By Terence Rosenthal:
When Americans think about the illegal drug trade and black markets in Mexico, it is probable that they do not associate them with terrorism, or Islamic fundamentalism. One would think that drug cartels like Los Zetas, the most sophisticated and second most powerful drug cartel in Mexico would have enough allies and connections not to need the assistance of an organization like Hezbollah based half way across the world in Lebanon. However, there is proof that Hezbollah, as well as elements of the Iranian Quds force are functioning with cartels like Los Zetas, the most sophisticated drug cartel in Mexico. The combination of power hungry cartels like Los Zetas, and terrorist organizations like Hezbollah who want a presence in North America, in or near the United States inhibit U.S. companies from wanting to conduct business in Mexico, and should not remain unnoticed.
The question is, how did this deadly alliance come into existence? For decades, immigrants, legal and illegal, have been arriving in Mexico from Lebanon. This population has been growing steadily, and has a certain level of favorability with Hezbollah. One of the creations of Hezbollah in Mexico is that of well-connected global drug dealers, like Ayman Joumaa. Joumaa, indicted in 2011 is of Lebanese heritage, and has been linked to Hezbollah, and Mexico’s Los Zetas cartel. With the help of the Los Zetas, and companies like The Lebanese Canadian Bank, Ayman Joumaa has laundered between $850 and $900 million.
Joumaa is known among Israeli intelligence as being in contact with Hezbollah elite forces, and was connected to senior operatives handling Hezbollah drug operations. He has received bulk payments of U.S. dollars in Mexico City after coordinating drug shipments from South America to the Los Zetas cartel, receiving a cut for laundering and camouflaging funds. Drug and contraband profits were disguised through the trading and selling of used cars through an exchange in Africa with the help of Beirut exchange houses. Eventually, similar fraud rings connected to Joumaa were discovered throughout North and South America, and the Middle East. Various methods of investment fraud are typically used by drug dealers to cover their tracks. Many fraud rings use creative investment tactics that can pass as legal activity if not scrutinized. One such operation involved the selling of thorough-bred horses to cover up the trade of millions of dollars in fraudulent drug money.
Since 2005, Iran and Hezbollah have developed a presence in Latin America, opening 17 cultural centers, and forming relations with the Mexican drug cartels. 200,000 immigrants from Lebanon and Syria, many of whom are illegal residents, live in Mexico, and have established residence with the help of drug cartels like Los Zetas, the most technically advanced of Mexico’s drug cartels. Those who are sympathetic to Islamic extremist movements make perfect recruits for the drug trade because they understand how illegal activity in the Americas empowers whoever wishes to weaken the power of U.S. sovereignty. As shown by the increase of Islamic missionaries in Mexico, as well as the growing influence of Hezbollah and Iran, it is clear that Islamists are trying to win the hearts and minds of the Mexican people. However, beneath these seemingly peaceful developments lie the fact that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard and Quds forces are partnering with major Mexican drug cartels. They are learning Mexican culture, as well as Spanish, and are starting to blend in with native-born Mexicans.