ISIS, Hezbollah seen using weaponized drones, raising new fears in Syria

FILE- In this March 1, 2013 file photo, anti-Syrian President Bashar Assad protesters hold the Jabhat al-Nusra flag, as they shout slogans during a demonstration, at Kafranbel town, in Idlib province, northern Syria.  (AP)

FILE- In this March 1, 2013 file photo, anti-Syrian President Bashar Assad protesters hold the Jabhat al-Nusra flag, as they shout slogans during a demonstration, at Kafranbel town, in Idlib province, northern Syria. (AP)

Fox News, October 12, 2016:

French and Kurdish forces in northern Iraq were attacked by an exploding drone, the Pentagon said Wednesday, adding a new worry to the wars in Iraq and Syria as militant groups learn to weaponize their store-bought drones.

Air Force Col. John Dorrian, the spokesman for the U.S.-led military coalition in Iraq, said an improvised device on a drone exploded after it was taken back to a camp near the Iraqi city of Irbil. He called it a Trojan Horse-style attack.

Two Kurds were killed in that incident on Oct. 2, according to a U.S. official, who said the drone looked like a Styrofoam model plane that was taped together in a very rudimentary style. The official said it appeared to be carrying a C-4 charge and batteries, and may have had a timer on it.

That official was not authorized to discuss the incident publicly so spoke on condition of anonymity.

France’s presidential spokesman, Stephane Le Foll, said Wednesday that two French special forces were seriously injured in the explosion.

The U.S. has seen militants use a variety of improvised drones and modified drones, Dorrian said, adding, “there’s nothing very high tech about them.”

“They can just buy them as anybody else would,” he told reporters Wednesday. “Some of those are available on Amazon.”

A recently released video belonging to an al-Qaida offshoot, Jund al-Aqsa, purportedly shows a dronelanding on Syrian military barracks. In another video , small explosives purportedly dropped by the Iran-backed Shiite militant group Hezbollah target the Sunni militant group Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, formerly known as the Nusra Front, near Aleppo. The technology is not new, but the videos are the first known demonstration of these capabilities by any militant groups.

While militants with drones are not a significant military threat, Dorrian said the U.S. and its partner countries are taking it seriously.

Chris Woods, the head of the Airwars project, which tracks the international air war in Iraq, Syria and Libya, said, “there are a million ways you can weaponize drones — fire rockets, strap things in and crash them.”

“This is the stuff everyone has been terrified about for years, and now it’s a reality,” he added.

The U.S. military official couldn’t immediately authenticate the videos in question. But another former senior U.S. military official who viewed the videos said there was nothing to suggest they were fake.

A number of militant groups in the Middle East, including the Islamic State group, Jund al-Aqsa and Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, as well as Hezbollah and Hamas, have all released videos indicating that they have surveillance and reconnaissance drones. Syrian anti-government rebels and militias loyal to President Bashar Assad were also flying cheap quadcopters and hexacopters as early as 2014 to spy on one another.

The surveillance drones allowed those groups to collect data on enemy bases, battlefield positioning and weaponry and to improve targeting.

Lebanon-based Hezbollah has claimed to have armed-drone capabilities for nearly two years, but a recent video of bomblets hitting a militant camp near the Syrian town of Hama is the first known documentation.

“It’s not going to change the overall balance of power in the region, but it matters by the very fact that these are things that are normally beyond the capability of insurgents or terrorists groups,” said Peter Singer, author of the book “Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century,” and a senior fellow at the New America Foundation.

Syrian skies are already bustling with traffic. Coalition forces have launched some 5,400 airstrikes on IS targets since September 2014. Drones account for only about 7 percent of America’s total air operations in Iraq and Syria because the U.S. is “stretched really thin” with drone operations in Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan and elsewhere, Woods said.

Russia is also showing off its own drone capabilities — albeit somewhat primitive compared to the U.S. Last month, the Russian Defense Ministry started live online broadcast of drone footage of the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo to “provide transparency” on whether the cease-fire is being implemented.

There is no question the militant groups are outmatched in the sky. But as cells linked to the Islamic State group pop up across Europe and the United States, the real concern is the potential impact these experimental small, flying bombs could have if launched over crowded cities.

“You already see things happening in Ukraine, gangs in Mexico are using drones, and in Ireland, gangs there are using surveillance,” said Wim Zwijnenburg, a security and disarmament policy adviser at Netherlands-based PAX for Peace. “Add a small amount of explosives to a small drone, and even the psychological factor is pretty significant.”


Accused Hezbollah Operative Slated to Speak In Washington, D.C.

Azmi Bishara, an Israeli Arab and former lawmaker, speaks with journalists as he arrives to attend the emergency Arab leaders summit on Gaza in Doha, Qatar, Friday, Jan. 16, 2009. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

Azmi Bishara, an Israeli Arab and former lawmaker, speaks with journalists as he arrives to attend the emergency Arab leaders summit on Gaza in Doha, Qatar, Friday, Jan. 16, 2009. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

Washington Free Beacon, by  Adam Kredo, October 6, 2016:

A former Arab member of Israel’s parliament who was forced to flee the country after he was accused of working as a top Hezbollah operative is slated to speak next week in Washington, D.C., raising questions about how he obtained permission to enter U.S. soil.

Azmi Bishara, who is accused by Israel’s Shin Bet secret service of helping Hezbollah plot terrorist operations, is confirmed to speak next week at Washington’s downtown Marriott hotel as part of a conference organized by The Arab Center of Washington, D.C.

An official from the Arab Center confirmed to the Washington Free Beacon that Bishara will be attending the event, raising questions about how an individual linked to a U.S.-designated sponsor of terror obtained permission to enter America.

Bishara was initially slated to speak alongside former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, who the Free Beacon has learned cancelled his appearance. The talk was to focus on the promotion of democracy in the Arab world, according to a current conference schedule.

McFaul’s image was removed from the conference’s webpage several hours after the Free Beaconmade an inquiry into the event.

Bishara remains listed as a speaker.

Bishara, who has been living in Qatar since he fled Israel in 2007, is accused by Israel of helping Hezbollah select targets during its 2006 assault on the Jewish state. Israel is still seeking to detain Bishara and charge him for these terror offenses. Israeli authorities have said they will arrest Bishara if he returns to the country, where he could face the death penalty, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

The State Department declined to tell the Free Beacon if it granted a visa to Bishara. It remains unclear how he has gotten official permission to be in the United States, as Qatar, his current place of residence, is not part of the U.S. Visa Waiver Program.

A State Department official told the Free Beacon that visas are granted on a case-by-case basis, but remain confidential.

“We are unable to provide information on individual cases because visa records are confidential under U.S. law,” an official told the Free Beacon. “Visa applications are adjudicated on a case-by-case basis in accordance with U.S. law.”

Additionally, “Section 222 (f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) prohibits us from disclosing details from individual visa cases,” the official said.

One foreign policy insider familiar with the situation questioned how Bishara obtained entry to the United States.

“The Obama administration’s tilt toward Iran is so extreme that now a visa has been given to a Hezbollah terrorist so that he can visit Washington D.C.,” the source said. “The administration’s love affair with Iran is a disgrace to our country and a danger to our security.”

