Iranian-Backed ‘Sleeper Cell’ Militants Hibernating in U.S., Positioned for Attack

Members of Hezbollah / Getty Images

Washington Free Beacon, by Adam Kredo, April 17, 2018:

Iranian-backed militants are operating across the United States mostly unfettered, raising concerns in Congress and among regional experts that these “sleeper cell” agents are poised to launch a large-scale attack on the American homeland, according to testimony before lawmakers.

Iranian agents tied to the terror group Hezbollah have already been discovered in the United States plotting attacks, giving rise to fears that Tehran could order a strike inside America should tensions between the Trump administration and Islamic Republic reach a boiling point.

Intelligence officials and former White House officials confirmed to Congress on Tuesday that such an attack is not only plausible, but relatively easy for Iran to carry out at a time when the Trump administration is considering abandoning the landmark nuclear deal and reapplying sanctions on Tehran.

There is mounting evidence that Iran poses “a direct threat to the homeland,” according to Rep. Peter King (R., N.Y.), a member of the House Homeland Security Committee and chair of its subcommittee on counterterrorism and intelligence.

A chief concern is “Iranian support for Hezbollah, which is active in the Middle East, Latin America, and here in the U.S., where Hezbollah operatives have been arrested for activities conducted in our own country,” King said, referring the recent arrest of two individuals plotting terror attacks in New York City and Michigan.

“Both individuals received significant weapons training from Hezbollah,” King said. “It is clear Hezbollah has the will and capability.”

After more than a decade of receiving intelligence briefs, King said he has concluded that “Hezbollah is probably the most experienced and professional terrorist organization in the world,” even more so than ISIS and Al Qaeda.

Asked if Iran could use Hezbollah to conduct strikes on the United States, a panel of experts including intelligence officials and former White House insiders responded in the affirmative.

“They are as good or better at explosive devices than ISIS, they are better at assassinations and developing assassination cells,” said Michael Pregent, a former intelligence officer who worked to counter Iranian influence in the region. “They’re better at targeting, better at looking at things,” and they can outsource attacks to Hezbollah.

“Hezbollah is smart,” Pregent said. “They’re very good at keeping their communications secure, keeping their operational security secure, and, again, from a high profile attack perspective, they’d be good at improvised explosive devices.”

Others testifying before Congress agreed with this assessment.

“The answer is absolutely. We do face a threat,” said Emanuele Ottolenghi, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies who has long tracked Iran’s militant efforts. “Their networks are present in the Untied States.”

Iran is believed to have an auxiliary fighting force or around 200,000 militants spread across the Middle East, according to Nader Uskowi, a onetime policy adviser to U.S. Central Command and current visiting fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

At least 50 to 60 thousand of these militants are “battle tested” in Syria and elsewhere.

“It doesn’t take many of them to penetrate this country and be a major threat,” Uskowi said. “They can pose a major threat to our homeland.”

While Iran is currently more motivated to use its proxies such as Hezbollah regionally for attacks against Israel or U.S. forces, “those sleeper cells” positioned in the United States could be used to orchestrate an attack, according to Brian Katulis, a former member of the White House National Security Council under President Bill Clinton.

“The potential is there, but the movement’s center of focus is in the region,” said Katulis, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.

Among the most pressing threats to the U.S. homeland is Hezbollah’s deep penetration throughout Latin America, where it finances its terror activities by teaming up with drug cartels and crime syndicates.

“Iran’s proxy terror networks in Latin America are run by Tehran’s wholly owned Lebanese franchise Hezbollah,” according to Ottolenghi. “These networks are equal part crime and terror” and have the ability to provide funding and logistics to militant fighters.

“Their presence in Latin America must be viewed as a forward operating base against America’s interest in the region and the homeland itself,” he said.

These Hezbollah operatives exploit loopholes in the U.S. immigration system to enter America under the guise of legitimate business.

Operatives working for Hezbollah and Iran use the United States “as a staging ground for trade-based and real estate-based money laundering.” They “come in through the front door with a legitimate passport and a credible business cover story,” Ottolenghi said.

The matter is further complicated by Iran’s presence in Syria, where it has established not only operating bases, but also weapons factories that have fueled Hezbollah’s and Hamas’s war on Israel.

Iran’s development of advanced ballistic missile and rocket technology—which has continued virtually unimpeded since the nuclear deal was enacted—has benefitted terror groups such as Hezbollah.

“Iran is increasing Hezbollah’s capability to target Israel with more advanced and precision guided rockets and missiles,” according to Pregent. “These missiles are being developed in Syria under the protection of Syrian and Russian air defense networks.”

