For the first time in over a year, Iran and the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, along with Germany (known as the P5 + 1), held talks for the past two days in Geneva over the Islamic Republic’s shadowy nuclear program.

While Iran’s proliferation problems are certainly cause for concern, we would do well to monitor Iran’s growing presence in our own hemisphere. And you don’t have to look hard to find evidence of Iran’s nefarious dealings.

  • Venezuela has allowed Iran access to a gold mine in the Roraima basin. That gold mine, however, is very near what might be one of the world’s largest deposits of uranium. Nearby tractor and cement factories that produce little of either product give rise to concern that these activities are just cover for illicit nuclear activities.
  • The 2010 Pentagon report to Congress on the military power of Iran wrote that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Forces “maintains operational capabilities around the world. … [R]ecent years have witnessed an increased presence in Latin America, particularly Venezuela.”
  • The threat is on our immediate southern border, too. Governor Rick Perry (R–TX) has highlighted the operational presence of Hezbollah (Iran’s proxy army) in several U.S. cities, including the major Texas metropolitan areas. The bleak security situation in Mexico is an opportunity for Iran and its proxies to move in and cozy up to their lawless comrades in the drug war, which could move terrorists and weapons through dozens of access points along the border, including underground drug tunnels.
  • IRGC members in Latin America are suspected of recruiting student and government cadres for “diplomatic training”—reportedly intelligence, crowd control, and counter-intel—back in Iran. That way, the caudillos in Caracas will have access to Iranian-style post-election “security” come 2012.

The Islamic Republic of Iran, its military, and proxy group Hezbollah have built up an enormous network of financiers, “public works” projects, and shady manufacturing and “gold” mining industries in South and Central America thanks to the accomplice states of the Bolivarian Alliance, which is headed by Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez.

Despite Obama’s promise of a “new beginning” in the region, his Administration has done little to advance security in our hemisphere. Rather than pile hope on talks that will just give Iran more time, the Obama Administration should act forcefully to eliminate Iran’s nuclear and weapons development programs and ensure that more is done to deter Iranian operations in Latin America. The threat is too close to ignore.

Alan Adkisson is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: