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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Hillary Emails: Intelligence Report Said Hezbollah Has Base in Cuba

Hezbollah-in-South-America-Reuters-640x480

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.

How Panama and Mexico Help Potential Terrorists Reach the U.S. Border

darien-gap-jungle-X2.sized-770x415xt

PJ MEDIA, BY TODD BENSMAN, JANUARY 6, 2016:

The State Department’s April 2015 “Country Report on Terrorism” no doubt came as sweet music to the ears of Special Interest Alien (SIA) smugglers. These are the smugglers of migrants from the spawning grounds of Islamic terrorism that, as I have been arguing, American homeland security leaders must strategically target with much greater aplomb to reduce the prospect of a Paris-like border infiltration attack here.

The April 2015 report noted that Latin American nations had only made “modest improvements to their counterterrorism capabilities and their border security” from the previous year(s). It noted corruption, weak government institutions, weak or non-existent legislation, and lack of resources as primary causes for little counterterrorism progress.

Conditions like those are, to SIA smugglers, pretty much a free pass to move their human contraband — and terrorist travelers posing as asylum seekers — from the Middle East through Latin America to the U.S.-Mexico border. That’s how so many of the Paris attackers did it in Europe: their smugglers took advantage of the same advantageous institutional weaknesses in Turkey, Italy, the Balkans, Hungary, Greece, and other countries.

One might forgive developing Latin American nations, relatively new to democracy, for slow progress in achieving basic state functionalities that could disrupt or deter such U.S.-bound smuggling of Paris-like terrorists. But less forgiveness is warranted for easily reversible formal government policies, which — as I found in my Naval Postgraduate School thesis researchovertly assist SIA smuggling.

I call the policy “catch, rest, and release,” and peg it squarely on two countries that are among our closest southern allies: Panama and Mexico. Rather than detain, investigate, and deport, Panama and Mexico provide housing, food, and medical services for a couple of weeks, and then release the migrants with full legal status. They know this will enable the travelers to continue unmolested out of their own territories and towards America’s southwestern border.

That’s why “catch, rest, and release” is a third attackable fail point of the smuggling networks, right up there with Latin America’s enabling diplomatic stations inside Islamic nations and with the multi-talented, hard-to-replace smuggling kingpins.

To understand the significance of “catch, rest, and release” to the SIA smugglers and their clients, one must grasp that migrants are paying once-in-a-lifetime fortunes to make it as far as Panama and Mexico. The mere prospect of deportation from one or both of those countries, short of the American border, portends a devastating financial loss not easily raised again for second attempts. Certainly, smugglers would have to charge more for routing adaptation that would have prospective migrant clients thinking twice about paying to attempt the new gauntlet. Therefore, in my estimation, lengthy detention and deportation from Panama and Mexico would threaten the viability of many SIA smuggling organizations.

Instead, the current policies of Panama and Mexico provide such a level of comfort and aid that SIA smugglers have come to count on them. Let’s use a clarifying example to see how all this works.

Panama, for instance, is a bottleneck bridge connecting South America — where many SIAs first land — to Central America. SIAs must traverse Panamanian territory to get to the U.S.-Mexico border. To get there, they must first exit Colombia territory and enter into a 40-mile, unpatrolled jungle wilderness of Panama known as the Darien Gap. The smugglers have no worries in Colombia; the 2014 State Department report stated that Colombian border security “remained an area of vulnerability” in part because only 1,500 of the country’s 180,000 national police officers were devoted to border security — elsewhere. In turn, Panama has left the Darien to the smugglers as well. The State Department report said Panama continued a “struggle to exert sovereignty in the underserved Darien region,” through which an estimated 7,000 migrants traveled in 2013 alone (8,432 during 2014, and 3,800 during the first three months of 2015).

With no border patrolling in the Darien wilderness, exhausted migrants who achieved the three-to-seven day journey eagerly turned themselves in to Panamanian security forces waiting at trail’s end, knowing they would be provided with food, housing, and a release with legal status. Within a few weeks, SIA migrants are thus able to continue northward, well-rested, refreshed, and legal. Otto Reich, former U.S. assistant secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs,told the Wall Street Journal that, despite knowing this human traffic threatened U.S. national security, Panamanian officials “know they are coming to the U.S. and … will no longer be Panama’s problem.”

Mexico, the other key bottleneck transit country, appears no less helpful.

Once through Guatemala, which amounts to an unimpeded “super highway of human smuggling,” SIAs gladly turn themselves in to Mexican immigration authorities. An ICE agent testifying in the 2010 asylum fraud case of Somali smuggler Ahmed Mohammad Dhakane described Mexico’s policy:

“Most of them, all of the East Africans and many from the Middle East, they will surrender at Tapachula (in the state of Chiapas bordering Guatemala), the Mexicans will hold them for, you know, ten to fifteen days, and then they will give them an order of deportation, and they are given 30 days to leave the country at that point.”

On the day after a Paris-like border infiltration attack on the American homeland, our political and diplomatic leadership may well start to ask themselves: with friends like Panama and Mexico, who needs enemies?

Iran Rising: Tehran Using Hezbollah in Latin American ‘Cultural Centers’ To Infiltrate West

AP Photo/Iranian Presidency Office, Mohammad Berno

AP Photo/Iranian Presidency Office, Mohammad Berno

Breitbart, by JORDAN SCHACHTEL AND EDWIN MORA,  May 27, 2015:

The rapidly growing number of Shiite cultural centers in Latin America have provided the Islamic Republic of Iran with a means to expand its covert recruitment operations throughout the western hemisphere, leading military officials and experts to provide Breitbart News with statements that directly contradict the Obama administration’s narrative that Iran’s influence in the region is “waning.”

Breitbart News interviewed military and intelligence officials, policy experts, members of Congress, and a former White House official for this report, all of whom warned about the threat posed by Iran’s continuing encroachment into Latin America.

Iran is infiltrating Latin America thanks largely to Hezbollah, a Shiite terrorist group that has sworn loyalty to Iranian Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, showing overt preference to the Tehran dictator over its host-state Lebanon. Hezbollah, along with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), have provided the on-the-ground support needed for the proliferation of Iran’s Khomeinist ideology.

Breitbart News’ sources have unanimously refuted the assessment of Obama’s State Department, which has claimed that “Iranian influence in Latin America and the Caribbean is waning.”

A U.S. military official told Breitbart News that the estimated 80-plus Shiite cultural centers backed by Iran are continuously multiplying, and are currently being operated by Hezbollah and Tehran’s Revolutionary Guards-Quds Force.

Hezbollah provides operational and logistical support “for Iran’s covert activities in the region to include coordination and collaboration with Lebanese [Hezbollah’s] external operations arm the Islamic Jihad Organization” through Shiite Islamic centers dubbed “cultural centers,” the official told Breitbart News, contradicting the narrative put forth by the State Department.

