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The threat of Iran is in our backyard

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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani last week threatened to resume uranium enrichment unless the European signatories of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal resumed trade with his country in violation of United States sanctions. This came one year to the day after President Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and the decades old Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Weapons.

Despite the United States leaving the deal last year, Rouhani has been practicing what he has called “strategic patience.” It is clear after his announcement last week that his patience has run out. Rouhani offered the European nations the two options of siding with the United States and its sanctions, or purchasing Iranian oil to protect the Iran nuclear deal.

The Europeans did not take this lightly. In a statement from the European Union high representative and the foreign ministers of Germany, France, and the United Kingdom, they said they “reject any ultimatums” and will assess the compliance of Iran on the basis of its performance regarding its commitments under the nuclear deal and the nonproliferation treaty.

{mosads}However, the true threat of Iran to the United States is not related to nuclear weapons at all. The true threat is the steadfast support and growing influence that Iran has over embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. Just three months ago, Admiral Craig Faller, head of United States Southern Command, testified in the Congress that Iran “exported its state support for terrorism into our hemisphere.”

A day earlier, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned that Hezbollah “has active cells” and the Iranians “are impacting the people of Venezuela and throughout South America.” It is clear that Iranian influence extends well into our hemisphere, and that this a true threat to the United States and democratic ideals. A decade ago, I warned of the dangerous relationship between former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in my 2009 book “The Threat Closer to Home.”

Although the leaders have changed in both Venezuela and Iran, the threat is the same. Back then, Chavez and Ahmadinejad bonded over their two common interests of oil and anti-Americanism. Now, with the socialist leadership of Venezuela falling, Rouhani is continuing the legacy of his predecessor. He is sticking with Maduro, his closest anti-Americanism ally in the Western Hemisphere, to ensure the dictator stays remains in power in Venezuela despite the continued United States efforts to unseat him.

This strategy of supporting the Maduro regime has been undertaken by other hostile nations in their quest for influence in our hemisphere. Last month, Russian military planes landed in Venezuela with approximately 100 personnel. Russian officials claimed they were maintenance workers, but it is clear these personnel were more than just maintenance workers.

Make no mistake, Russia is doing the same thing in Venezuela that it did in Syria by propping up an authoritarian leader in direct opposition to United States foreign policy. Russian and Iranian involvement in Venezuela poses a grave threat to global order and stability. Their intervention is a direct attempt to infringe on the Monroe Doctrine and a clear effort to counter our regional interests. The United States must do everything in its power to push back against the Maduro regime and support Juan Guaido, who the United States recognizes as the legitimate president of Venezuela.

Ultimately, the sanctions that the United States has imposed on Venezuela have worked. More importantly, these sanctions are getting a number of military officials to end their support of Maduro, a key obstacle to Guaido officially becoming president. Vice President Mike Pence said the United States “will consider sanctions relief for all those who step forward, stand up for the constitution, and support the rule of law” after lifting sanctions on Venezuelan General Manuel Cristopher Figuera, the former chief of the Venezuelan intelligence service, who recently broke ranks with Maduro.

It is clear from the latest actions of Rouhani in Iran and the struggling government of Maduro in Venezuela that American sanctions work. The United States must support our European allies in upholding American sanctions against Iran and ending hostile influences in our hemisphere.

Douglas E. Schoen (@DouglasESchoen) served as a pollster for President Clinton. He is a political consultant, Fox News contributor, and the author of “Collapse: A World in Crisis and the Urgency of American Leadership.”

Tags America Donald Trump Europe Iran Mike Pompeo Russia Security Venezuela

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