Iran's Quds force in Venezuela, Latin America: Pentagon

WASHINGTON — Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps has stepped up its presence in Latin America, especially in Venezuela, according to a Pentagon report to Congress.

The Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force "maintains operational capabilities around the world," said the report on Iran's military power, released Tuesday by the Defense Department.

The force "is well established in the Middle East and North Africa, and recent years have witnessed an increased presence in Latin America, particularly Venezuela," the report said.

"If US involvement in conflicts in these regions deepens, contact with the IRGC-QF (Quds Force), directly or through extremist groups it supports, will be more frequent and consequential," it said.

The report said Iran's top priority is to ensure "the survival of the regime" and that Tehran has ambitions to position itself as a regional power, while expanding its presence on the world stage.

The elite Quds force, which serve under the authority of the supreme leader Ali Khamenei, has been accused in connection with a 1994 attack on a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates last year accused Iran of engaging in "subversive activity" in Latin America.

Venezuela, which accused Washington of meddling in Latin America, has denied the accusations and defended its ties with Iran as focused on economic cooperation.

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