Such centers can be found throughout Latin America, according to the official.

“Iranian cultural centers open possibilities for Iran to introduce members of its Revolutionary Guard-Qods Forces (IRGC-QF) to a pool of potential recruits within the centers population of Lebanese Shi’a Muslims and local converts to Shia Islam,” added the defense official.

David Shedd, the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), echoed the U.S. military officials comments, telling Breitbart News via email that “the cultural centers may be used as platforms for truly nefarious purposes by the Iranian regime.”

“Iran has expanded its ‘cultural centers’ presence in locations such as Quito [in Peru] and Caracas [in Venezuela] where there is a strong anti-US government sentiment,” Shedd, currently a visiting distinguished fellow at the Heritage Foundation, told Breitbart News.

“Iran’s overall expanded presence in the Western Hemisphere is troubling,” the former DIA director added. “The expanded presence in any capacity in the Latin American region should give the U.S. pause given the profound differences between U.S. values and those of a regime in Tehran that supports terrorism as an officially sanctioned tool of national power.”

Shedd warned that Hezbollah, which he described as the most prominent global terrorist group in Latin America, likely has “sleeper cells” in various countries in the Western Hemisphere.

“Hezbollah sympathizers also appear to have a presence in the tri-border area of Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil where they are involved in black market commercial activities,” he noted.

The Tri-Border region in South America includes Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil. According to the Treasury Department, the Galeria Page shopping mall in Paraguay– at the heart of the tri-border– serves as central headquarters and a fundraising source for Hezbollah members in the region.

Members of Congress have also sounded the alarm about Tehran’s growing influence in Latin America.

Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT), a member of the House Armed Services, said that Iran’s presence was evident when he visited Quito, Ecuador. The congressman described it as a place where anti-American sentiment is strong and jihadist figures appear next to Latin American heroes.

Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) the chairman of the House Foreign Relations Subcommittee, has been warning against the presence and activity of Iran and its ally Hezbollah in Latin America, holding multiple congressional hearings on the issue, visiting the region, and sponsoring legislation — the Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act of 2012.

Chairman Duncan told Breitbart News that Iran and its proxy Hezbollah “use many tools to deepen their influence in the region, including diplomatic missions and cultural centers; ties with terrorist organizations and criminal groups; training Latin American youth in Tehran; and exploiting loose border security policies and free trade zones to smuggle contraband.”

Rep. Duncan accused the Obama administration of not paying enough attention to the Iranian threat in Latin America, saying during a March 18 congressional hearing, “I believe this negligence is misguided and dangerous.”

Duncan is not the only one who disagrees with how the Obama administration is dealing the presence of Iran in the Western Hemisphere.

Bud McFarlane, who served as National Security Advisor for President Ronald Reagan, told Breitbart News that Iran continues to expand its influence operations throughout the region, tailoring its message to the Spanish-speaking world. He explained:

Iran’s existing network of agents in place, including members of the Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), function through Iranian cultural centers where they seek to recruit candidates for conversion to Shia Islam and carry out other clandestine, subversive activities.  They also carry out what amounts to a form of brainwashing by encouraging teenagers to access Islamoriente.com, which features links to Iranian television for Spanish speakers, anti-American propaganda, essays on reasons to convert to Islam, chat rooms and a personal message from the supreme leader of Iran.

Iran’s propaganda and influence operations can be witnessed throughout the globe, not just in Latin America.

Dr. Michael Rubin, an Iran expert and scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), told Breitbart News:

The Iranian use of Hezbullah and Lebanese expatriate populations is actually neither new nor limited to South America. In the aftermath of the 1992 ‘Mykonos Cafe’ assassinations in Berlin, German police captured both Iranian and Hezbollah operatives, the latter of which represented sleeper cells in Germany.

Rubin added that Hezbollah must not be seen as an independent actor, but as a tool of the Iranian regime. He explained:

Hezbollah is a proxy founded and controlled by Iran. Talk of Hezbollah as having evolved to become Lebanese nationalist first and foremost is nonsense. I’ve been in Hezbollah bunkers in southern Lebanon. Pictures are worth a thousand words, and it’s telling that Hezbollah terrorists bunk down under photos of Khomeini and Khamenei. Current Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei remains Hezbollah’s religious source of emulation. Any notion that Hezbollah was anything other than an Qods Force proxy should have been put to rest in 2008, when they turned their guns on fellow Lebanese in the center of Beirut, or when they supporter the worst atrocities in Syria since 2011.

But even with the overwhelming evidence that Iran’s influence in Latin America is expanding exponentially, the Obama administration has thus far refused to recognize its deep penetration of the Western Hemisphere.

The State Department, which falls under the purview of the Obama White House, has recently stated that the “Iranian influence in Latin America and the Caribbean is waning.”

But it appears as if other executive branch agencies are sending conflicting messages about Iran in Latin America.

In October 2014, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), which serves as the investigative arm of Congress, noted a discrepancy in the assessments provided by the agencies.

Although the State Department claims that key government agencies — including the Defense Department, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice — agree with its position, the GAO revealed that U.S. Southern Command (Southcom), which oversees most of Latin America and the Caribbean, does not agree that Iran’s influence is “waning.”

Dead Argentine prosecutor was zeroing in on a terror threat to the entire Western Hemisphere

Alberto Nisman

Alberto Nisman

Business Insider, by LINETTE LOPEZ, March 20, 2015:

Iran and its proxies are well positioned in several Middle Eastern countries.

As days go by, the mystery surrounding the death of Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman – who was found shot in the head in his locked apartment two months ago – becomes murkier.

But we’re learning a lot more about the explosive findings of his decade-long investigation.

Testimony from journalists and government officials suggest that in addition to describing Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s hand in protecting the perpetrators of a 1994 Buenos Aires terrorist attack, Nisman was also working to blow the lid off the workings of Iran’s terrorist organization in Latin America.

Nisman’s decade of work on the subject pointed to Iran.

And according to the testimonies, it appears Nisman was working to blow the lid off the entire workings of Iran’s terrorist organization in Latin America.

‘Export Iran’s Islamic Revolution’

In a written statement on Wednesday, Brazilian investigative journalist Leonardo Coutinho walked members of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs through the findings of his years of work looking into Iran’s penetration of Brazil.

In a statement titled “Brazil as an operational hub for Iran and Islamic Terrorism,” Coutinho discusses not only his findings while working for Brazil’s Veja magazine, but also Nisman’s tireless work.

“Official investigations carried out by Argentine, American, and Brazilian authorities have revealed how Brazil figures into the intricate network set up to ‘export Iran’s Islamic Revolution’ to the West, by both establishing legitimacy and regional support while simultaneously organizing and planning terrorist attacks,” Coutinho said (emphasis ours).

“Despite the fact that Brazil has never been the target of one of these terrorist attacks, the country plays the role of a safe haven for Islamic extremist groups, as explained below.”