Bishara, a former chairman of Israel’s Balad political party, is accused by Israel of aiding Hezbollah agents during the 2006 war.

“Bishara allegedly provided ‘information, suggestions and recommendations,’ including censored material, to his contacts in Lebanon during the war,” according to Haaretz.

He currently serves as the general director at the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies in Qatar.

Iran Expanding Terror Network in Latin America

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, is welcomed by Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, in Havana, Cuba / AP

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, is welcomed by Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, in Havana, Cuba / AP

Washington Free Beacon, by Adam Kredo, Aug. 23, 2016:

Iran is solidifying its foothold in Latin America, sparking concerns among U.S. officials that the Islamic Republic will enlist these regional allies in its push to launch terror attacks on U.S. soil, according to conversations with congressional sources.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has been on a diplomatic tour through key Latin American countries known for hostility towards the United States, including Cuba, Venezuela, and a host of other countries believed to be providing shelter to Iranian terrorist proxies such as Hezbollah.

As Iranian-ally Russia boosts its spy operation in the region, sources have raised concerns about the rogue nations working together to foster anti-U.S. unrest.

Zarif’s trip through the region has raised red flags among some senior congressional sources familiar with the region. For example, Zarif took aim at the United States and touted the regime’s desire to align with anti-American countries during his stay in Cuba.

One senior congressional source who works on the issue said to the Washington Free Beacon that Iran is seeking to recruit “potential terrorists who want to cause the U.S. harm.”

Increased ties between Iran and these Latin American nations are setting the stage for terrorists to penetrate close to U.S. soil with little detection.

These individuals “can travel easily to Venezuela, and once there, they can get to Nicaragua or Cuba without passports or visas, which poses a national security risk for our nation,” the source explained.

Iran has also reopened its embassy in Chile, a move that has only added fuel to speculation among U.S. officials that the Islamic Republic is making moves to position its global terror network on America’s doorstep.

“The threat to U.S. national security interests and our allies should be setting off alarm bells,” Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R., Fla.), chair of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, said in a statement about Zarif’s Latin American tour.

“The Obama administration has failed to prevent Russia and China from expanding in our Hemisphere, and now Iran is once again stepping up its efforts to gain a greater presence to carry out its nefarious activities,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “I urge the White House to stop downplaying the Iranian threat and take immediate action to prevent the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism from establishing a regional safe haven in the Americas.”

Asked to comment on Zarif’s trip and the potential repercussions on Monday, a State Department official said to the Free Beacon that the administration had no comment.

Ros-Lehtinen said the high-profile trip by Zarif should serve as a warning.

“The timing of Zarif’s trip is significant as Iran could use many of these rogue regimes to circumvent remaining sanctions, undermine U.S. interests, and expand the drug trafficking network that helps finance its illicit activities,” she said. “Tehran’s classic playbook is to use cultural centers, new embassies or consulates, or cooperative agreements on various areas to act as façades aimed at expanding Iran’s radical extremist network.”

The renewed concerns about Iran’s footprint in Latin America comes nearly two years after the State Department said Tehran’s influence in the region was “waning.”

“The timing of Zarif’s trip speaks volumes,” said the senior congressional aide who would discuss the issue only on background. It “is worrisome that as we just celebrated the 22nd year of the horrific terrorist attack against the AMIA Jewish community center in Argentina, Iran can now have personnel nearby in a new embassy in Chile.”

“Just recently, a Hezbollah member was picked up in Brazil, an explosive device was found near the Israeli embassy in Uruguay, and Hezbollah members are reportedly traveling on Venezuelan passports,” the source added. “It was not too long ago that Venezuela offered flights to Iran and Syria, and as of last week, Hezbollah cells were found in the West Bank where Venezuela lifted its visa requirements for Palestinians.”

Zarif slammed the United States on Monday during a speech in Havana.

“Iran and Cuba could prove to the U.S. that it cannot proceed with its policies through exerting pressure on other countries,” Zarif said, according to Iran’s state-controlled media.

“Now the time is ripe for realizing our common goals together and implement the resistance economy in Iran and materialize [Cuban dictator Fidel] Castro’s goals of reconstruction of the Cuban economy,” Zarif added.

Zarif went on to note that Iran “has age-old and strong relations with the American continent and the Latin American countries.”

Zarif is reported to have brought along at least 60 Iranian officials and executives working in the country’s state-controlled economic sector.

Behnam Ben Taleblu, senior Iran analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told the Free Beacon that Iran has boosted efforts to engage Latin America in the wake of last summer’s nuclear agreement.

“Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif is aggressively continuing Iran’s diplomatic outreach, a policy which began early in the Rouhani administration and was kicked into high gear in the aftermath of the JCPOA—last summer’s nuclear deal,” he said. “Zarif’s sojourn into the Western hemisphere follows on the heels of his May visit to the region. Zarif’s trip symbolically commences in Havana, Cuba, where the Iranian foreign minister harped on themes of steadfastness and resistance to American legal and economic pressure.”

The Iranian leader’s goal is to “build on this experience to help promote an anti-American and anti-capitalist world order,” he added. “What’s most clear however, is that in addition to seeking to solidify the anti-American political orientation of these states, Iran aims to capitalize on the increasingly detached stigma of doing business with it in the aftermath of the nuclear accord. Therefore, we can expect to see trade deals or memorandums of understanding inked. In short, Iran will be looking to deepen to its footprint in Latin America.”

Southern Command Warns Sunni Extremists Infiltrating From South

A Mexican soldier patrols along the U.S.-Mexico border wall on the outskirts of Nogales, Mexico / AP

A Mexican soldier patrols along the U.S.-Mexico border wall on the outskirts of Nogales, Mexico / AP

Washington Free Beacon, by Bill Gertz, Aug. 22, 2016:

Sunni extremists are infiltrating the United States with the help of alien smugglers in South America and are crossing U.S. borders with ease, according to a U.S. South Command intelligence report.

The Command’s J-2 intelligence directorate reported recently in internal channels that “special interest aliens” are working with a known alien smuggling network in Latin America to reach the United States. The smuggling network was not identified.

Army Col. Lisa A. Garcia, a Southcom spokeswoman, did not address the intelligence report directly but said Sunni terrorist infiltration is a security concern.

“Networks that specialize in smuggling individuals from regions of terrorist concern, mainly from the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, the Middle East, and East Africa, are indeed a concern for Southcom and other interagency security partners who support our country’s national security,” Garcia told theWashington Free Beacon.

“There are major hubs that serve as entry points into the region for migrants from those areas of concern attempting to enter the U.S. along our border with Mexico,” she said.

The infiltrators from terrorist states and unstable regions exploit vulnerabilities in commercial transportation systems and immigration enforcement agencies in some of the countries used for transit, Garcia said.

“In 2015, we saw a total of 331,000 migrants enter the southwestern border between the U.S. and Mexico, of that we estimate more than 30,000 of those were from countries of terrorist concern,” she said. [emphasis added]

Another problem in dealing with migrants from the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia is a lack of information among the governments of the countries used by potential terrorists for transit.

