Today, Congressman Jeff Duncan introduced legislation to protect U.S. citizens from threats from Iran and protect American interests and assets in our own hemisphere. The "Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act of 2012" (H.R. 3783) comes a week after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's five-day tour of four Latin American countries. The bipartisan bill has 25 original cosponsors.
Duncan's legislation makes it clear that American policy is to counter Iran's influence in Latin America by requiring a coordinated and targeted strategy that uses all elements of national power. Specifically, the legislation charges the Administration to detail the presence of Iran, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps' (IRGC), the IRGC's Qods Force, Hezbollah, and Hamas in the Western Hemisphere.
Additionally, the bill calls for a plan to secure the Southwest border and prevent Iranian-backed Hezbollah or Hamas terrorists from entering the United States. The legislation also requires the Administration to isolate Iran and its proxies from sources of financial support and report back to Congress and the American people on the progress made towards implementing the strategy.
"Congress has spent trillions of dollars for military operations in the war on terror, yet we have neglected to protect ourselves from the threat that looms just beyond our own borders. We know that Iran has been building diplomatic, economic, and security relationships with Latin American countries for years. In the past decade, Iran has built 17 cultural centers in Latin America and today maintains 11 embassies, up from six in 2005."
"The U.S. possesses vital political, economic, and security interests in the Western Hemisphere. I am concerned that our nation's vulnerability to this growing threat on our Southern border is not being adequately addressed. American interests and assets in Latin America --embassies, consulates, businesses, energy pipelines, and cultural organizations -- may face additional risks if we do not act swiftly."
"In 1823, President Monroe issued his famous doctrine warning foreign powers that "we should consider any attempt on their part to extend their system to any portion of this hemisphere as dangerous to our peace and safety.' Iran's actions in our hemisphere threaten U.S. "peace and safety,' and we must respond wisely.
"President Ahmadinejad's recent trip to Latin America (his sixth to the region), the recently foiled Iranian plot involving a member of the IRGC's Qods force and a suspected Mexican drug cartel, and sophisticated narco-tunneling reportedly resembling the types used by Hezbollah in Lebanon along the U.S.-Mexico border should serve as wakeup calls for all Americans on Iran's activity in our neighborhood.
"I'm introducing this bill today to bring awareness to an issue that should greatly concern every American and exert pressure on the Administration for its lack of action. Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution charges the Congress with the responsibility to "provide for the common defense," and this legislation calls for a strategic response to Iran's threat in our hemisphere," Duncan concluded.