He went on to note that Nisman’s 502-page dictum on the 1994 Buenos Aires terrorist attack “not only describes the operations of the network responsible for this terrorist attack, it also names those who carried it out. Consequently, the document lists twelve people in Brazil with ties to [Iran’s Lebanese proxy] Hezbollah, who reside or resided in Brazil. Seven of these operatives had either direct or indirect participation in the AMIA bombing.”

To put these astounding assertions into perspective, consider that Iranian military mastermind Qassem Suleimani recently said, “We are witnessing the export of the Islamic Revolution throughout the region. From Bahrain and Iraq to Syria, Yemen and North Africa.”

Tony Badran, a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, explains what Suleimani, head of the foreign arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps, meant by this:

“When he talks about exporting the Islamic Revolution, Suleimani is referring to a very specific template.

“It’s the template that the Khomeinist revolutionaries first set up in Lebanon 36 years ago by cloning the various instruments that were burgeoning in Iran as the Islamic revolutionary regime consolidated its power.”

And now, according to reporting from Veja and Nisman, Iran and Hezbollah have been attempting the same in Latin America.

Nisman dug deep

Nisman had been working on Iran’s involvement in Latin America since 2005, when Nestor Kirchner, then Argentina’s president, asked him to investigate a 1994 terrorist attack on a Buenos Aires Jewish Center, AMIA. The attack killed 85 people.

Around the same time, according to reports, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who died in 2013, had allegedly ensured that Iranian and Hezbollah agents were furnished with passports and flights that would allow them to move freely around South America and to Iran.

From there, it was a matter of fund-raising for Iran’s agents – co-opting drug cartels, and sometimes hiding in remote, lawless parts of Brazil, Peru, Venezuela, and other countries that lack the infrastructural, legal, and economic resources to root out Iran’s agents of terror.

“Iran and Hezbollah, two forces hostile to US interests, have made significant inroads in Peru, almost without detection, in part because of our weak institutions, prevalent criminal enterprise, and various stateless areas,” Peru’s former vice interior minister told Wednesday’s House hearing, noting that Peru was not hostile to the US. “These elements are particularly weak in the southern mountainous region of my country.”

AMIA bombing argentina

Remains of the AMIA after the 1994 bombing in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Wikipedia

Nisman’s findings alleged that Hezbollah and top government officials in Iran orchestrated the AMIA attack. Nisman’s investigation was lauded by international parties – current President (and Nestor’s widow) Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has said so herself.

But things changed after Nestor left office in 2007. Argentina’s prolonged ostracization from international markets made it a cash-strapped nation, and the popularity of the Kirchners domestically waned below ecstatic.

That meant Fernandez would have to fight to hold on to power, and that fight would take money. According to Coutinho’s work, that’s when things changed. He interviewed three defected officials of Chavez’s regime who said they witnessed a conversation between the Venezuelan president and his then-Iranian counterpart, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in January 2007.

Ahmadinejad and Chavez reportedly planned to coerce Argentina into sharing nuclear technology with Iran – which Argentina had done in the 1980s and again in the early 1990s after the AMIA bombing – and stopping the hunt for the perpetrators of the AMIA bombing in exchange for cash, some of it to finance Fernandez’s political aims. It’s unclear whether Fernandez knew where this money was coming from, according to Coutinho.

In any case, The New York Times recently reported that intercepted conversations between Argentine and Iranian officials “point to a long pattern of secret negotiations to reach a deal in which Argentina would receive oil in exchange for shielding Iranian officials” from being formally accused of orchestrating the terror attack.

If genuine, The Times noted, the conversation transcripts show “a concerted effort by representatives of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s government to shift suspicions away from Iran in order to gain access to Iranian markets and to ease Argentina’s energy troubles.”

Hugo Chavez, Nestor Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner

Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner with her husband, Nestor, right, and, Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez in Buenos Aires in 2007. Reuters

After that, analysts at the US-based think tank Strategy Center note that there was a significant shift in Argentina’s policy toward Iran:

Later in 2012, Ahmadinejad made a speech at the UN, and for the first time in years the Argentine delegation did not walk out. The Argentine administration eventually cast Nisman’s findings on AMIA, Iran, and Hezbollah aside.

AMIA suspects

Moshen Rabbani and another original suspect in the AMIA bombing, Ahmad Reza Ashgari, from a 2006 handout released by an Argentine court. Reuters

Through all of this, Nisman continued digging. He tried to track the network of Mohsen Rabbani, who he believed led Iran’s cell in Latin America and was an architect of the AMIA attack.

>Brazilian authorities tried and failed to arrest Rabbani, whose main contact in Brazil at the time of the attacks, according to Nisman, was a cleric named Taleb Hussein al-Khazraji.

And that connection shows how Iran’s “intricate network set up to ‘export Iran’s Islamic Revolution’ to the West” touched the United States.

Both al-Khazraji and Rabbani were in contact with Abdul Kadir, a former politician from the South American country of Guyana who is now serving a sentence of life in prison in the US for plotting to attack New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport in 2007.

The FBI said Kadir was caught trying to board a plane in Trinidad bound for Venezuela and eventually to Tehran.

Kadir was prosecuted, with some assistance from Nisman, by none other than US attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch.

U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch

US Attorney Loretta Lynch. Reuters

“The sentence imposed on Abdul Kadir sends a powerful and clear message,” Lynch said in a statement at the time. “We will bring to justice those who plot to attack the United States of America.”

All of this suggests Alberto Nisman was a marked man for years. But for years he managed to do extraordinary work uncovering Iran’s terrorist network in Latin America.

It’s no wonder that confusion about what happened, who did it, and why has taken over Argentina’s news cycle. Reports have little to say or do with Nisman’s part in fighting international terrorism in Latin America.

Michael B. Kelley contributed to this report.

Also see:

New photos reveal expanding reach of Iran in Venezuela and other parts of Latin America

new imagesFox News, by Catherine Herridge, March 17, 2015:

As the Obama administration seeks a deal with Iran on its nuclear program, new congressional testimony, documents and photos show Tehran is expanding its reach into South America by advising rogue regimes on suppressing anti-government protests and financing secretive military facilities.

Rep. Jeff Duncan, a Republican from South Carolina, cited this evidence when questioning the notion that Iran has changed its ways as President Barack Obama and his team advance negotiations which may include dropping Iran from the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism.

“We have a negotiation going on with Iran,” Duncan told Fox News. “We don’t want anything to interfere with that.”

“And so we’re going to say their influence in this hemisphere is waning,”  Duncan said, referring to the administration’s argument. “The narrative doesn’t work when you start looking at all the pieces of the puzzle that fit together of Iran’s activity in this hemisphere”

Joseph Humire, who is executive director of the Center for a Secure Free Society and who will testify before Duncan and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s subcommittees on the Western Hemisphere as well as the Middle East and North Africa this week, says there is growing cooperation between Venezuela and Iran.

