House votes to squeeze Iran's Western Hemisphere activities

The only "no" votes were from Reps. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), John Duncan (R-Tenn.), Walter Jones (R-N.C.), Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), Tom Massie (R-Ky.), and Ron Paul (R-Texas.).

The bill makes it U.S. policy to counter Iran's presence in Central and South America, and requires State to assess this threat and devise a strategy for countering it. Several supporters of the bill took to the House floor Tuesday to argue that the bill is needed to limit Iran's options for fostering relationships among the United States's southern neighbors.

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"Iran's [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad made two trips to latin America this year in an attempt to garner support from his fellow tyrants — the Castro brothers in Cuba, Ortega in Nicaragua, Correa in Ecuador, Chavez in Venezuela, and Morales in Bolivia," House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) said.

"According to a U.S. intelligence analyst, these diplomatic meetings are simply fronts for Iran to carry out its nefarious activities in the region, and a potential platform to increase the presence of Quds force operatives, a designated foreign terrorist organization and an arm of Iran's Revolutionary Guard," she said. "We cannot allow these violent actors a safe have to conduct their evil schemes."

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), noted that Iran just recently tried to use its connections with a Mexican drug cartel to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States. And Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), who will chair Foreign Affairs in the next Congress, said Iran's outreach to the Western Hemisphere show that U.S.-led sanctions are having an effect.

"Many believe that… Iran is courting in this hemisphere," he said. "They're doing it because they're trying to to beat back these sanctions."

The Senate passed this bill last week and added language that would allow State's strategy for dealing with Iran in the Western Hemisphere to be presented to Congress in a classified form.

— This story was corrected at 7:22 p.m. to note that the Senate passed the same bill last week.

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