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The Southern Flank

For the last three years ,there has been a stream of articles, op-eds, and reports about the expansion of Iranian influence and proxies in the near abroad. These contacts include a large presence in South American Middle Eastern diasporas, official contacts with anti-American “Bolivarian” regimes, and fund-raising on US soil. At the same time, US access to Latin America is steadily decreasing due to a wave of anti-American sentiment, the closing of bases used for counter-narcotics operations, and a decline in American influence.
      The official response to such intrusive measures is either below the radar or non-existent. Granted, US room for maneuver in the region is very small. Like in Mexico, residual distrust of the US impedes a more active role in combating the threat. But the threat is real and serious thought should be devoted towards managing or containing the expansion of Iranian influence. The first–and most important–step that must be taken is to ascertain the nature of proxy penetration in Latin America. At least in the open source there is little concrete information about the extent of foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs) in Latin America, and a great deal of rumor and conjecture about the tri-border region, Mexico, and Iran. More specifics are needed.
      The Iran threat (which at its core is state-based) is meshing with a growing military threat posed by the expansion of privatized criminal-military organizations and the expansion of autonomous zones within the fabric of the Mexican state. While the two threats do not intersect, they need to both be understood within the context of a larger battlespace being opened under America’s southern flank, a development that largely eluded most foreign policy and security commentators.

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