He pointed to a meeting between the Iranian commander of the notorious Basij paramilitary force, Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Nadqi, and the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, believed to have taken place in 2009.

Humire found evidence of striking similarities between the death of Neda Agha-Soltan — an Iranian student protestor who became the face of the green revolution in 2009, after she was shot in the chest by the Basij militias – and the murder in February last year of a 22-year-old Venezuelan student Genesis Carmona, a former beauty queen, who was killed at the hands of pro-government civilian militias.

The assessment is that Teheran advised Venezuela on the development and use of brutal civilian militias known as “colectivos” that were modelled after the Iranian Basij units.

“There’s a lot of similarities in the actual results, the killings, there’s also similarities in the tactics, clandestine communication techniques that these colectivos didn’t have previously, espionage, intelligence, the ability to infiltrate student movements like they didn’t before,” Humire explained.

And Iran allegedly helped build a UAV facility in Maracay, Venezuela, with documents reviewed by Fox News suggesting potential dual use technology.

After an unexplained explosion in 2011, Humire says sections of the plant, reinforced with ceramic plates at Teheran’s insistence, were largely intact.

“I believe the Iranian UAV program is a cover for something that is more illicit,” he said. “Perhaps something that’s sanctioned and mostly likely involves Iran’s strategic programs, its–nuclear program and ballistic missiles.”

Humire found other examples, in Bolivia, with photos showing a government site, alleged to have received backing from Iran. Before 2011, it housed a UN Peacekeeping unit, but since it has been replaced by an air defense command that is heavily secured, with some areas strictly off limits.

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Duncan, who authored the Countering the Iran Threat in the Western Hemisphere Act of 2012, signed by Obama, called on the State Department to assess Iranian activity, and its intentions, but the five-page unclassified report was a cursory review.

“It was a five-page report, (and) said the Iranian influence was waning,” he said. “But everyone I talked to in the intelligence community, differ from that whether it’s General Kelly with SouthCOM or whether it’s other independent, intelligence organizations.”

Catherine Herridge is an award-winning Chief Intelligence correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC) based in Washington, D.C. She covers intelligence, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Herridge joined FNC in 1996 as a London-based correspondent.

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Iran’s Expansive Role In The Middle East And Latin America, And The Nuclear Negotiations

333893762CSP, by Nancy Menges Luis Fleischman, Feb. 26, 2015:

As negotiations move forward on a nuclear arms agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran, the United States along with the P5+1 appears to be oblivious to activities of Iran in the Western Hemisphere and other regions of the world.

In the Middle East, Iran has most recently supported insurgencies in both Bahrain and Yemen. The pro-Iranian Houthis just overthrew the American backed government in Yemen which we were working with on terrorism related issues.

In Syria, Iran and its proxy, Hezbollah, continue to support the Bashar Al Assad regime with Hezbollah fighting together with Assad’s forces. So far 200,000 people have been killed in Syria with millions dispersed in refugee camps in Jordan and Turkey. Hezbollah now has a perfect excuse to be involved in supporting Assad by invoking the need to defeat the bloody Islamic State. Hezbollah may think that this card could play well in the West which is trying to avoid direct intervention to defeat ISIS and would prefer that local forces to do the fighting.

In Iraq, hundreds of thousands of young Shiites are fighting as part of Iranian-backed militias, with a Shiite sectarian orientation likely to aggravate the sectarian strife prevailing in the country. These militias outnumber the Iraqi security forces, and in addition members of the Iranian revolutionary guards, the pro-Iranian Badr organization, and the pro-Iran Katain Hezbollah are heavily involved, mostly operating outside of Iraqi government control.

In Latin America ever since the election of the late Hugo Chavez to the presidency of Venezuela in 1998, Iran has become more embedded in the region in an effort to spread its influence. Several episodes and activities are illustrative of this point.

A few years ago the late Argentinean prosecutor, Alberto Nisman reported in a 500 page document the presence of Iranian and Hezbollah cells in twelve countries in South America.

For at least ten years if not longer, there have been direct airline flights from Caracas to Tehran. Though these are commercial airlines no passengers are allowed and no one seems to know the cargo they carry but it is believed that weapons and members of Hezbollah or the Iranian Revolutionary Guards might be on those flights. Hezbollah has reportedly trained Venezuelan and other guerillas and has strengthened relations with a number of revolutionary regimes in the region. Likewise, tunnels built across the Mexican-American border are akin to those built by Hezbollah along the Israeli/Lebanese border.

In 2011, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder accused the Iranian Quds Force of plotting to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the United States. Though Iran vehemently denied complicity, the American government pointed to high officials in the Iranian hierarchy with having approved the plan.

Another Iranian activity that goes largely unnoticed is Iran’s outreach to several small Caribbean nations. In return for financial assistance, these nations have issued passports to Iranian citizens who wish to enter the United States but could not do so using their Iranian passports. Venezuela and a number of other countries connected directly or indirectly to ALBA countries are providing passports to Iranians. One of those holding such a passport is Moshen Rabbani, the man believed to be behind the terrorist attacks against the Argentinean Jewish Community Center (AMIA) in 1994.

Iran has also been the recipient of uranium from Venezuela.

Most recently the government of Uruguay confirmed that an Iranian diplomat left the country after Uruguayan security suspected him of collecting intelligence about the Israeli embassy in Montevideo.

The diplomat was thought to have placed an explosive device near the Israeli embassy early in January. The device was not particularly powerful but investigations carried out by Uruguayan intelligence indicated the possibility of Iran’s involvement in this serious incident. It was not clear to the authorities whether the device was intended to do harm or was just testing their ability to respond.

But what is astonishing about this story is that two months earlier another incident occurred which was intentionally kept out of the public eye by the Uruguayan government. Indeed, on November 24, somebody placed a suitcase near the building that belonged to the old Israeli embassy in Montevideo. Although the suitcase was empty, cameras located a car belonging to the Iranian embassy nearby. Inside there was a man that the police could not identify immediately but it was assumed he was an Iranian diplomat. The police concluded that the empty suitcase was aimed at testing Uruguayan security forces’ ability to respond.

The Uruguayan government apparently decided to expel the diplomat, who himself, is an appointee of the former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. That appointee was a vocal anti-Semite, a Holocaust denier and apparently served as a translator in the conversations between Ahmadinejad and the late Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez. Furthermore, the man was reportedly working in Uruguay with Muslim converts that have been activists in a radical left wing party. These individuals could well have been potential candidates for terrorist recruitment; an activity Iran has been systematically performing.