The exploitation of alien smuggling networks by terrorists until recently had been dismissed by both American security officials and private security experts as largely an urban myth.

However, the Southcom intelligence report revealed that the threat of Islamist terror infiltration is no longer theoretical. “This makes the case for Trump’s wall,” said one American security official of the Southcom report. “These guys are doing whatever they want to get in the country.”

Adm. Kurt Tidd, Southcom’s commander, said last week that the lack of information is hampering security efforts against alien smuggling.

“An element that has been long recognized is that our ability to track people moving through transportation systems is an area that we must continue to devote efforts on, and the ease with which human traffickers are able to use our transportation systems to move people through the networks relatively undetected should give us all concern,” Tidd said.

Special interest aliens are described by the U.S. government as aliens who pose a potential terrorism threat coming from 34 nations in the Middle East, Africa, Southwest Asia, Central Asia, and East Asia. The list of states of concern includes Afghanistan, Iran, Kuwait, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Eritrea, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Indonesia, and Malaysia.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump last week called for stepped up counterterrorism measures that he said would involve “extreme vetting” of immigrants in a bid to better screen out potential terrorists.

Trump also has made a campaign theme the construction of a wall across the United States’ southern border as part of efforts to better control the flood of illegal immigrants.

Joel Vargas, head of Contingent Security Services and a consultant to law enforcement agencies, said there is no evidence Sunni extremists are creating new relationships with alien smugglers. However, he said in an email that “existing smuggling networks from Central America are increasing their access.”

“We have intercepted immigrants coming from Asia but we have been unable to determine if they are extremists,” Vargas said. “Our Sunni illegal migration coming from [Latin America] is very small. On the other hand, they can use the networks set up by the Shia.”

A report produced by Vargas for the International Airport, Seaport and Transport Police states that the Iran-backed Shiite terror group Hezbollah mainly has ties to Latin American through overseas Lebanese expatriates.

Hezbollah recently increased support in transnational crime in the region by supply arms and training to various groups.

“Hezbollah’s current goals appear to be focused on accruing resources rather than conducting offensive operations, however the group’s growing capabilities are still a clear threat to regional U.S. interests,” the report said. “Iran’s involvement in Latin America is also increasing, and Hezbollah will likely be able to use these budding political and economic ties as cover for its operations.”

Vargas said Hezbollah’s networks in Latin America could be used by Sunni extremists to get to the United States. “That is a workable situation,” he said. “If they disclose they are ISIL or any other group, I doubt that even the Shias will help out. Even [drug] cartels are killing anyone who appears extremist. It is bad for their business.”

According to Vargas, Guatemala remains a weak link for regional security services. A sophisticated alien smuggling operation that is capable of moving foreign nationals into the United States from Africa and other states has been centered in that Central American state for at least the past six years.

The Washington Times reported in June that an international alien smuggling network centered in Brazil helped sneak illegal immigrants from Middle Eastern states to the United States, including an Afghan linked to a terror plot in North America.

At least a dozen Middle Easterners reached the Western Hemisphere through this alien smuggling ring that facilitated travel to Mexico, the Times reported, quoting internal government documents.

The aliens involved Palestinians, Pakistanis, and the Afghan man with ties to the Taliban.

Some of the aliens were stopped before entering the United States but others succeeded in crossing the U.S. border.

One transit route used in the past by alien smugglers was identified in a recent Justice Department alien smuggling case that traced illegal immigrants from Europe, the Middle East, and Africa to Honduras, then to Guatemala and finally to Mexico and into the United States.

The cost of getting into the United States can reach $400 or more per person, and the illegal immigrants are provided with transportation, covert smuggling contacts along routes into the country, as well as instructions on how to illegally cross the U.S. border. The instructions in the past have included armed guides who ferry illegal aliens across U.S.-Mexico border rivers on inner tubes.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified during a Senate hearing in February that Islamic State terrorists would try to infiltrate the United State posing as immigrants.

“That’s one technique they’ve used is taking advantage of the torrent of migrants to insert operatives into that flow,” Clapper said. “As well, they also have available to them—and are pretty skilled at phony passports so they can travel ostensibly as legitimate travelers as well.”


Philos Project, by Andrew Harrod, Aug. 12, 2016:

Between Israel and Hezbollah, “another conflict is all but inevitable,” wrote retired Israeli Brigadier General Yakov Shaharabani. “It will be far more destructive and harmful than any other war Israel has fought in recent memory.” The former Israeli Air Force Intelligence chief thus introduced a sobering Foundation for the Defense of the Democracies report a decade after Israel’s last clash with the Lebanese terrorist organization.

Shaharabani said that the July 2006 Lebanon War “was the longest Israel had experienced since its War of Independence in 1948,” but any future clash with Hezbollah will make those destructive 34 days pale by comparison. According to his FDD coauthors, the Israeli government estimates that Hezbollah has approximately 150,000 rockets today as opposed to the mere 14,000 it possessed prior to the 2006 conflict. Writing for the Weekly Standard, Vanderbilt University law professor Willy Stern said that this gives Hezbollah a “bigger arsenal than all NATO countries – except the United States – combined.”

Stern elaborated that Hezbollah’s state sponsor Iran has “supplied its favorite terrorist organization with other top-of-the-line weaponry,” including advanced Russian-made anti-tank and anti-ship missiles and air defense systems. The FDD report noted that sanctions relief for Iran under the recent nuclear agreement will only darken this picture, for “Iran’s massive windfall is expected to trickle down to its most important and valuable proxy: Hezbollah.” Additionally, “Hezbollah has gained significant experience during five years of fighting in Syria” for the embattled Bashar Assad dictatorship.

Israeli Defense Forces leaders have presented Stern with grim scenarios in which “elite Hezbollah commandos will almost certainly be able to slip into Israel and may wreak havoc among Israeli villages in the north.” Given Hezbollah’s “capacity to shoot 1,500 missiles per day, Israel’s high-tech missile-defense system will be ‘lucky’ to shoot down 90 percent of incoming rockets, missiles and mortars.” Accordingly, “IDF planners quietly acknowledge that ‘as many as hundreds’ of Israeli noncombatants might be killed per day in the first week or two of the conflict.”

The FDD report documented Shaharabani’s prediction that the “next Lebanon war could actually devolve into a regional war.” With Hezbollah’s expanding into Syria, “Hezbollah and Iran plan to connect the Golan Heights to the terror group’s south Lebanese stronghold – to make it one contiguous front against Israel. Iran can also unleash violence on Israel through its Palestinian proxies,” meaning, for example, that Hamas rockets “could force the Israelis to divert Iron Dome and other anti-missile batteries to the southern front with Gaza.” As Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps “was already embedded with Hezbollah during the last conflict, there is the very real possibility that Iranian forces could join Hezbollah in battle during the next confrontation.”

The FDD report noted that recurrent Israeli airstrikes against Hezbollah and Iranian targets in Syria raise the dangers of killing Russian advisers or coming into combat with Russian warplanes now supporting Assad against the Syrian rebels. Israeli consultations with Russia seek to avoid these clashes, but scholar Michael Doran warned at his Hudson Institute’s July 26 panel discussing the report that the “potential for friction there is enormous.” Recent American coordination plans with Russia in striking jihadist groups like the Islamic State would enable the Assad coalition to approach Israel’s borders, implicating an Israeli “red line” concerning the IRGC there.

