It is time for the U.S. to stop talking and start acting. Send the Iranian regime packing. It is not welcome in our backyard.
One of the unique traits of the Western Hemisphere are interstate border disputes. A great majority of these border matters date back centuries, kept politically fresh for parochial, political, and security reasons. Dispute resolution is mostly carried out state-to-state or with third parties such as at the diplomatically anemic Organization of American States (OAS). When diplomacy has failed, armed conflict is not out of the question. Which brings us to Central America.
Outside the view of the mainstream news, the boundary dispute over the San Juan River in Central America is raising tensions between Costa Rica and Nicaragua. The centuries old point of contention involves navigation issues and is the subject of a treaty, the Cañas-Jerez Treaty of 1858. In 2009, the International Court of Justice stated that Nicaragua is “not acting in accordance with its obligations under the 1858 Treaty” by, among other things, requiring Costa Rican vessels and travelers to secure Nicaraguan travel cards and pay navigation fees. The opinion is available here.
The Sandinista-controlled government of Nicaragua may have been democratically elected, but its principal leaders remain still rabidly anti-American. If it can use regional disputes to advance their agenda, they will do it. And this is the case now. Nicaragua was the originally proposed site for the construction of a canal, before Panama. Working with other anti-American regional leaders, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has been engaging in a quixotic effort to build another canal in Central America.
The current dispute with Costa Rica is a distraction, but it has now devolved into a potential security problem for the region and the United States. According to the Haaretz newspaper, the Iranians have been meddling:
“Sources in Latin America have told Haaretz that the border incident and the military pressure on Costa Rica, a country without an army, are the first step in a plan formulated by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, with funding and assistance from Iran, to create a substitute for the strategically and economically important Panama Canal.
If this is true, and the U.S. Government has not confirmed any of it, then what was once a regional problem for debate and resolution at the OAS, has now taken on an international dimension of a very serious nature. Haaretz reports that there are efforts underway in Washington, DC to respond to the matter, but there are no public sources associated with these statements.
Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba, and potentially several other Latin American countries have been cozing up with the Iranian regime for several years. Exploiting poor countries in the same region as your arch enemy makes sense for Iran. If they can create a toehold in our underbelly, they will find a way to use it to spread terrorism in the region and in the United States. Regional border disputes are but one area that the Iranians and others can use to exploit political fissures in the Americas.
The response from Washington to perceived Iranian activities in the region has been lackluster. Officials from all of these governments should have been slapped with sanctions a long time ago and not allowed to enter the United States. Financial institutions from these countries should come under very close scrutiny to ensure Iranian funds are not finding their way in, through, or about the U.S. financial system. And regional leaders, including the OAS, should be reminded that cooperation with the Iranian regime will not be tolerated.
The time for diplomatic happy talk has come and gone. Thanks to Bolivarian Alliance countries, the Iranians and their proxies have space to move freely in the Americas. It is time for the U.S. to stop talking and start acting. Send the Iranian regime packing. It is not welcome in our backyard.