Interestingly enough, Uruguay has been and is a friendly country towards Iran (without being a close ally like Venezuela and the other ALBA countries). Uruguay’s outgoing president, Jose Mujica, declared in the past that his country would pursue relations with Iran because it is good and convenient for the country. The Uruguayan foreign minister Luis Almagro was a commercial attaché in Teheran for about five years and under his watch commercial relations between the two countries flourished. Likewise, a Uruguayan parliamentary delegation visited Teheran to strengthen relations and Almagro himself defined Uruguay and Iran as “two countries that fight against injustice and oppression”. (Almagro is the most likely candidate to be the next Secretary General of the Organization of American States).

The incident in Uruguay is another instance where Iran once again displays its nature as a terrorist entity that does not hesitate in using its embassies and the good faith of the host countries to apply its lethal methods. This is what Iran did in Argentina previous to the two deadly terrorist attacks against the Israeli Embassy and the Jewish community center.

Why shouldn’t Iran be doing so if there is no demand for Iran to stop supporting and encouraging terrorism? After all, a year ago Argentina signed a memorandum with Iran where representatives from that country would be part of the investigation into a terrorist attack where Iran remains the main suspect. By the same token, the chief investigator of the terrorist attack, Mr. Nisman, is dead because he dared to investigate a suspected cover up by the Argentinean government-a government that allegedly wanted to exonerate Iran.

Furthermore, the Argentinean foreign minister Hector Timerman summoned the American and Israeli Ambassadors and asked that these two countries stop meddling in Argentinean internal affairs and stop bringing Middle East conflicts to Argentina. The irony of this statement is that Iran chose Argentina as the target of its’ own intense hatred and violence.

Iranians probably laugh at these events where they are being given a pass over and over again. So, the fact that Iranians may have considered an attack on the Israeli Embassy in a country that is friendly to them such as Uruguay shows the ruthless nature of the regime and how little relations or agreements mean to them.

The negotiations between Iran and the P 5 +1 are mainly focused on Iran’s nuclear program. Thus, Iran is treated as a partner in a negotiation over a specific issue but Iran’s terrorist and treacherous nature is not a factor being considered in this equation.

At this point the U.S. strategy could well be to try to reach an agreement with Iran where the latter would be allowed to enrich uranium at a low level. However, there could be a possibility that if Iran decides to develop nuclear weapons, it could take the Iranians a short time to develop them from the moment they make the decision to do so.

The examples of Iran’s activities show several negative signs. First, if Iran can betray friendly countries like Uruguay, why wouldn’t it betray the P5+1? Likewise, what makes us think that we can live with a terrorist subversive Iran that not only has good chances of having a dominant role in a post-ISIS Syria and Iraq but also expands its influence and activities beyond the Middle East including regions as far as Latin America (from where Iran can strike the U.S. via a terrorist attack or by placing missiles in friendly countries such as Venezuela or Nicaragua)?

Iran presents a very complex challenge. Iran’s non –nuclear, threat is not being discussed, nor considered. This possible nuclear arms agreement should not be treated, as if it were something comparable to a commercial transaction. After all, as a nation state, Iran for the last thirty five years has been the foremost exporter of terrorism.. As the United States along with the P5+1 continues with its negotiations with Iran, they might question whether as a non-nuclear power, Iran presents a threat to world peace and stability and if so how will that play out once they were to become a nuclear power.

In Latin America, radical Islamic presence flourishes while key countries downplay the threat

86886005CSP, by Luis Fleischman, January 17, 2015:

As a result of last week’s heinous terrorist attack in France that took the lives of 16 innocent people, President Barack Obama has set in motion plans for a counter-terrorism summit to be held on February 18th in Washington DC.

It is likely that mostly North American and European countries will attend this summit meeting despite the fact that there have been recent terrorist attacks in other parts of the world such as those in Ottawa, Canada and Sidney, Australia and the northern region of Nigeria. In other words, simple logic indicates that these types of attacks could take place anywhere.

Before September 11, 2001 , the deadliest terrorist attacks in the Western Hemisphere took place in Argentina against the Israeli embassy in 1992 and then the Argentinean Jewish community headquarters in 1994.

However, we do not have to go back two decades .to stress the very real presence of terrorism in Latin America.

Most recently the Peruvian authorities foiled a terrorist plot against Jews and Israelis. The attacker was a Lebanese member of Hezbollah’s foreign terror operations branch. He reportedly planned to attack locations popular among Israeli backpackers as well as against the Israeli embassy in Lima and other institutions of the Peruvian Jewish community.

As a result of his arrest by the Peruvian authorities early in November, Brazilian police uncovered documents according to which Lebanese traffickers who are members of Hezbollah have helped the Brazilian gang known as First Capital Command (PCC) obtain weapons. Hezbollah provided the PCC with access to arms smugglers. Most of these Hezbollah operatives were based in the tri-border area (where Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina’s borders meet), a place known as being a big center of Hezbollah’s fundraising and other operations.

Of course, the connections between criminal and drug cartels with terrorist groups have been reported for a long time. The problem is not only limited to the fact that terrorist groups and criminal gangs or cartels logistically cooperate to advance their respective goals. The problem is also that criminals and jails are sources of recruitment for future terrorists.

It is enough to look at Amedy Coulibaly, the man suspected of killing a trainee police officer in Southern Paris on January 8th and also the person responsible for the seizing of the kosher supermarket on January 9th. Coulibaly was a petty criminal before he became a monstruous jihadist. He had six previous convictions, one for robbery and one for drugs. While in jail he was mentored by Djamel Beghal, a jihadist imprisoned in 2001 for planning an attack against the U.S. embassy in Paris. It was in jail where he met one of the Kouachi brothers, who were responsible for the attack on the satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo.

Given what we have seen so far of the radicalization of criminals, would it not be plausible for criminal elements from the Brazilian PCC to turn into Jihadists? Should it be ruled out that these Jihadists could attack a magazine such as “Veja” known for its’ anti-terrorist views or even carry out an attack on an American or European embassy or institution in Brazil?

So, what has been the attitude of the Brazilin authorities?

Brazil has denied that there is any terrorist activity in Brazil despite the fact that Hezbollah has major cells operating in the country and even some Al Qaeda operatives. They have been the least cooperative country in tracking activities in the tri-border area.

Brazil has been ruled by the leftist Workers Party since 2003. For them counter-terrorist activities are associated with Brazil’s military dictatorship of the mid 1960’s and 70’sthat carried out a heavy war against local guerillas and other subversive and dissenting activists.. Since that war brought about major human rights violations and loss of lives, Brazil has viewed the war on terror as something negative.

Brazil does not consider Hezbollah, Hamas, or even the familiar Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) as terrorist entities. By the same token, an Al Qaeda suspect was released by a Brazilian judge.

Yet, it is interesting that the government of the Workers Party under Dilma Rousseff considered an ill-conceived anti-terorrism law in the wake of the massive anti-government protests in the summer of 2013.