Experts agree that a future Hezbollah-Israel conflict’s havoc will engulf as well Lebanon, termed at the Hudson Institute as “Hezbollahstan” by the Israeli embassy’s Deputy Head of Mission Reuven Azar. “The IDF no longer distinguishes between the sovereign nation of Lebanon and Hezbollah,” Stern has written, now that the Shiite-based organization has expanded its influence beyond its south Lebanon stronghold to countrywide domination. Simultaneously, “Hezbollah cleverly places its arsenal where any Israeli military response – even legal, carefully planned, narrowly targeted, proportionate measures – will lead to huge civilian casualties among Lebanese.” As report author Jonathan Schanzer noted at a July 25 FDD event, Hezbollah has “turned Shia villages into essentially missile silos.”

“We are not in the business of trying to provoke a new round,” Azar said, echoing certain arguments in the FDD report, yet several factors indicate that Israel will accept a decisive challenge with Hezbollah if it comes. While report author Tony Badran noted at the Hudson Institute that Hezbollah “is not even comparable to what it was in 2006,” the coming years “risk seeing a Hezbollah that is infinitely more capable in terms of its weapon systems. This time period of the Iran nuclear agreement also portends an Iran that is unleashed, that is probably by that point a threshold nuclear state with a legalized industrial scale program and recognized regional primacy in Iraq and Syria.” As the FDD report stated, the nuclear deal “has placed Iran on a patient pathway to a nuclear weapon. The clock is ticking. Israel’s window of opportunity to defeat Hezbollah in the shadow of the nuclear deal cannot be ignored.”

Not surprisingly, the FDD report cited Israeli assessments of Hezbollah as Israel’s greatest threat, a view confirmed by Schanzer’s past three years of meetings with Israeli officials. While Shaharabani at FDD discussed how Hezbollah would view not losing a future conflict with Israel as a victory, Israel would desire a short, yet decisive campaign against a growing threat, however contradictory these two goals. As he wrote, “Israel may find out very quickly that deterring Hezbollah is not a sufficient strategic goal. Therefore, defeating Hezbollah (or forcing it to leave Lebanon) might become its strategic objective.”

Although Shaharabani’s remarks noted that the more extensive Israel’s actions against Hezbollah, the likelier the intervention by Iran and others, the FDD report remained resolute. “Should war break out, the United State should actively delay the imposition of a premature ceasefire in order to buy the Israelis as much time as needed to complete their military campaign,” it read. This no substitute for victory approach makes eminent sense if, as Carnegie Endowment for International Peace scholar Joseph Bahout judged at FDD, Israel’s war with Hezbollah is unavoidable, only the “question is when and under which circumstances.”

Freed-Up Frozen Funds, Sanctions Relief and Ransoms Only Aid Iran’s Global Crime Syndicate

hCNS News, by Clare Lopez, Aug. 10, 2016:

“As long as Iran has money, Hizballah will have money,” Hizballah’s Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah boasted in a late June 2016 interview. “We are open about the fact that Hezbollah’s budget, its income, its expenses, everything it eats and drinks, its weapons and rockets, are from the Islamic Republic of Iran,” he added to Hizballah’s official Al Ahed newspaper.

Well, not quite everything.

In the past, Hizballah’s annual income from Iran was estimated at $100-200 million annually, with more received after the devastating 2006 war with Israel. More recently, however, as sanctions bit down on the Iranian economy even as the mullahs ramped up Iran’s nuclear weapons development and poured resources into the battle to save its Damascus proxy regime, the amounts Tehran could provide to Hizballah declined. Hizballah itself was called upon by Tehran to provide fighters, funding, and weapons to the Syrian effort. At least partly as a result, the time since 2011 has been marked by an expansion of Hizballah’s already-extensive global crime network. While Hizballah long has relied on a worldwide network of Shi’ite Lebanese businesses, criminal syndicates, and other supporters for financial and operational support, the urgent need to bolster its own funding efforts has pushed Hizballah increasingly into scaling up its narcotrafficking and related criminal activities—naturally with the full knowledge and approval of its Iranian masters.

Since its creation by Ayatollah Khomeini’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in the early 1980s, Hizballah has been involved in the local drug trade, built on traditional smuggling operations across the Middle East. Then the Lebanese civil war sent a Lebanese diaspora to the Western Hemisphere in which Hizballah operatives easily blended. Its first foothold was in the lawless Tri-Border area of South America, where Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay meet. Partnership with Colombian cocaine traffickers and willing collaboration from Venezuela gave Hizballah a new revenue stream as well as a base of operations with hemispheric proximity to Tehran’s number one ‘Great Satan’ enemy.

It’s no exaggeration to say that the drug trade is now Hizballah’s number one source of income. Collaboration between Iran, the IRGC, Qods Force, Hizballah, narcotrafficking cartels, and organized crime has grown exponentially in recent years, according to Michael Braun, retired senior official for the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). In June 2016 testimony to the House Financial Services Committee, Braun reported that Hizballah today is smuggling “hundreds of tons of cocaine from the Andean Region of South America into Venezuela” and from there onto ships destined for European markets via West and North Africa.

Operation Smokescreen was the name given to a Hizballah cigarette-smuggling operation run out of Charlotte, North Carolina, with links across the U.S. and in both Canada and Lebanon. Describing the complex network of banks, criminal operations and front companies that garnered tens of millions of dollars in profit for Iran’s terror proxy, law enforcement spokesmen identified a restaurant, painting business, tobacco shops, and credit card, mail and visa fraud, all as part of this Hizballah operation that was shut down in 2002.

In December 2011, DEA unraveled a large Florida-based criminal used car operation whose known profits netted Hizballah close to $500 million through the sale of counterfeit currency and bulk cash smuggling, some of which was also used to procure “a long list of sophisticated weapons.”

And finally, in January 2016, Customs and Border Protection (CPB), DEA, and international law enforcement partners busted yet another narcotics trafficking and money laundering operation dubbed Project Cassandra. Once again, the direct involvement of Hizballah operatives—always under the authority and supervision of the Iranian IRGC, Quds Force and Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS)—was uncovered. A South American network of drug cartels called the Business Affairs Component (BAC), set up by Hizballah terror chieftain Imad Mughniyeh (assassinated in 2008) as a criminal division of Hizballah’s External Security Organization, managed this drug trafficking operation and laundered the proceeds through the Black Market Peso Exchange (a drug money laundering system). Managed by senior Hizballah operatives, some of whom are Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) figures, the BAC was moving cocaine and money to Europe, Iraq, Lebanon and the U.S. The arrest of SDGT Mohamad Noureddine in connection with Project Cassandra may have put a temporary crimp in some of Hizballah’s drug trafficking, but officials point to an actual expansion of such operations since a nuclear deal was made with Iran, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that took effect in July 2015.