In Iraq, Iranian forces “have access to U.S. funds and equipment in the Iraqi Ministry of Defense and Iraq’s Ministry of Interior,” Pregent said.

The Trump administration has offered tough talk on Iran, but failed to take adequate action to dismantle its terror networks across the Middle East, as well as in Latin American and the United States itself, according to CAP’s Katulis.

“The Trump administration has talked a good game and has had strong rhetoric, but I would categorize its approach vis-à-vis Iran as one of passive appeasement,” said Katulis. “We simply have not shown up in a meaningful way.”

Also see:

Iran In Latin America: Identifying The Problem and How We Need To Confront It

Center for Security Policy, by Luis Fleischman, Feb. 1, 2018:

Originally posted on the London Center for policy research

Last December, Politico uncovered a story with serious and far-reaching implications.The Obama Administration undermined and blocked a Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) program in its eagerness to secure a nuclear deal with Iran.This program targeted a billion dollar per year Hezbollah cocaine and arms trafficking operation in Latin America and the United States.

The Hezbollah operation also involved arms trafficking and money laundering. According to the report, cocaine trafficking originated inLatin America, specifically through Venezuela and Mexico, with profits generated in the U.S. and laundered through the purchase of used cars. According to U.S. agents involved in the investigation, the criminal operation was directed and planned by Hezbollah’s innermost circle and “its state sponsors in Iran.”

According to Politico, the money collected by Hezbollah went directly toward its military activities in the Middle East, particularly to the Assad regime in Syria where more than half a million people have been killed and millions more have been displaced. Furthermore,the drug profits aggravated issues at home; tons of cocaine were sold in the U.S.at a time when drug addiction constitutes one of America’s most pressing crises, having claimed close to 50,000 American lives in the past year alone.

The DEA sought approval to continue investigations, order arrests, extraditions and prosecutions of suspects, and impose financial sanctions on some of the operation’s major players. However, the Departments of Justice and Treasury rejected, delayed, or blocked those requests. Likewise, the State Department rejected requests to pursue cooperation with countries that could have helped target key suspects involved in those criminal activities.

The story reported by Politico is not merely about a criminal operation; rather, it follows a larger trend that has serious security implications for the entire Western Hemisphere. Iran has had a presence in Latin America for decades. However, its role in the region expanded and intensified after Hugo Chavez took the reins of the Venezuelan state in 1999. Chavez based his rule on a revolutionary transnational agenda that included a quasi-socialist authoritarian revolution at home, and an aggressive, expansionist foreign policy aimed at spreading his revolution throughout the region.

Unlike Napoleonic France or the Soviet Union, Venezuela did not have armies to expand its revolution by force. Rather, Chavez began to funnel money to candidates in different countries in the region who held views akin to his ideology and proceeded to establish alliances with regional guerilla movements to organize subversion across Latin America.Indeed, Chavez believed that to expand the revolution abroad, he needed to count on the power of asymmetric warfare. Thus, Chavez saw groups such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) as a necessary force that could create subversion abroad and expand his so-called “Bolivarian Revolution.” The FARC took part in the rebellion that toppled the government of Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada in Bolivia. Likewise, theystrengthened relationswith the Shining Path guerrilla Maoist movement in Peru and other subversive groups in the region. Theyalso trainedmembers of the Paraguayan Popular Army (EPP) who kidnapped and murdered the daughter of a former Paraguayan president.Chavez followed the same trajectory and established relationships with other militant groups, such as the Basque ETA and most importantly, the Iranian backed paramilitary, Hezbollah.As such, the alliance between Venezuela and Iran has strong foundations. They both are anti-American and seek to reduce U.S. power in their respective regions and, if possible, in the world. Chavez defined the Islamic and the Bolivarian revolutions as “sister revolutions.” Venezuela needed Iran’s subversive capabilities and its “valuable” experience in building a totalitarian-revolutionary regime to complement what Cuba had already been doing.

Hezbollah and Iran’s IslamicRevolutionary GuardsCorps (IRGC) have also established a presence in the region, training “soldiers of the revolution” in Venezuelan camps, and even helping to design and build the ALBA school, a military training camp in Bolivia. The school’s main purpose is to ideologically indoctrinate soldiers and strengthen the bonds between the armed forces and the new Latin American revolutions. The revolution promoted a civic-military alliance, a situation that has enabled the regime to survive. Venezuela’s own Vice President,Tarek Al Aissami, has been a key liaison between Venezuela and Iran.