The debate was highly controversial and for very good reasons. The Brazilian anti-terrorist bill was aimed at controlling unrest, particularly as the World Cup was approaching. The bill was aimed at social control. It had nothing to do with terrorism. Terrorism was used cynically. The bill defined terrorism very vaguely such as “provoking or infusing generalized terror or panic through offense or attempt at offense to life, physical integrity, health or deprivation of liberty of a person”. This general definition could easily criminalize social protests and other acts that are significantly below any act of terrorism.

In Argentina, President Cristina Kirchner and her associates seriously tried to apply anti-terrorist laws against American investment funds known as “vulture funds” for causing debt in Argentina and for applying “financial terror”. In fact, Kirchner absurdly tried to impose the anti-terror law against a company that declared bankruptcy since that decision created “economic chaos”.

Even worse than that, on January 15th, the prosecutor for the terrorist attacks against the Jewish headquarters in Argentina, Alberto Nisman, filed a 300-page complaint accusing President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman and other political figures associated with the government of “covering up” for Iranian operatives allegedly involved in the deadly 1994 attack. According to Nisman, the Kirchner Administration attempted to remove Iran from any incrimination related to the terrorist attack that left 85 people dead and hundreds of Argentinean citizens injured. The idea was to strengthen trade relations with Iran in order to alleviate the energy crisis by exchanging “oil for grains”. However, such trade could not be done without removing the accusations against Iran.

Between Brazil’s cynical approach to terrorism and Argentina’s de-facto alliance with it, the situation in the region is very serious.

As terrorist organizations have a strong presence in countries such as Venezuela, Latin America cannot be excluded from the anti-terrorist summit and cannot be ignored. Venezuela and a number of other countries are selling passports to Iranians as well as other individuals from the Middle East. (http://www.theamericasreport.com/2013/10/15/irans-presence-is-multifaceted-and-reaches-remote-places-in-latin-america/ ).

Furthermore, a few years ago Nisman reported in a 500 page document the presence of Iranian and Hezbollah cells in several countries in South America and that Iran plans to establish intelligence bases in every country in order to carry out, promote, and sponsor terrorists.

Furthermore, if there is a campaign to uproot radical Islam from Europe altogether, it is likely that terrorists will shift their operations to other areas where they won’t be bothered and can still do harm to Western targets. Latin America’s neutrality towards Islamic terrorism makes the region one of the most likely areas of choice for them, particularly when terrorists already have a well rooted presence.

President Obama needs to develop a real global strategy on the war against terrorism. The countries of Latin America should not be neglected. The Latin American regional block bears responsibility to protect every resident and institution that exists within their borders. Their cynical and manipulative attitude towards terrorism needs to be challenged. It is in America’s interest.

Dr. Luis Fleischman is a Senior adviser to the Menges Hemispheric Security Project at the Center for Security Policy in Washington DC. He is also an adjunct professor of Political Science and Sociology at Wilkes Honor College at Florida Atlantic University. He is the author of the upcoming book, “Latin America in the Post-Chavez Era: The Security Threat to the United States.”

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Some Facts and Notes About The Situation on the Border: From the Jihadi Threat Perspective

h2Terror Trends Bulletin, By Christopher Holton, July 27.2014:

• Hezbollah has a major presence in North, Central and South America.

• Hezbollah is embedded in the Lebanese Muslim community in the US and enjoys protection from a neighborhood watch-type program that serves as a countersurveillance and counterintelligence operation. They also are embedded in multiple Shia mosques, some of which are directly tied to the Iranian regime.

• In 2003, then-CIA director George Tenet testified before Congress that 12 Hezbollah cells has been identified as operating in the US conducting surveillance.

• A Congressional Research Service report published in 2011 indicated that Hezbollah was present in 15 US cities, including Houston and Nashville.

• Hezbollah’s activities in the US primarily center around drug trafficking and criminal schemes and scams.

dea-used-car-scam

Picture-117

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• In Operation Smokescreen from 1995-2002, a Hezbollah cell in North Carolina that was bootlegging cigarettes to raise money was broken up. This was detailed in the excellent book, “Lightning Out of Lebanon.”

• In Operation Tobacco Road, 16 Muslim in the US were indicted for trafficking bootleg cigarettes in Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey and New York. The proceeds are believed to have gone to Hezbollah and/or HAMAS.

tobacco-road-1

• In 2011, 70 car dealerships in Florida and elsewhere were uncovered laundering cars for sale in West Africa to raise money for Hezbollah.

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• Hezbollah has two major networks operating in Latin America:

1. The Hojjat al-Eslam Mohsen Rabbani Network

2. The Ghazi Atef Salameh Nassereddine Network

• Rabbani is an Iranian diplomatic official who was formerly the cultural attache’ to Argentina when Hezbollah attacked two Jewish targets there in 1992 and 1994. He is wanted on an Interpol Red Notice.

Hojjat al-Eslam Mohsen Rabbani

• Nassereddine was born in Lebanon, became a Venezuelan citizen in 2000-2001 and became Venezuela’s number 2 diplomat to Syria.

Ghazi Atef Salameh Nassereddine

• Hezbollah’s Rabbani network operates in Brazil and Venezuela and is linked to the Sinaloa Cartel and has been identified as operating cocaine labs and providing security for drug operations.

The Southern Border of the US

• Former DEA Operations Chief, Michael Braun, has testified about Hezbollah’s extensive operations in Latin America:

–Hezbollah has exploited America’s porous southern border for years.

–Hezbollah has close relations with Mexican cartels.

• Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman detailed Hezbollah’s Latin American operations in his indictment of Iranian officials for the 1992 and 1994 Buenos Aires bombings:

–9 Latin American countries have Hezbollah deeply embedded.

20130220_hezbollah_south_america

–The origin of Hezbollah’s presence in Latin America was the heavy emigration out of Lebanon from 1975-1990.

–Hezbollah initially set up operations in the lawless “Tri-border” area where Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay come together.

The lawless "Tri-Border Area" in South America

• Hezbollah has a particularly heavy presence in Venezuela, especially on Margarita Island, where Hezbollah operates a training camp and has banking assets

hezbollah776283

• Hezbollah operates in Mexico and has relations with the Los Zetas cartel.

• In Mexico, Hezbollah’s operations include drug and human trafficking and providing explosives and tunneling training for the cartels. Hezbollah originally provided explosives training to Al Qaeda in Sudan in the 1990s and they have extensive experience in tunneling operations on the Lebanon-Israel border.

Hezbollah tunnel

• In July 2010, acting on intelligence provided by the US, Mexican authorities arrested a Hezbollah operative in Tijuana.

• The two main north-south routes for Hezbollah trafficking operations are I-35 and Highway 59.

interstate-35-map

US Highway 59

• US LE and Border Patrol have reported an increase in detainees with Farsi language tattoos and Hezbollah imagery on tattoos in recent years.

