Aires, Rabbani was accused by Argentina of aiding the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in that city that killed 85 people, the country’s deadliest terrorist attack.
Rabbani helped start Iran’s largest Spanish-language website and was instrumental in launching HispanTV, a cable network that broadcasts Iranian programs and commentary in Spanish.
Rabbani would boast in a 2011 interview of having shattered “the American myth” by helping drive Latin American opinion away from the West and towards Iran’s vision of revolutionary Islam. An estimated 1,000 students have undergone training, supervised mostly by Rabbani, since 2007.
Carlos, a Mexican recruited into the program, knew nothing about Rabbani, his ideology, or his alleged involvement in terrorism when he met Iran’s top diplomat in Mexico at a party two years ago.
Within months, he had a plane ticket and a scholarship to attend the Oriental Thought Cultural Institute in Qom, where Rabbani serves as director.
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