U.S. willingness to deal directly with the number one state sponsor of terrorism in the world has emboldened both Tehran and Hizballah. The JCPOA was only supposed to be about Iran’s nuclear industry, but its criminal, narcotics and terror industries got the message, too: individual U.S. agencies do their best, but the mullahs still have top cover.

Billions in freed-up frozen funds, sanctions relief, and ransoms paid for American hostages don’t hurt either.

Clare M. Lopez is the Vice President for Research & Analysis at the Center for Security Policy.

State Dept.: Hezbollah, Islamic State Maintain Presence in Latin America

Getty Images

Getty Images

Breitbart, by Edwin Mora, June 6, 2016:

WASHINGTON, D.C. —The U.S. Department of State (DOS) has determined that Venezuela, which has refused to cooperate with the United States’ antiterrorism efforts in Latin America for nearly a decade, remains a “permissive environment” that promotes ideological and financial support for terrorist organizations, namely Iran’s Lebanese proxy Hezbollah.

Although the “primary threats” to the Western Hemisphere stem from left-wing guerrillas known as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN), the Islamic extremist groups Shiite Hezbollah, also spelled Hizballah, and Sunni Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) also maintain a presence across the region, according to DOS’ Country Reports on Terrorism 2015, a congressionally mandated assessment of terrorism activities across the world authored by DOS.

The assessment declares:

South America and the Caribbean also served as areas of financial and ideological support for ISIL and other terrorist groups in the Middle East and South Asia. In addition, Hizballah continued to maintain a presence in the region, with members, facilitators, and supporters engaging in activity in support of the organization. This included efforts to build Hizballah’s infrastructure in South America and fundraising, both through licit and illicit means.


There were credible reports that Venezuela maintained a permissive environment that allowed for support of activities that benefited known terrorist groups… [including] Hizballah supporters and sympathizers.

Moreover, the DOS evaluation highlights the Tri-Border Area (TBA) between Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina, in addition to Peru, as regions where Hezbollah was operating last year.

“Illicit activities within the TBA remained potential funding sources for terrorist organizations, most notably Hizballah,” it says, adding, “The Tri-Border Areas of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay remained an important regional nexus of arms, narcotics, pirated goods, human smuggling, counterfeiting, and money laundering — all potential funding sources for terrorist organizations.”

The TBA border region has long been a hotbed for Hezbollah members.

In its terrorism reports, the DOS also points out that Peruvian authorities in 2014 arrested a Lebanese national and his wife, a U.S-Peruvian citizen, for suspected links to Hezbollah, adding that “there were residue and traces of explosives” in their apartment.

Hezbollah, along with other terrorists and criminals in Latin America, are known to use networks that support illicit activities, such as trafficking drugs, wildlife, bulk cash, weapons, humans, in addition to illegal logging and mining.

The DOS released its assessment Thursday, a day after the U.S. military declared the region’s illicit trafficking networks as one of the greatest security threats facing the United States.

Gen. John Kelly – former commander of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), which oversees military activities in Latin America and the Caribbean – warned last year that jihadist groups like ISIS could exploit the illicit networks in the region to infiltrate the United States, adding that Hezbollah is already using known routes to traffic drugs and other contraband.

Although Hezbollah is believed to be the most prominent jihadist group in Latin America and the Caribbean due to Iran’s enduring presence in the region, Gen. Kelly warned in March 2015 that a small number of Sunni extremists are actively “radicalizing  converts and other Muslims in the region and also provide financial and logistical support to designated terrorist organizations within and outside Latin America.”

Pentagon and DOS have recently revealed that between 100 and 150 people from Latin America and the Caribbean have traveled to the Middle East to engage in jihad on behalf of ISIS, without specifying the names of any of the countries in the region.

According to the Department of State, some people from Trinidad and Tobago, as well as Argentina, are believed to have joined ISIS in the Middle East.

“More than 70 nationals of Trinidad and Tobago are believed be fighting with ISIL in Syria,” reports DOS, adding, “It is possible small numbers of Argentine citizens may have sought to travel to Syria and Iraq to join ISIL,” without providing any specific figures.

DOS also mentioned an ISIS-related arrest in Brazil involving a money laundering group accused of moving $10 million-plus and having social media ties to the jihadist group.

Iran’s growing presence in Latin America is believed to be facilitated by Venezuela.

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Terror Threat Crosses Southern Border


By CounterJihad, June 3, 2016:

“Radicalization is occurring,” said Admiral Kurt Tidd, addressing the question of whether Islamic infiltration along the southern border is a threat.  “We just have to recognize that this theater is a very attractive target and is an attractive pathway that we have to pay attention to.”

Tidd, who took over US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) at the beginning of the year, said the Islamic State (ISIS) has between 100 and 150 recruits originally from Latin America.  A “number” have attempted to return to the region, which should be relatively easy given their access to proper passports and their native capability with the language and culture.

“It’s the extremist Islamist movement, and that very corrosive engagement that you’re seeing on the internet that they’ve demonstrated an effectiveness in,” ADM Tidd explained of the perhaps surprising recruitment success by ISIS in a majority-Catholic region.  Here at CounterJihad we have reported on a similar success by ISIS in recruiting from Catholic-majority Ireland.  However surprising, it is the case that Ireland has supplied more fighters to ISIS than the whole of India in spite of its vastly larger Muslim population.

ADM Tidd’s assessment comes as Congress has been informed of a successful infiltration by a Taliban agent along the Mexican border.  The Afghan national was in US databases as having terror ties, but somehow was not flagged by American immigration police.  Instead, his ‘expedited removal’ notice was overturned and he was allowed to apply for asylum and welfare benefits.  Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., revealed the matter to Congress based on Homeland Security documents he obtained through proper channels.  Hunter told Fox News on Friday that the database disconnect represents a “monumental failure,” and that others will have gotten through if this one did.

In addition to Sunni jihadists, ties between Hezbollah and the region’s drug cartels are an ongoing concern.  Iran’s control of the opium trade from Afghanistan allows the Iran Revolutionary Guards Corps to provide Hezbollah with opium as part of its fundraising operations.  Hezbollah converts the opium into heroin in its bases throughout the Levant.  Being a major supplier of the world’s heroin has allowed the terrorist group the leverage to establish good relations with Latin American cartels.  As a consequence, smuggling lines for bringing drugs into the Americas are open to Hezbollah.  Bringing terrorists through those same pipelines is not a big stretch.

ISIS, which also has a sizable heroin operation, could follow a similar path.  That would only deepen ADM Tidd’s troubles.


Tunnel Warfare

Published on Jun 1, 2016 by theunitedwest

Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, testified on Capitol Hill in May of 2016 ISIS, “will probably attempt to conduct additional attacks in Europe, and attempt to direct attacks on the U.S. homeland in 2016.” Director of National Intelligence James Clapper stated, “ISIS leaders are determined to strike the homeland.” In a shocking new book by Dan Gordon, a Major Hollywood Award winning playwright and veteran of several military encounters with terrorists, he details how such an attack will occur. “They will use Mexican Drugs tunnels from Tijuana and the attack will most likely occur in San Diego, Ca.,” Gordon recently told Tom Trento Director of a counter-intelligence expert based in Florida. “San Diego is a target rich environment and federal authorities, local law enforcement and the military will be unable and ill-equipped to respond in the timely fashion to prevent a mass casualty attack from ISIS,” Gordon stated. GET THIS BOOK NOW!!…


Published on Jun 3, 2016 by Stefan Molyneux

Download the Pamphlet:
An incredibly shocking glimpse at information provided by the Secretary of Foreign Relations in Mexico. Once again, Donald Trump was right – Mexico is sending people to the United States illegally and providing it’s citizens “how to” pamphlets to aid them in the task.