Source: fortressoffaith.org

• It has become increasingly common for Muslims in Mexico to change their Islamic surnames to Hispanic sounding names to facilitate moving across the border. Apologists claim this is simply to avoid discrimination. 

• Cartels have been involved in trafficking Al Qaeda, Al Shabaab and Hezbollah operatives into the US.

• From 2008-2010, an estimated 180,000 OTMs (Other Than Mexicans) were believed to have crossed the border illegaly.

• In that same period, 1,918 “Special Interest” OTMs were apprehended on the border. “Special Interest” means they originated from nations of terrorism concern, such as Middle Eastern Islamic nations.

• In January 2011, a Farsi language book was found on the border in Arizona. It was named “In Memory of Our Martyrs.” It was an anthology of Jihadis killed in martyrdom operations.

English language translation of "In Memory of Our Martyrs" published by Iran's Qods Force and available on Amazon in the UK

• In April 2005, then-FBI director Robert Mueller reported that Hezbollah was involved in human trafficking on the southern border.

• In July of 2012, six Special Interest aliens from Afghanistan, Iraq and Yemen were arrested in Laredo, TX. Each had 60,000 Iraqi dinars.

Information on general enforcement conditions on the Mexican border:

• There are constraints on border control. The Border Patrol is forbidden from patrolling on federal land. The Border Patrol reports receiving instructions to avoid detaining and processing illegal aliens.

• The majority of border crossers are NOT economic immigrants.

• Cartels are buying real estate on both sides of the border to set up staging areas and camps.

• The cartels employ high-tech comm gear superior to that in the hands of US LE.

• Cartels and coyotes employ scouts and snipers on the high ground along trafficking routes.

• The Mexican army has in fact provided surveillance and cover fire FOR traffickers on more than one occasion.

• Arizona ranchers are afraid to use their cell phones in the open because cartel snipers might think they are calling in reports to LE and kill them. Even US LE are careful about using comm gear in the open on the southern border. It is believed that the cartels have snipers and scouts in the high ground all the way to Phoenix.

• In 2010, an indictment in San Antonio involved the human smuggling of 100 or more Al Shabaab members from Somalia.

In short, the border is not secure, not at all. Any politician that says otherwise is LYING. In significant portions of the border, for much of the day/night, the border is completely controlled by cartels who have known ties to Jihadis, such as Hezbollah.

Christopher Holton is Director of Education and Outreach at ACT! for America. Holton joined ACT! for America after serving for 10 years at the Center for Security Policy, where he directed the Center’s Divest Terror Initiative and Shariah Risk Due Diligence Program. He has been involved in legislation in twenty states to divest taxpayer supported pension systems from foreign companies that do business with the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Islamic Republic of Sudan, and the Syrian Arab Republic as well as passage of American Laws for American Courts and several other forms of state level legislation in dozens of states. In 2005, he was a co-author of War Footing, published by the US Naval Institute Press. Holton’s work has also been published by National Review, Human Events, The American Thinker, Family Security Matters, Big Peace, World Tribune, World Net Daily, and NewsMax. Before joining the Center, Chris was President of Blanchard and Company, a two hundred million dollar per year investment firm, and editor-in-chief of the Blanchard Economic Research Unit.

Experts: Iran Exerting Troubling Influence in Latin America

Guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC / AP

Guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC / AP

By :

Iran and its terrorist proxy groups’ influence in Latin America remains a troubling security threat to the region and world, experts said at a congressional hearing on Tuesday.

Hezbollah, a Shiite terrorist group based in Lebanon and sponsored by Iran, has established illicit networks in Latin America in the last few decades to provide millions annually for its global operations, experts on the region told the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade.

Those networks involve money laundering, counterfeiting, piracy, and drug trafficking in cooperation with local criminal groups like the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Celina Realuyo, assistant professor of national security affairs at the National Defense University, said the “convergence” of terror and crime networks in Latin America presents a significant threat to regional and global security.

“These types of illicit actors, terror providers, and criminals, a lot of them are offering and brokering services but may not espouse the ideological fervor that other groups have,” she said. “But they’re offering a lot of special services—a terror pipeline—where you see this very unholy alliance between terror groups and criminal groups who have a win-win.”

The witnesses’ testimony on Tuesday appeared to contradict a State Departmentreport issued last year that downplayed the threat of Iran and Hezbollah in the Western Hemisphere and was sharply criticized by some lawmakers and terrorism experts.

Realuyo said a lot of fundraising for Hezbollah in the region cannot be “separated out” from the illicit operations of local criminal groups.

Douglas Farah, senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Americas Program, added that just because ties between Hezbollah and groups like FARC seem opaque does not mean they are nonexistent.

“It’s hard to get through the policy perception that [they’re] not there,” he said.

Realuyo pointed to three recent cases as evidence of the links between Hezbollah and criminal groups in Latin America.

Read more at Free Beacon

More on Hezbollah activities in Latin America: https://counterjihadreport.com/category/latin-america/

Jihadists exploit Latin America to finance terror

imagesCAH4IYW8Money Jihad:

Latin America has experienced a possible increase in terror financing activities by radical Islamists throughout 2012.  Consider the developments that have been revealed this year:

  • In September, published reports indicated that a Hezbollah camp in Nicaragua is training 30 operatives and is laundering money.
  • The Venezuela chapter of Hezbollah is using Panama for bulk cash smuggling for follow-on transfer to Beirut.
  • Some goods, possibly even missile components, are being exported via Panama directly to Iran.
  • The use of the Venezuelan air carrier Conviasa to smuggle contraband through Africa to Europe earned it an “operational ban” from the EU in April.  Hezbollah profited from the Conviasa flights.  It is unclear whether the ban interferes with Conviasa’s African flights.
  • Cuba was listed again by the U.S. in 2012 as a state sponsor of terrorism partly for the continued safe haven Cuba provides to terrorist groups FARC and ETA.  Havana is now also letting IHH, the radical Islamist Turkish charity that has been banned by Germany for its financing of Hamas, build a mosque in Cuba.
  • A trio of Hezbollah agents in Mexico was exposed during an arrest of one operative who had previously been convicted in the U.S. for credit card fraud that funded terrorism.
  • Ecuador was blacklisted in June by FATF, the international financial watchdog, for failing to make progress against money laundering and terrorist financing.
  • In its annual report in July, the U.S. State Department said, “Brazil has not criminalized terrorist financing in a manner that is consistent with the FATF Special Recommendation II.”

Given its Western heritage and deep Catholic faith, Latin America can and should be a natural ally in the war against Islamic terror.  Its energy resources make it a natural counterweight to the oil powerhouse of the Middle East.

But this wonderful opportunity to present a united trans-American front against jihad is being jeopardized by attitudes of permissiveness, ignorance, and political correctness.  American politicians like Michelle Bachman and Connie Mack who recognize the threat are written off as know-nothing xenophobes.  But the news this year indicates that they are correct.

