Iran is sending Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro’s socialist regime weapons and troops, a top U.S. military official told the Wall Street Journal Wednesday.
“We see a growing Iranian influence in there,” the head of the U.S. Southern Command, Admiral Craig Faller, told the Journal. “We’re real [sic] concerned about what Iran is up to, not just globally, but here in this hemisphere.”
He went on to cite the “alarming and concerning” arrival of military personnel from the elite Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), notorious for its terrorist activities in other countries including Syria and Iraq. Faller also confirmed that the military is seeing an “uptick” in weapons shipments from Iran to Venezuela, although he did not specify the specific arms being supplied.
The IRGC is a U.S.-designated terror group that is accused by Washington of “actively participating, financing, and promoting terrorism as a tool of statecraft.” Its former leader, Major General Qasem Soleimani, was killed in a U.S. drone strike in January this year, marking a major blow to the Iranian regime. Among those to pay tribute to Soleimani was Maduro’s right-hand man, Diosdado Cabello, who visited the Iranian embassy in Caracas to host a ceremony mourning his death.
The notorious Quds Force is a unit under Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps with the authority to carry out secretive foreign intervention operations. Its mandate includes unconventional warfare and intelligence activities. https://t.co/gpQcCTM9BG
— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) January 4, 2020
In August, Colombian President Iván Duque, whose country borders Venezuela, claimed that the Maduro regime is currently negotiating the purchase of medium- and long-range missiles from Iran, although they remain in the preliminary stages.
“There is information from international intelligence organisms that work with us which shows there is interest from the dictatorship of Nicolas Maduro in acquiring some medium and long-range missiles through Iran,” he warned at the time. “The information is that (the missiles) still haven’t arrived but there has been contact especially under instructions from (Venezuela Defense Minister Vladimir) Padrino.”
Iran and Venezuela have also boosted trade and cultural links over recent years. Maduro recently opened a Persian supermarket in Caracas and an increasing number of oil shipments sent from Tehran. Despite having the second-largest known oil reserves in the world after the United States, Venezuela is currently experiencing mass gasoline shortages that have brought parts of the nation to a standstill.
Late socialist dictator Hugo Chávez dramatically shifted Venezuela’s geopolitical stance from that of a U.S. ally to a key member of a club of rogue states that includes Iran, Cuba, China, Russia, and North Korea. According to numerous intelligence reports, the Chávez and Maduro regimes have allowed the Iranian terror-proxy Hezbollah to use Venezuela as its Latin American operating base since the mid-2000s, consequently presenting a serious national security threat to the United States.