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Putting Hezbollah ‘out of business’

Illustration on the effects of cutting hezbollah funding on its operations by Alexandwer Hunter/The Washington Times

Illustration on the effects of cutting hezbollah funding on its operations by Alexandwer Hunter/The Washington Times

The Washington Times, by Jonathan Schanzer, May 31, 2016:


“After many years of sanctions targeting Hezbollah, today the group is in its worst financial shape in decades,” stated Adam Szubin, the acting Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence before a congressional hearing last week. “And I can assure you that, alongside our international partners, we are working hard to put them out of business.”

Mr. Szubin may be correct that sanctions are taking a bite out of Hezbollah’s finances. Congress enacted legislation in 2015 — the Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act — which hammers banks that knowingly do business with Hezbollah. This has led to a purge in Lebanon’s banking system; banks are dumping Hezbollah accounts. At least, those that wish to remain plugged into the international financial system are doing so. One reports suggests that as many as 10,000 accounts have been closed.

And now Mr. Szubin’s lieutenant, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Danny Glaser, is pressing further. He was in Lebanon last week, where he gave a list of nearly 100 names of Hezbollah financial targets to the Central Bank governor, who vowed to take action against them. The targets range from Hezbollah media outlets to political figures and fighters.

Hezbollah’s heavy reliance on Lebanon’s banks presents a hugely important opportunity to weaken the group’s finances. But nobody is putting Hezbollah “out of business” anytime soon. Hezbollah is a wholly owned subsidiary of Iran. And Iran just negotiated a massive windfall of $100 billion pursuant to last summer’s nuclear deal. For Iran, Hezbollah is too big to fail.

Even the Lebanese government is prepared to keep Hezbollah’s politicians in the black. Al-Sharq al-Awsat reports that the Lebanese Treasury started paying the salaries of government ministers belonging to Hezbollah in cash in order to evade U.S. sanctions.

But money aside, let’s not forget that even though Hezbollah maintains a vast illicit financial empire, its business is terrorism. And right now, even as the group’s military capabilities have never been stronger.

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Jonathan Schanzer, a former terrorism finance analyst at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, is vice president for research at Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Shiite Protesters Supporting Muqtada al-Sadr Storm Baghdad’s Green Zone, Occupy Parliament Building

iraq-green-zone-2016-04-30t141758z.sized-770x415xtPJ MEDIA, BY PATRICK POOLE. APRIL 30, 2016:

The government of Iraq teeters on the brink of collapse and a state of emergency has been declared after thousands of supporters of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr stormed the Green Zone in Baghdad today and occupied the parliament building:

Hundreds of protesters climbed over the blast walls surrounding Baghdad’s highly fortified Green Zone for the first time on Saturday and stormed into parliament, carrying Iraqi flags and chanting against the government.The breach marked a major escalation in the country’s political crisis following months of anti-government protests, sit-ins and demonstrations by supporters of influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The Green Zone is home to most ministries and foreign embassies and has long been the focus of al-Sadr’s criticism of the government.

Earlier Saturday, al-Sadr accused Iraqi politicians of blocking political reforms aimed at combating corruption and waste. While al-Sadr didn’t call for an escalation to the protests, shortly after his remarks, his supporters began scaling the compound’s walls. A group of young men then pulled down a section of concrete blast walls to cheers from the crowd of thousands gathered in the streets outside.

Various video feeds from inside the Iraqi parliament have been posted:

The Carnegie Endowment has a good overview of the Iraqi political crisis. Sadrist are also blocking the roads to the Baghdad International Airport to prevent Iraqi politicians from fleeing the country:

One U.S. spokesman had to take to Twitter to deny that Iraqi politicians were seeking refuge inside the U.S. Embassy:

Those of us old enough to remember the Iranian Revolution in 1979 can see striking similarities.

Muqtada al-Sadr is no friend of the U.S. and his Iranian-funded Mahdi Army was responsible for the deaths of a number of U.S. soldiers and servicemen in Iraq. Even after the U.S. military departure from Iraq, Sadr has threatened attacks against the U.S. if any type of recognition of Kurdistan or Sunni-controlled areas by the U.S. government were to occur. Bill Roggio of The Long War Journal explains the militias Sadr has under his control:

Sadr controls two militias inside Iraq: the Saraya al Salam, or Peace Companies (often called the Peace Brigades), and the Liwa al Yaom al Mawood, or Promised Day Brigade. Both groups are offshoots of the Mahdi Army, Sadr’s militia that fought US forces in pitched battles in Baghdad and central and southern Iraq between 2004 and 2008. Sadr purportedly disbanded the Mahdi Army in the spring of 2008 after US forces battled the group in Baghdad’s sprawling neighborhood of Sadr City, and created the Promised Day Brigade.

Sadr created the Peace Companies after the Islamic State overran most of northern and central Iraq beginning in June 2014. In February 2015, he purportedly suspended the activities of the two militias, however the groups have been spotted fighting in Iraq since then. Sadr also frequently claimed to have halted the activities of the Mahdi Army during the US occupation, but these ceasefires rarely held.

While Sadr has denied receiving Iranian support, the US military and government consistently stated that his forces have the backing of Qods Force, the special operations branch of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp. US military officials called the Iranian-backed militias who battled American forces up until 2011, such as Hezbollah Brigades and Asaib al Haq (League of the Righteous), the Mahdi Army Special Groups. With the backing of Qods Force, Sadr’s militias maintain the ability to strike US interests in the Gulf region and the Levant.

It bears mentioning that Vice President Joe Biden was just in Baghdad to meet with Prime Minister Al-Abadi two days ago:

The collapse of the Iraqi government or a continuation of the political stalemate will reflect poorly on Barack Obama’s decision to remove U.S. troops from Iraq at the end of 2011 just prior to his 2012 reelection campaign.

During the 2012 campaign he took credit for the move, but as Iraq continues to devolve under multiple pressure points, including the presence of ISIS in the north and west of the country, he has blamed Iraqi authorities for the American withdrawal.

Also see:

Report: German Refugee Program Money Given to Hizballah Operatives

Sryian Refugees in Berlin. (photo credit:URIEL HEILMAN/ JTA)

Sryian Refugees in Berlin. (photo credit:URIEL HEILMAN/ JTA)

by IPT News  •  Apr 20, 2016

Hizballah activists continue to operate freely in Germany and serve as senior employees of a German government-funded theater project intended to aid refugees in the country, according to the Berliner Zeitung daily and reported by the Jerusalem Post.

Two directors of the Refugee Club Impulse (RCI), sisters Nadia and Maryam Grassman, were central organizers of the annual pro-Iran/pro-Hizballah al-Quds Day rally in 2015 featuring “anti-Semitic slogans” and calls for “the abolition of Israel.”

