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Ottawa working with Washington to counter an Iranian threat in the Americas

September 12, 2012: A RCMP patrol car is parked outside the Iranian Embassy in Ottawa, Sept. 12, 2012.

Dave Chan/The Globe and Mail

The Harper government is committed to working with the U.S. government as it ratchets up efforts to counter perceived threats from Iran in the Americas.

Legislation signed by President Barack Obama last week gives the U.S. State Department six months to develop an assessment of the threat posed to the United States by Iran's growing presence in the hemisphere, as well as a plan to combat it.

Among other things, the law requires the State Department and Homeland Security to work with Canada and Mexico "to address resources, technology and infrastructure to create a secure United States border and strengthen the ability of the United States and its allies" to prevent Iranian-backed terrorists from entering the country.

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The departments must provide to Congress a description of activity by Iran, Hezbollah and other Iranian-backed groups that are operating at the Mexican and Canadian borders.

The Harper government has been one of the world's most aggressive critics of Iran. Last month, it formally listed as a terrorist organization the Quds Force unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards, which Ottawa described as the principle vehicle through which Iran supports foreign terrorist groups, including the Palestinian group Hamas and Lebanon's Hezbollah.

Ottawa is not expecting any new border impediments to result from the new U.S. law, but is working with the United States on a program dubbed "Beyond the Border" to counter international threats.

"We continually assess threats while co-operating with international partners, including the U.S., to address threats to our common security," Julie Carmichael, spokeswoman for Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, said in an e-mail Tuesday. "The Beyond the Border Action Plan as announced by Prime Minister Harper and President Obama provides a framework to identify threats before they reach North America."

The U.S. action is primarily focused on Latin America. It was sparked by Iran's pursuit of economic and security partnerships with left-wing governments there, including Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador, which have committed to assisting the Middle Eastern country in evading sanctions over its nuclear program.

The U.S. is also concerned about evidence the Iranian groups, as well as Hamas and Hezbollah, are linked to drug traffickers in Latin American to carry out operations in this hemisphere and fund their work in the Middle East.

In October, 2011, the U.S. charged two men alleged to be members of the Iranian Quds Force with conspiracy to murder Saudi Arabia's ambassador in Washington. American prosecutors say the men travelled to Mexico to hire "someone in the narcotics business" to carry out the assassination.

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In February, 2011, the U.S. Treasury Department effectively shut down the Lebanese Canadian Bank, a financial institution that it accused of laundering drug money for use by Hezbollah. The bank does not move or accept money in Canada, but it was once owned by the Royal Bank of Canada. Lebanese-Canadian investors bought it in 1988 and it has had a sales office in Montreal.

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About the Author
Global Energy Reporter

Shawn McCarthy is an Ottawa-based, national business correspondent for The Globe and Mail, covering a global energy beat. He writes on various aspects of the international energy industry, from oil and gas production and refining, to the development of new technologies, to the business implications of climate-change regulations. More

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