For its part, Iran needed Venezuela to expand its presence in Latin America. According to the late Argentinean prosecutor Alberto Nisman, Iran has a presence in 12 countries in the region including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Guyana, Paraguay, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname, and Uruguay. Iranhas sought to increase political alliances in the region for which Venezuela and its allies provided a great opportunity. Italso sought a strategic position in the region to increase deterring capabilities against the U.S. Additionally, Iran has aspired to reach out to the Muslim community in Latin America. Indeed, Iran has established a number of networks in the region with mosques and even a TV channel(HispanTV) in Spanish.(HispanTVhas given wide coverage to groups that promote anti-Semitic conspiracy theories). Iran also sought to use Latin American countries, particularly Venezuelan banks, to curbthe effect of international sanctions.

Moreover,Venezuela issued passports to Iranians and Hezbollah members to facilitate their free travel around the region and the world. Likewise, several Caribbean countries thatallied with Chavez established dangerous liaisons with Iran. Guyana signed an agreement with Iran in which Iran would map Guyana’s mineral resources, including uranium. Dominica signed an agreement with Iran that enabled citizens of Iran, parts of the Middle East and Central Asia to obtain a second citizenship and a passport. The islands of St. Kitts and Nevis have also sold passports to Iranians.

These could have potentially harmful consequences. In 2007, a Hezbollah member stationed in Guyana attempted to carry out a terrorist attack at Kennedy Airport.Likewise, in 2011 Iran tried to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador in Washington. Furthermore, sophisticated tunnels built along the U.S.-Mexican border have been designed in the image of the tunnels found along the Israeli-Lebanese border. Intelligence officials have raised the possibility that Hezbollah has been enlisted by drug cartels to design and improve the tunnels along America’s southern border.

These actions can place the U.S. at the mercy of terrorist attacks not just by Hezbollah, but by any other terrorist group that establishes an alliance with Iran, including the Islamic State or al Qaeda. There has been evidence of a relationship betweenIran and al Qaeda over the past several years;therefore,similar cooperation should not be ruled out in Latin America.Indeed, in August 2016 the U.S.Southern Command reported the infiltration of 30,000Sunni individuals from the Middle East, which is the equivalent of 10 percent of the total illegal smuggling coming from the southern border.

In 2016, an officer who worked in the Venezuelan embassy in Baghdad charged that the embassy sold passports to whomever would pay. The officer witnessed embassy officials selling Venezuelan passports to individuals from the Middle East, including criminals and terrorists from Iraq and Syria.Given reports of ISIS activity in these countries, it would not be surprising if some of these passports were sold to affiliated individuals.

The drug cartels also play a role in the Venezuelan and Iranian schemes. Venezuela has opened its airports and seaports to drug trafficking. Chavez, like his mentor Fidel Castro, saw drug trafficking as a means to corrupt and destabilize American society—the main consumer of drugs, as well as generating large quantities in profits.Spanish journalist Emilio Blasco has estimated that 95 percent of Colombian drugs bound for Europe and the U.S. depart from Venezuela. Blasco, who authored the book Boomerang Chavez in 2015, also claimed that Diosdado Cabello, a former general, Minister of Interior, and speaker of the Venezuelan National Assembly, directed these drug operations alongsideVice President Al Aissami and Hugo Carvajal, a former director of military intelligence.

For Iran, their involvement in drug trafficking served as a source of revenue and as a means to deepen its logistical penetration in the region. Other actions indicate that there is indeed a link. There were reports that indicated that the assassination attempt against the Saudi Ambassador mentioned above was carried out with the help of Mexico’s Los Zetas, a notoriously violent drug cartel. Furthermore, there have been reports that members of the Mexican Sinaloa Cartel received weapons and explosive training in Iran.

According to Rafael Isea, a former Deputy Minister of Finance and President of the Bank of Economic and Social Development, current Venezuelan President, Nicolas Maduro, then foreign Minister, travelled to Damascus in 2007 to meet with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah. The purpose of his trip was to negotiate the installation of Hezbollah cells in Venezuela. This agreement protected Hezbollah’s drug trafficking and money laundering activities as well as its arms supplies and provision of passports. These passports and visas were prepared by Ghazi Nasr El Din, a counselor in the Venezuelan embassy in Syria, who was born in Lebanon and later became a Venezuelan citizen. El Din, who was blacklisted by the FBI, helped Hezbollah raise money and repeatedly facilitated the travel of more than 300 Hezbollah members. Their role, according to Isea, was to participate in drug trafficking and money laundering to secure funding for Hezbollah.

Therefore, what was uncovered by Politico in December was not just a criminal activity aimed at securing financial support for Iran’s wars in the Middle East. This isthe tip of the iceberg. There is an ominous marriageof conveniencebetween Iran, transnational crime, and regional states led by Venezuela that may have severe consequences for the United States and the region.The Trump Administration will have to take a holistic approach by focusing its energies on Iran, Venezuela and transnational crime. In terms of Iran, I outlined a strategy in a recent article. In terms of Venezuela, Trump must extend sanctions to the entire political and military operation. However, the current policy of gradual sanctions on a handful of military officers and politicians is insufficient and ineffective. The entire military and political elite must feel the effect of economic sanctions and restriction of movement.

