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US-Iran Conflict Rekindles Fear of Terrorism in Brazil

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US-Iran Conflict Rekindles Fear of Terrorism in Brazil

Jair Bolsonaro's government's concern about an armed conflict between the United States and Iran in Iraq is not just about the impact of rising international oil prices on the growth of the Brazilian economy. Not yet voiced is the fear that cells in Hezbollah and other Shiite militias will take advantage of the fertile ground of South American organized crime, particularly in Venezuela and the triple border Brazil-Argentina-Paraguay, to take root in the region and bet on acts of terror.

The fear already existed before reciprocal attacks by US forces and Shiite militias in Iraq, which led to the death of General Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Quds special forces on Thursday, during the bombing of a US drone. . But now they add to the country's security priorities, a Brasilia source said.

At least two years ago, the Brazilian government abandoned the thesis that terrorism, drug trafficking and money laundering were different phenomena, which prevailed mainly during the petista administrations. Since Iran's financial exhaustion, triggered by the reinstatement of economic sanctions by the United States in 2018, it has been suspected that Hezbollah and other Shiite militias previously provided by Tehran have begun a more intensive search for funding sources in South America.

The presence of a Hezbollah cell on the triple Brazil-Argentina-Paraguay border is ancient evidence. So far, it has been peaceful and focused on collecting – and washing – donations to the cause. For the Brazilian government, however, the group's connection to the country's organized criminal organizations tends to be inevitable. Backed by Iran, Venezuela is already touted as safe ground for Hezbollah, and the resumption of direct Caracas-Tehran flights in the middle of last year has raised new fears.

The theme of the connection of Islamic militias with South American organized crime has been addressed by an anti-terrorism coordination group created between Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and the United States last July. But the complexity of the current situation leads the Brazilian government to act with unusual caution. President Bolsonaro evaded an interview with the Band on Friday to clearly support Washington's initiative. His most thoughtful language was not blank.

The Brazilian government is aware that the Iranian reaction to the United States attacks will not be modest given the impact of Soleimani's assassination, once considered the country's “living martyr”. Brasilia also understands that if the Middle East peace issue had previously focused on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, it now concerns Tehran's project of hegemony in the region.

Coordination between Israel and Sunnis Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates responds to this ambition of Iran, which is present in the conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and the interludes between the Gaza Palestinians and Israeli forces. All that South America – Brazil, more specifically – does not need right now is to be scorched by this imbroglio and to see local criminal organizations allied with terror.

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