Video and photographic evidence showed Nadia chanting on a loudspeaker while Maryam disseminated fliers and posters and collected donations during the anti-Semitic rally. It is uncertain whether the donations were intended to fund Hizballah’s terrorist operations in Syria and against Israel.

The RCI is expected to receive €100,000 ($113,260 USD) from the German government for the refugee project. Public taxpayer money has been transferred to the organization for several years.

There are roughly 250 active Hizballah operatives in Berlin and a total of 950 Hizballah members throughout Germany, according to a 2014 Berlin intelligence reportsummarized by the Jerusalem Post. Though the number of Hizballah supporters is believed to be far higher in Germany than listed in the report.

Radical Islamists are “the greatest danger to Germany…Germany is on the spectrum of goals for Islamic terrorists,” said Hans-Georg Maassen, president of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency – the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV).

In 2014, Germany closed down the Lebanon Orphan Children Project for providing money to the al-Shahid (“The Martyr”) Association in Lebanon. Al-Shahid was “disguised as a humanitarian organization” and “promotes violence and terrorism in the Middle East using donations collected in Germany and elsewhere,” German security expert Alexander Ritzmann said in a 2009 European Foundation for Democracy report.

While the European Union, including Germany, designated Hizballah’s military wing as a terrorist entity, Germany allows Hizballah’s political wing to operate freely in the country. The U.S., Canada, and the Netherlands designate Hizballah as a terrorist organization entirely. Even senior Hizballah officials have noted the futility in distinguishing between its political and military wings, acknowledging that Hizballah is a hierarchical and bureaucratic organization with a clear chain of command. Therefore the organization’s terrorist and military wings answer to its senior leadership and political echelons, including its main benefactor – Iran.

Hezbollah Brigades vows to attack US forces ‘defending ISIS’ in Iraq

Supporters of Lebanon's Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah wave Hezbollah and Lebanese flags in south Lebanon. (photo credit:REUTERS)

Supporters of Lebanon’s Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah wave Hezbollah and Lebanese flags in south Lebanon. (photo credit:REUTERS)

Jerusalem Post, by Maayan Groisman, March 21, 2016:

Hezbollah Brigades fighters in Iraq have threatened to attack the American soldiers stationed in the country, following the decision by the US army to send reinforcements to Iraq to support the international coalition in its fights against ISIS.

In a statement released Sunday, the Iranian-backed organization active in Iraq and in the Syrian civil war, claimed: “the United States increasingly intervenes in Iraq’s issues with its presence in the Iraqi joint operations command.”

While the US army says it is sending reinforcements to Iraq to help the international coalition vanquish ISIS, Hezbollah Brigades’ statement claimed the opposite.

“ISIS, the stepdaughter of the Americans, is taking its last breaths, so the Americans dispatched their ground troops to protect the “clinically dead” body of ISIS,” Hezbollah Brigades’ statement read.

“We have vanquished the American occupation with our quality and quantity in the past and we will continue attacking them, with our resources significantly increased. Iraq’s streets are still filled with the ruins of their vehicles that destroyed our explosive devices, and those injured by their soldiers are still hospitalized.

“The occupation’s coward soldiers should understand that however protective their vehicles are, these vehicles will become an obstacle for them and they will burn to death inside them,” the statement read.

Hezbollah Brigades, known in Arabic as Kata’ib Hezbollah, is not directly affiliated to the Lebanese terror organization Hezbollah. However, according to American forces, the group received training and logistical aid from the Iranian Quds force as well as from Lebanese Hezbollah.

Hezbollah Brigades’ statement comes shortly after Colonel Steve Warren, the Spokesman of the US military operation against ISIS, announced Sunday that a group of Marines will reinforce the existing force in Iraq to support the international coalition’s efforts against ISIS.

On Saturday, an American Marine troop who served at a coalition fire base near Makhmur in northern Iraq was killed after the base came under ISIS rocket fire. Several other Marines were wounded in this ISIS attack.


Hillary Emails: Intelligence Report Said Hezbollah Has Base in Cuba


Breitbart, By Jordan Schachtel, Feb. 18, 2016:

A private intelligence report from Hillary Clinton’s confidant, Sid Blumenthal, claimed that Hezbollah, the Iran-backed terrorist organization, had set up shop in Cuba, according to an email released by the State Department over the weekend.

The group was actively “casing” facilities related to U.S. interests, the intelligence report also says.

The dispatch read:

During the week of September 5, 2011 extremely sensitive sources reported in confidence that the Israeli Intelligence and Security Service (Mossad) has informed the leadership of the Israeli Government that Hezbollah is establishing an operational base in Cuba, designed to support terrorist attacks throughout Latin America.

The confidential intelligence report from Blumenthal to Clinton continued:

These sources believe that Hezbollah supporters have been instructed to also begin casing facilities associated with the United States and the United Kingdom, including diplomatic missions, major banks, and businesses in the region. These individuals believe that the Hezbollah military commanders in Lebanon and Syria view these U.S. and U.K. entities as contingency targets to be attacked in the event of U.S. and British military intervention in either Syria or Iran, at some point in the future.

Breitbart News has reported extensively on Hezbollah’s encroachment into the western hemisphere, noting the group’s rapid rise in the west in recent years.

U.S. officials, members of Congress, and defense experts continue to warn that Iran is utilizing Hezbollah to expand its influence in the region, and is utilizing cultural centers and mosques to spread the message of the Shia Islamic revolution.

Moreover, a recent report alleged that Hezbollah is now “moving freely” throughout the United States and Latin America.

When reached by Breitbart News, the intelligence services of Canada and Mexico wouldnot confirm or deny reports that Hezbollah had extensive operations already set up within the United States.

A State Department official recently acknowledged in a statement to Breitbart News:“Hizballah receives funding from supporters around the world who engage in a host of licit and illicit activities, some of which takes place in the Western Hemisphere.”

U.S. Removed Cuba from Terrorist List After Hezbollah Opened Base on Island

hezbollahcubaJudicial Watch, Feb. 16, 2016:

A few years before the Obama administration removed Cuba from the U.S. list of nations that sponsor terrorism Hezbollah established an operational base on the communist island, according to intelligence received by Hillary Clinton when she was Secretary of State.

The information comes straight from electronic mail released by the State Department over the weekend as part of ongoing litigation from several groups, including Judicial Watch, and media outlets surrounding Clinton’s use of a private server to send and receive classified information as Secretary of State. This alarming information has been ignored by the mainstream media, which served as the president’s most vocal cheerleader when he established diplomatic ties with Cuba last summer. After appearing for decades on the U.S. government’s list of nations that sponsor terrorism, the Obama administration officially removed it to lay the groundwork for a full renewal of diplomatic ties.