The Venezuelan military, like many other authoritarian regimes, has been given control of parts of the economy and food distribution. It has been reported that some officers practice “food-trafficking,” taking advantage of the people’s desperate need for food. If the army abandons Maduro, this could be a good first step towards regime change. This is why heavy sanctions must be applied over the entire armed forces, and not just on a few officers. Supporters of the regime continue to desert Mr. Maduro; it is important to make sure that more members of the military do the same.

Finally, the Trump Administration must intensify the war on drugs and cartels that operate across many countries in Latin America.  Venezuela and its ally regimes in Ecuador and Bolivia expelled the DEA years ago. The crackdown on the cartels must be uncompromising.The challenge is significant.This important fight was lost in the last decade as former president Barack Obama attempted to seek normalization with Cuba and reconciliation with Venezuela.  Part of such appeasement was to surrender to several Latin American governments that opposed the U.S war on drugs.Now, we have no choice but to confront all these challenges heads on.

Also see:

WATCH: Tillerson Says U.S. and Argentina Will Cooperate to Fight Hezbollah’s Illicit Activities in Latin America

PJ MEDIA EXCLUSIVE: Gen. McMaster Sparked a Row With the Israeli Delegation at a White House Meeting on Hezbollah

H.R. McMaster (Rex Features via AP Images)

PJ MEDIA, BY DAVID STEINBERG, SEPTEMBER 12, 2017:

During the week of August 27, an Israeli delegation met with members of the National Security Council (NSC) at the White House to discuss the current threat to Israel by the terror group Hezbollah.

Israel believes this threat is currently dire. This meeting preceded a two-week long Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) exercise to rehearse for possible war with Hezbollah. The Jerusalem Post described this exercise, which commenced on September 4 and is ongoing, as the IDF’s largest in 20 years.

Hezbollah has been a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization since 1997. However, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster reportedly brought NSC Senior Director on Counter-Terrorism Mustafa Javed Ali to the White House meeting with Israel. Ali, a McMaster appointee, is described by a senior administration source as being “opposed to Hezbollah’s designation as a terrorist organization.”

What then transpired at the meeting has been confirmed to PJ Media by several administration sources, by members of non-governmental organizations involved in national security, and by a source within the Israeli government.

The Israeli delegation demanded that Mustafa Javed Ali leave the room.

This demand was made despite the clear likelihood that Ali would later be privy to the meeting’s materials and discussion. As such, sources speculated that Israel intended the demand to serve as a message to President Trump that McMaster’s behavior has constituted a subversion of Trump’s stated Middle East policy.

Mustafa Javed Ali, second from right, attending West Point’s 2015 Senior Conference. The conference was described as having focused on “unconventional approaches to counterterrorism.”

None of the several sources were aware if Trump had been made aware of the incident.

As has been widely reported, Trump’s Chief of Staff General Kelly has instituted tight restrictions on information and contacts reaching the president. Additionally, Kelly has been said to be working closely with General McMaster on issues related to the flow of information within the administration.

Friction between General McMaster and the Israeli delegation did not end with Israel’s demand that Ali leave the room.

Sources reported that McMaster went on to explicitly dismiss the Israelis’ specific concerns about Hezbollah.

In particular, the Israelis expressed concern that the “safe zone” currently being established within Syria — an idea that had been vociferously supported by Hezbollah’s sponsor, Iran — would immediately become a safe zone for Hezbollah to operate.

McMaster was said to “blow off” this major Israeli concern, and to be “yelling at the Israelis” during the meeting.

———————————-

For months, General McMaster has been under fire regarding his personnel decisions from Trump voters and the large majority of Americans who support Israel. McMaster has fired or otherwise removed all NSC appointees who strongly supported President Trump’s Middle East campaign platform.

Trump had repeatedly promised that his administration would reject the Bush/Obama policy of denying the doctrinal Islamic roots of terror, most notably expressed by Trump’s willingness to declare jihadist attacks to be “radical Islamic terrorism.” Indeed, Trump honored this pledge early in his term via the many appointees to the NSC brought on by former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and others.

Under McMaster, however, all of these voices have been removed from the NSC in what has been described as a “purge.”

In their stead, McMaster has astonishingly welcomed figures such as Kris Baumanand Robert Malley to his NSC. Bauman’s and Malley’s careers have been so objectively subversive to the Trump agenda on Israel that McMaster might as well have appointed Barack Obama and Jimmy Carter.

