SouthCom has monitored Iran's continued efforts to secure a foothold in the region. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has visited Venezuela and other regional countries six times in an official capacity, according to a report in the Journal of International Security Affairs entitled "Latin American Threats and Challenges." German customs officials in January also discovered a Venezuelan check for $70 million in the bag of Iran's former Central Bank Director.
These efforts have largely failed due to political challenges in the region, states the report, including the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and the end of leftist Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's term as Brazilian president.
"Right now [the threat] is very low. The Iranian involvement in the region is more to try to gain influence and bypass the sanctions," says Julian. "As far as the direct threat, at present, we're keeping a constant eye on what they're doing."
Still, a reliable source of income free from political manipulation is important for to address these complex relationships, says CSIS' Meacham.
"You need to establish continuity," he says. "If you cut a funding stream, you cut down on the ability of our military, of our security agencies, to have the necessary resources to fund that relationship with [foreign] counter-narcotic agencies that deal with these issues."