Nevertheless, the administration knew that the radical Lebanon-based Islamic group Hezbollah had opened a base in Cuba, just 90 miles from the U.S, a few years earlier. In a cable dated September 9, 2011 Clinton is informed that “extremely sensitive sources reported in confidence that the Israeli Intelligence and Security Service (Mossad) has informed the leadership of the Israeli Government that Hezbollah is establishing an operational base in Cuba, designed to support terrorist attacks throughout Latin America.” The cable goes on to say that “the Hezbollah office in Cuba is being established under direct orders from the current General Secretary Hasan Nasrallah, who replaced Musawi in 1992. According to the information available to this source, in preparation for establishment of the base, Nasrallah, working from inside of Lebanon, carried out secret negotiations with representatives of the Cuban Government, particularly the Cuban Intelligence Service (General Intelligence Directorate — DGI), agreeing to , maintain a very low profile inside of Cuba. Nasrallah also promised to take measures to avoid any trail of evidence that could lead back to Cuba in the event of a Hezbollah attack in Latin America.”

Obama’s report to Congress indicating his intent to rescind Cuba’s State Sponsor of Terrorism designation included a certification that Cuba had not provided any support for international terrorism during the previous six-months. It also claimed that Cuba had provided assurances that it will not support acts of international terrorism in the future. This was May, 2015 when the State Department announced the island nation was officially off the terrorist list because it “meets the statutory criteria for rescission.” In the announcement the agency also wrote this: “While the United States has significant concerns and disagreements with a wide range of Cuba’s policies and actions, these fall outside the criteria relevant to the rescission of a State Sponsor of Terrorism designation.” The new Clinton email creates a number of questions relating to the agency’s abrupt move to clear Cuba as a sponsor of terrorism.

Hezbollah’s involvement in Latin America is nothing new and in fact Judicial Watch has been reporting it for years. In 2013 JW published a story about Hezbollah infiltrating the southwest U.S. border by joining forces with Mexican drug cartels that have long operated in the region. The recently released Clinton email, states that a “particularly sensitive source” confirmed that in the 1980s Hezbollah carried out similar contingency casing operations against U.S., British, and Israeli facilities and businesses in Latin America, Europe and North Africa. In 1992 Islamic Jihad, acting on behalf of Hezbollah, bombed the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina in retaliation for the death of Hezbollah General Secretary Abbas al-Musawi, the email says.

U.S. Spots Russian Commandos in Syria



Spetsnaz troops helping Syrian, Hezbollah, foreign forces near Aleppo, Latakia

Washington Free Beacon, by Bill Gertz and Adam Kredo, Feb. 2, 2016:

Russian special operations troops are working covertly in Syria to support an array of Iranian-backed fighters, including members of the international terrorist group Hezbollah, U.S. defense officials and counterterror experts say.

The Spetsnaz commandos were detected working closely with military forces of the regime of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, as well as several Iranian-backed groups, which even include armed Iraqis and Afghans.

Officials did not disclose the specific numbers of Spetsnaz troops in Syria but said the numbers were in the dozens.

Recent operations involving Spetsnaz forces have been focused on attacking anti-regime rebels near the northern city of Aleppo. The city has also been a target of Russian airstrikes.

However, officials said reports from Syria that Spetsnaz troops are working with pro-Iranian Hezbollah forces are a growing concern. Officials are worried the terrorist group, which is known for attacking Americans, will gain valuable military know-how from the Russian commandos.

Hezbollah, or Party of God, is a Lebanon-based terror group that the U.S. Counterterrorism Center has linked to numerous attacks that have killed scores of Americans since the 1980s.

“Although Hezbollah’s leadership is based in Lebanon, the group has established cells worldwide,” the Center states.

Hezbollah’s leader stated in May 2013 that the group is backing the Assad regime by dispatching fighters to Syria.

“Russian-Hezbollah cooperation and coordination in Syria has been going on since the outset of Russia’s entry into the civil war,” said David Daoud, a Middle East analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

“Iranian and Hezbollah sources have openly admitted, on a number of occasions, that Hezbollah ground operations during key battles in the war were carried out with Russian air support,” Daoud said. “So it wouldn’t be surprising that there’s now cooperation between Hezbollah’s ground forces and Russian special forces.”

Despite its record of anti-U.S. attacks, the U.S. government has done little to counter Hezbollah or retaliate against it.

Hezbollah’s military commander, Imad Mughniyah, was killed in a car bomb attack in Damascus in February 2008. Israel was suspected of carrying out the bombing.

Iranian-backed militants and organizations like the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps have long been suspected of serving as Russia’s de facto “ground force” in Syria, according to defense officials monitoring the situation.

One Pentagon official recently told the Washington Free Beacon that military sources have continued to monitor “Iranian-sponsored forces providing support to the Syrian regime in their fight against Syrian opposition forces.”

Rep. Ed Royce (R., Calif.), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, disclosed late last year that military leaders had informed him of Hezbollah-led “ethnic cleansing” campaigns.

“I’ve been briefed on the fact that [Iran is] even bringing in militias from Hezbollah and their families into Sunni dominated neighborhoods in Damascus and running their Sunni population out as they basically do an ethnic cleansing campaign,” Royce said.

The deployment of Russian special operations troops to Syria illustrates the growing role for covert military forces from numerous countries in the war-torn country.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter disclosed last month that U.S. special operations commandos are operating in Syria to assist rebel forces opposing the Islamic State (ISIS).

The U.S. commandos were sent in November as part of the Obama administration’s latest strategy to defeat the terrorist group.

The elite U.S. warriors are engaged in intelligence-gathering, targeting enemy forces, and advising rebels.

“These operators have helped focus the efforts of the local, capable forces against key ISIL vulnerabilities, including their lines of communication,” Carter said in a speech Jan. 13, using an alternative acronym for ISIS. “They are generating new insights that we turn into new targets, new strikes, and new opportunities.”

Recent news reports from Syria have indicated Hezbollah is working with Spetsnaz troops in the eastern part of the country.

The Arabic-language Al Rai newspaper reported on Jan. 26 that the commandos were making military advances in the mountains north of Latakia.

“Special forces from the Russian army equipped with Howitzer artillery, supported by warplanes and backed by elite units from Lebanon’s Hezbollah … have been entering the fiercest of battles in the heights and towns of Latakia,” the newspaper reported. The paper quoted sources in a Damascus operations center that included military forces from Russia, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Hezbollah.

Boris Zilberman, also with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said the Russian-Hezbollah collaboration is not surprising.

“Russia recently said they do not consider Hezbollah a terrorist group and there are unconfirmed reports that Hezbollah militants participated in the search and rescue of the downed Russian Su-24 pilots,” Zilberman said.

Two Russian pilots were shot down and one killed when their aircraft strayed into Turkish airspace in November.

Russia continued airstrikes in northern Syria on Monday with Moscow reporting attacks on ISIS oil depots near Aleppo and other areas.

Two weeks ago, Western reporters visited Russia’s main Syrian base at Hmeimim, near Latakia, where Spetznaz troops were seen conducting security details. The commandos reportedly were dispatched to Syria on orders from Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

Russia’s special operations troops are considered among the most well-trained and well-equipped elite troops used for both combat and intelligence-related activities.

Russian bombers destroyed more than 1,300 terrorist targets in 468 sorties over the past week, Russia’s state-run Interfax news agency reported Feb. 1.

The strikes were carried out by Tu-22 bombers and Su-35 strike aircraft.

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