Mustafa Javed Ali in attendance at former President Obama’s 2010 White House Iftar Dinner. Ali worked within the FBI at the time. Per a source: “No Muslim reformers or liberals were welcome at those events.” (List of expected attendees available at link.)

Little information has previously been public about McMaster appointee Mustafa Javed Ali. Regarding Israel’s demand that he leave the meeting, a source claimed:

Israel possibly knows more about Javed Ali than [the Trump administration] does.

Earlier this year, Ali was rumored to have caused the cancellation of a scheduled talk to the NSC by Ayaan Hirsi Ali on account of her “Islamophobia.” Mrs. Ali, who escaped to the Netherlands from Kenya after fleeing a forced marriage, violence, and being a victim of female genital mutilation, is now an activist exposing Islamic doctrine. She has lived under 24/7 protection since 2004, when a Muslim murdered Dutch film director Theo van Gogh for making a film with Mrs. Ali that criticized Islam. A five-page note threatening the same fate for Ali was left pinned to van Gogh’s chest with a knife.

Sources within the Trump administration have confirmed to PJMedia that this rumor about Mustafa Javed Ali was correct: Mrs. Ali had been invited to speak to the NSC. She was later disinvited due to Javed Ali’s interference.

On August 11, Mrs. Ali published a Wall Street Journal op-ed criticizing Trump for “losing focus” on his terrorism campaign pledges. Within the op-ed, she chose to mention only the “most charitable” criticism being floated about General McMaster:

Some administration critics have blamed the loss of focus on Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, who became White House national security adviser in February. The most charitable formulation of this criticism is that military men who slogged their way through wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have an aversion to the argument that we face an ideological opponent, as opposed to a series of military problems.

But I put the responsibility on Mr. Trump. With regard to radical Islam, he simply seems to have lost interest.

Yet senior administration sources are far less charitable about McMaster and his appointee Mustafa Javed Ali. As mentioned above, they described Ali as taking the breathtaking position that Hezbollah should not be a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization. They described Ali as holding the same view regarding the Muslim Brotherhood.

They claimed Ali’s work within the NSC essentially amounts to him attempting to prevent the Trump administration from using any of the means at its disposal to target Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood as organizations. They claimed Ali advocates only targeting such groups’ identifiably “violent” members, and ignoring all other elements of their activities that may be subversive of U.S. interests.

These are recognizable as Obama-era policies — the “smart set” foreign policy strategies behind the Obama administration’s disastrous “Countering Violent Extremism” programs. This is the thinking that marched the Middle East to bloody catastrophe: a half-million dead in Syria.

Yet General McMaster appointed Ali as NSC Senior Director on Counter-Terrorism, and purged the NSC of voices supporting President Trump’s Mideast agenda. Then McMaster reportedly sat Ali in front of an Israeli delegation visiting the White House to share its concerns about Hezbollah.

——————–

I have previously reported here at PJMedia of an extensive public relations push — coordinated by administration supporters of General McMaster — to encourage conservative outlets and think-tanks to reject claims that McMaster is antagonistic to Trump’s foreign policy and to the State of Israel in general. That push was remarkably successful: an online search for critical McMaster stories from the right will reveal such articles virtually halted in mid-August.

The broader questions of President Trump’s continued silence are more difficult to read. None of the sources contacted for this article believe the president has fundamentally shifted his thinking.

Trump likely understands he would not have defeated Hillary Clinton without stating “radical Islamic terrorism.” Yet sources could offer only speculation as to how Trump intends to win his Middle East agenda while saddled with a National Security Council subversive to those goals.

Israeli airstrikes target suspected chemical weapons facility in Syria

GETTY

Long War Journal, by Thomas Joscelyn, Sept. 7, 2017:

Israel struck a suspected chemical weapons facility maintained by Bashar al Assad’s regime near Masyaf, Syria earlier today. The Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA), a propaganda arm for Assad’s regime, quickly confirmed the strikes, claiming that “Israeli warplanes fired several rockets from the Lebanese airspace.” SANA did not mention that Masyaf reportedly houses a chemical weapons facility, but claimed that “two army personnel” were killed and “material damage” was done “to the site.”

The airstrikes were launched less than a day after the United Nations released a report saying it has documented “25 incidents of chemical weapons use in the Syrian Arab Republic” between Mar. 2013 and Mar. 2017. Twenty of these “were perpetrated by government forces and used primarily against civilians.” The UN also held the Assad regime responsible for Apr. 4 sarin attack on civilians in Khan Sheikhoun, Syria. At least 83 people were killed and hundreds more injured in the bombing. Both the Syrian and Russian governments have denied the regime’s culpability, but the UN found that their explanation was not credible.