Congressional report ties Middle East terrorists to Mexican drug cartels

Iran Quds force

By Matthew Boyle

A new congressional report from the House  Homeland Security Committee Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations and  Management ties Middle East terror organizations to Mexican drug cartels.

The report, released Thursday, is titled “A Line in the Sand: Countering  Crime, Violence and Terror at the Southwest Border.” It found that the “Southwest border has now become the greatest threat of terrorist infiltration  into the United States.” It specifically cites a “growing influence” from  Iranian and Hezbollah terror forces in Latin America.

“The presence of Hezbollah in Latin America is partially explained by the  large Lebanese diaspora in South America,” the report reads. “In general,  Hezbollah enjoys support by many in the Lebanese world community in part because  of the numerous social programs it provides in Lebanon that include schools,  hospitals, utilities and welfare.”

The congressional report, prepared by the subcommittee’s chairman, Texas  Republican Rep. Michael McCaul, argues that the “explanation for Iranian  presence in Latin America begins with its symbiotic relationship with  Hezbollah.”

“United in their dedication to the destruction of Israel, Iran has helped  Hezbollah grow from a small group of untrained guerrillas into what is arguably  the most highly trained, organized and equipped terrorist organization in the  world,” the report reads. “In return, Hezbollah has served as an ideal proxy for  Iranian military force – particularly against Israel – which affords Iran  plausible deniability diplomatically. Hence wherever Hezbollah is entrenched,  Iran will be as well and vice-versa.”

Read more at Daily Caller

Election in Venezuela: A Wild Card for US National Security

Venezuela’s opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles

By Luis Fleischman:

The upcoming October 7th elections in Venezuela do not  constitute just another round of elections in another country. These  elections are crucial for the future of Latin America and for the  security of the United States. In fact, it is no exaggeration to point  out that the Venezuelan drama should be as great a  concern as the   elections in the young democracies of the Middle East that emerged in  the aftermath of the Arab spring.

Unfortunately, the Venezuelan electoral process  has been  characterized by intimidation of the opposition and the press, violence,  and indiscriminate use of state resources, all this with the objective  of providing an advantage to Hugo Chavez.

In fact,  two supporters of Henrique Capriles Radonsky, the  opposition candidate  challenging the President,  were recently shot to  death.

**********

The U.S needs to exercise leadership among countries in the  Hemisphere but making sure that the Democratic Charter signed by members  of the Organization of American States (OAS) is implemented. The U.S  must exercise its influence to take democratic leadership in the region  or allow another key country to do so. It would be ideal if Brazil could  be persuaded to take such leadership as the country is a growing  democracy and economic power.

I would add that the struggle for democracy in our hemisphere should  not be merely based on moral principles. The struggle for democracy  needs to be understood as a major strategic tool of national security.  Democracy promotion creates a culture of peace and tolerance. A real  democracy includes substantive components that reject elements such as  alliances with rogue states.

As Venezuela continues to ally itself with Iran, Belarus, Russia  and China, the security threat on the United States aggravates. Chavez  has brought his Bolivarian allies in the hemisphere including Presidents  Rafael Correa from Ecuador, Evo Morales from Bolivia and Daniel Ortega  from Nicaragua into similar alliances with Iran. If Iran turns nuclear,  it is likely that missiles will be posted on Venezuelan soil creating a  major threat to our security.

Chavez has built an illiberal democracy that includes  regular  elections but  nothing else: no rule of law, no reasonable dialogue  between the factions, no free press and abundant violence and  intimidation. Chavez, nonetheless, rules because he continues to be  elected. This is the card he holds to maintain his legitimacy. This is  why Western Hemisphere  countries have accepted Venezuela as a  democracy,  as have  the Organization of American States (OAS) and   Mercosur (The South American Common Market). In both organizations  democracy is a pre-condition to become a member. However, Venezuela does  not seem to fall under the category of non-democratic countries because  Chavez  elections are held and Chavez has been “democratically  elected”..

If Chavez continues in power,  he will consolidate his regime to the  point where it will survive his death. Moreover, both China and Russia  have  major interests in perpetuating the Chavez government for a number  of reasons including an ability to counteract U.S. influence in the  hemisphere.

The United States cannot treat the Venezuelan case as it has treated the Syrian case. Our national security is at stake.

U.S. policy should be as determined and aggressive as possible with  the purpose of restoring genuine democracy to Venezuela and the  hemisphere. The morning after the election will be the real test for the  region and for the United States.

Read it all at Center For Security Policy

 

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Congressman Jeff Duncan’s First Bill Passes US House

 A big victory for ACT! for America! One of their high priority bills, Congressman Jeff Duncan’s Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act (HR 3783), passed the full House.

Washington, DC—South Carolina Congressman Jeff Duncan achieved a major legislative victory on Wednesday afternoon after one of his bills, the Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act (HR 3783), passed the full House with unanimous support. Duncan’s legislation addresses a growing concern among security experts that Iran is increasing its sphere of influence in Latin America. The legislation passes the House of Representatives just two weeks after an Israeli news organization revealed that Iran has established a Hezbollah terrorist training base in northern Nicaragua, and one week after the media reported that three suspected Hezbollah terrorists were arrested in Merida, Mexico.

“One of the ways we can honor the memory of those who lost their lives during the War on Terror is to be vigilant in protecting against new threats here at home,” said Duncan. “In the shadow of Iran’s growing nuclear ambitions, there’s another threat emerging of an Iranian-backed terror network in our own hemisphere.”

“From the deployment of an Iranian television network in Latin America, to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s frequent trips to the region; Iran’s made their interest in the region well known,” said Duncan. “Recent developments including arresting suspected Hezbollah terrorists in Mexico, and evidence showing terrorist networks potentially working closely with Mexican drug cartels is even more disturbing.”

With Duncan’s bill clearing the House of Representatives without a single Democrat objection, the legislation has a chance of passing out of the United States Senate.

“Iran’s actions in our neighborhood represent a real threat to our safety and security,” said Duncan. “This bill provides the first step to countering Iran’s hostile presence right here at home, and I’m hopeful that this measure will move quickly through the Senate.”

Duncan’s legislation:

  • This legislation establishes a strong U.S. posture, policy, and relationship with Latin American countries
  • Protects U.S. interests and assets in the Western Hemisphere such as embassies, consulates, businesses, energy pipelines, and cultural organizations, including threats to U.S. allies
  • Addresses the vital national security interests of the United States by ensuring that energy supplies from the Western Hemisphere are free from the influence of any foreign government that would attempt to manipulate or disrupt global energy markets
  • Requires a secure U.S. border with the U.S. working in coordination with the governments of Mexico and Canada to prevent Iranian operatives from entering the U.S. Counters efforts by foreign persons, entities, and governments in the region to assist Iran in evading U.S. and international sanctions