The facility near Masyaf, which is located in the Hama province, is one of several suspected chemical weapons sites maintained by the Syrian regime. Both the UN and the US say that despite agreeing to give up its chemical weapons, the regime continues to operate a weapons of mass destruction program.

In January, the US Treasury Department sanctioned “18 senior regime officials connected to Syria’s weapons of mass destruction program.” The sanctions were announced after a UN body “found that the Syrian government, specifically the Syrian Arab Air Force, was responsible for three chlorine gas attacks” on Apr. 21, 2014 and Mar. 16, 2015.

Among those sanctioned were several officials who work for the regime’s Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC), which reportedly manages the sites in Masyaf and elsewhere.

In late April, just weeks after the Sarin attack in Khan Sheikhoun, Treasury announced “one of the largest sanctions actions in” history. 271 SSRC employees were sanctioned. Treasury explained that they “have expertise in chemistry and related disciplines and/or have worked in support of SSRC’s chemical weapons program since at least 2012.”

Treasury’s designations did not specifically mention Masyaf as one of the SSRC’s chemical weapons facilities, but other reporting has pointed to the location.

In May, BBC News cited a document prepared by a “western intelligence agency” as indicating that Assad’s men were producing chemical weapons at three primary locations. In addition to Masyaf, two other facilities, Dummar and Barzeh, are reportedly located outside of Damascus. The same document “alleges that both Iran and Russia, the [Syrian] government’s allies, are aware” of the ongoing chemical weapons production, according to the BBC.

Israel has closely tracked the facilities in Masyaf and elsewhere for years, fearing that the Syrian military may transfer some of the know-how to Hezbollah or other Iranian-backed terrorists. This concern has only grown as Hezbollah has increased its footprint inside the country. In 2012, Spiegel Online reported that Masyaf was one of the locations being closely monitored by Israeli intelligence and Israel was “weighing whether to strike.”

Israel has repeatedly bombed other locations inside Syria since the beginning of the war.

In May, for example, the Israeli Air Force struck an apparent weapons shipment to Hezbollah at the T-4 military base near Palmyra. In Dec. 2015, the Israelis reportedly bombed a Hezbollah position, killing a long-wanted terrorist. These are just two of Israel’s suspected bombings in Syria. [See FDD’s Long War Journal reports: Israel’s airstrikes in Palmyra likely targeted Hezbollah weapons shipments
 and Israeli Air Force kills notorious Hezbollah commander in Syria.]

The facilities at Masyaf reportedly store not only chemical weapons, but also the means for delivering them. Jane’s Defence Weekly reported in 2014 that various Syrian regime development projects, including those related to “missile and rocket production,” were relocated to Masyaf as a result of the ongoing war. Projects related to manufacturing Scud missiles, armor, and surface-to-air missiles were already based in Masyaf, according to Jane’s.

In April, the US launched its own airstrikes on a Syrian airbase. The bombings were carried out after the sarin attack in Khan Sheikhoun.

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD’s Long War Journal.

Also see:

EXCLUSIVE – Terrorism Expert: H.R. McMaster is Endangering U.S. National Security

AP/Susan Walsh

Breitbart, by Aaron Klein, Aug. 16, 2017:

TEL AVIV — H.R. McMaster, the embattled National Security Adviser to President Trump, is threatening U.S. national security by refusing to recognize radical Islamic terrorism, a top terrorism expert told Breitbart News.

“The refusal to utter or condemn by name radical Islamic terrorism only helps makes the battle against Islamic terrorism impossible to win,” stated Steven Emerson, executive director of the respected Investigative Project on Terrorism. “If you cannot identify the problem, you cannot beat it.”

McMaster’s refusal to “condemn radical Islamic terrorism by name is a threat to our national security,” Emerson posited.

Emerson was responding to a 2014 speech on the Middle East, unearthed yesterday by Breitbart News, in which McMaster claimed that Islamic terrorist organizations are “really un-Islamic” and are “really irreligious organizations” who cloak themselves in the “false legitimacy of Islam.”

McMaster’s comments represent views of Islamic terrorism that are diametrically opposed to those espoused by President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly utilized the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism.”

McMaster, who serves in a critical national security position, seems to be minimizing the central religious motivations of radical Islamic terrorist groups who are waging a religious war against Western civilization. Indeed, in his speech, McMaster urged the audience to focus on the “human factors” that he says drive conflict while downplaying any religious motivation.

The comments in the 2014 video are not the only time McMaster has seemingly denied the Islamic motivations of America’s terrorist enemies. In February, CNN cited a source inside a National Security Council meeting quoting McMaster as saying that use of the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism” is unhelpful in working with allies to fight terrorism.

In May, McMaster spoke on ABC’s This Week about whether Trump would use the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism” in a speech that the president was about to give in Saudi Arabia. “The president will call it whatever he wants to call it,” McMaster said. “But I think it’s important that, whatever we call it, we recognize that [extremists] are not religious people. And, in fact, these enemies of all civilizations, what they want to do is to cloak their criminal behavior under this false idea of some kind of religious war.”

Emerson compared McMaster’s views on terrorism to those officially espoused for eight years by the Obama administration, which refused to attribute radical Islamic motivations to terrorism, instead referring to the phenomenon as “violent extremism.”

Stated Emerson:

Nearly the entire liberal/left wing media spectrum have been continuously condemning President Trump for not condemning by name the ultra-white nationalist groups who came out for battle on Saturday in Charlottesville instead of condemning the generalized categories of “hate and bigotry.”  In fact, we also criticized that hesitation to name the neo-Nazi  coalition, but at least the President  condemned them by name on Monday.

But by the scurrilous standards of McMaster and the 8 years of the Obama Administration, a generalized statement against “violent extremism” should have been enough for the events on Saturday. But of course, that meaningless euphemism invoked by Obama, to the murderous applause of a compliant media, meant absolutely nothing. And in fact, only emboldened the quest for power by radical Islamic front groups over truly moderate Islamic reform groups and leaders. That McMaster is pursuing the same refusal to condemn radical Islamic terrorism by name is a threat to our national security.

Also reacting to McMaster’s statements on terrorism, Frank Gaffney, founder and president of the Center for Security Policy, told Breitbart News yesterday that he believes McMaster is endangering U.S. national security by seeming to scrub Islam as a motivating factor.

Stated Gaffney, “It is no small irony that National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster – a man who wrote a book entitled Dereliction of Duty about malfeasant political interference in the U.S. military’s conduct of a war – is now perpetrating the greatest reprise of such dereliction since Vietnam with his insistence that the wellspring for jihadist terror is not authoritative Islam and its supremacist Sharia doctrine. President Trump must treat such incompetence as a firing offense.”

Shia and Sunni Islamic terrorist groups such as al-Qaida, Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and the Islamic State each openly espouse Islamic motivations, repeatedly cite the Quran, and claim they are fighting a religious war.  Some of the Sunni groups are violent offshoots of the Muslim Brotherhood, which seeks to create a global Islamic caliphate.

Osama bin Laden, the founder of al-Qaida, infamously cited Quranic scripture and was heavily influenced by Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood leader, ideologue and Islamic theorist Sayyid Qutb, considered the Brotherhood’s intellectual godfather.  Writing in the New York Times magazine in 2003, author Paul Berman dissected the Quranic origins of Qutb’s book Milestones – utilized by bin Laden as a sort of religious guidebook – as being drawn from Qutb’s massive commentary on the Quran titled, In the Shade of the Qur’an.

Hamas’s original charter repeatedly cites the Quran and other mainstream Islamic texts.  In March, Mahmoud al-Zahar, a senior Hamas leader in Gaza, claimed that “removing the Jews from the land they occupied in 1948 is an immutable principle because it appears in the Book of Allah.”  Zahar was referring to the entire State of Israel.

While there are legitimate arguments about how much these terrorist groups in some cases may utilize an extremist interpretation of Islam, McMaster is clearly downplaying the transparent religious motivations of America’s terrorist enemies.

McMaster’s views on Islamic terrorism are the latest controversy to engulf the Trump administration official.

Last week, the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), the oldest pro-Israel group in the country, released an analysis of McMaster’s policies and reported views, concluding that he should be reassigned outside the NSC after it found that McMaster may be undermining Trump’s stated national security agenda.

The analysis states:

We find it hard to understand how someone who clearly has animus toward Israel, who supports the disastrous Iran nuclear deal, who opposes calling out radical Islamist terrorists, who fires Trump loyalists and supporters of Israel and opponents of Iran, who hires those opposed to President Trump’s policies especially on Israel and Iran, who refused to acknowledge that the Western Wall is in Israel, who opposes Israeli counterterrorism measures, and who shuts down joint U.S. counterterrorism programs that are of enormous value to U.S. security, can faithfully serve President Trump as top national security advisor. President Trump made it crystal clear, both before and since his election, that supporting Israel and the U.S.-Israel alliance, abrogating or at least vigorously enforcing the Iran deal while calling out and sanctioning Iran’s violations, confronting radical Islamist terrorism, and draining the Washington swamp were key, distinguishing policies of his administration.
The ZOA’s analysis cited Breitbart News articles from this reporter on McMaster’s background.
Last week, Breitbart News reported that McMaster served at a UK-based think tank financed by a controversial, George Soros-funded group identified by the Obama White House as central in helping to sell the Iran nuclear deal to the public and news media. 
From September 2006 to February 2017, McMaster was listed as a member of International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), where he served as consulting senior fellow. The IISS describes itself as a “world-leading authority on global security, political risk and military conflict.” The group was also financed directly by Soros’s Open Society Foundations.
Breitbart also reported that IISS is bankrolled by multinational corporate firms doing billions of dollars in business in Iran.
And IISS quietly took in about $32.5 million in funding from Bahrain, a country whose constitution explicitly enshrines Sharia Islamic law as its governing doctrine, Breitbart News documented.
The funding from Bahrain, a repressive regime with a dismal human rights track record but also an important regional U.S. ally, reportedly amounted to one quarter of the think tank’s total income.
Also see:

Why are we funneling weapons to Hezbollah?

Bilal Hussein | AP Photo

Conservative Review, by Daniel Horowitz, Aug. 16, 2017:

What if I told you we were sending military hardware to ISIS? Would you march on Washington with an outpouring of righteous indignation?

Well, we are now arming Hezbollah, which is worse than arming ISIS, given that the caliphate is on the decline and Hezbollah and Iran are gaining more power by the day. Oh, and by the way, the last time I checked, we have a Republican in the White House.

On Monday, the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon announced the planned shipment of 32 M2A2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles from America to the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), at an “investment” of $100 million.

Meanwhile, our soldiers have been working with them and training them on how to use a number of other weapons systems that have been transferred to the Lebanese army over the past year. They include howitzers, grenade launchers, machine guns, mortars, hellfire missiles, night vision devices, and thermal sights technology.

At this point, any thinking person should be asking that, given that Lebanon is controlled by Hezbollah, and is a client state of Iran, doesn’t this mean that we are essentially arming Hezbollah?

Everyone knows that the Lebanese government is completely at the mercy of Hezbollah and Iran. Given that Hezbollah is much stronger than the LAF, is comprised of many Shiites, and is subject to the direction and veto power of its Iranian masters, it defies logic to think that they could possibly maintain control over U.S. aid without Hezbollah confiscating it.

As Tony Badran of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies observes, “Hezbollah, of course, controls the Lebanese government and dictates the operations of its armed forces. Indeed, it was Hezbollah that laid out the battle plans for the current operation in northeastern Lebanon, including what role the LAF would play in it.” This is why Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman warned that “the Lebanese army is a subsidiary unit of Hezbollah” and that Lebanon’s president, Michel Aoun, “is another Nasrallah operative.”

Yet, Trump embraced Lebanon’s prime minister, Saad Hariri, in a recent visit to the White House and praised him as a partner in the war against terrorists. It’s yet another example of where the nuances of alliances and policy are lost on the president, which prompts him to support action that repudiates his campaign promises and stated objectives on Iran.

We were told by apologists of the Saudi arms deal that a complete embrace of Saudi Arabia was needed to combat Iran. Yet, here we are helping their strongest proxy that is directly controlled by Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC) figures on the ground.

This is a symptom of a broader disease inherent in our Middle East strategy over the past decade, whereby we arm multiple sides of Islamic civil wars, and often, fight ourselves and our own weapons by proxy. Aside from the immorality of ensuring that arms fall into the hands of Hezbollah, such a move has two distinct policy outcomes: It further muddles our involvement in Syria, and strengthens Hezbollah’s desire to open a second front against Israel on its eastern border.

According to the State Department, there are approximately 7,000 Hezbollah fighters in Syria. They are fighting alongside the IRGC and the Assad regime against other Islamic insurgents including ISIS. The irony is that our own military is fighting ISIS as well.

Yet, at the same time, we are launching air strikes against Shiite militias allied with Hezbollah, but now we are also almost directly arming Hezbollah. Oh, and we happen to be assisting some of the very same Shiite militias in Iraq! The Hezbollah Brigades, along with fellow Shiite militias, such as the Sayyid al Shuhada Brigades and the Imam Ali Brigades, are benefiting from our support in Iraq, even though they are controlled by the Iranian Quds Force.

Is your head spinning yet? Rather than enable our enemies to fight with each other to the benefit of our security interests, we have them play ourselves against our own interests by supporting the worst elements of all sides by placing our weapons and special forces into the hands of our enemies. Two more soldiers died earlier this week in Iraq, very likely engaged in a mission that at least indirectly buttresses Iranian hegemony.

Welcome to the world of Islamic civil wars and our wrongheaded involvement on multiple and conflicting sides in each given theater, where there is no discernable strategic objective that places our interests first.

Instead, the sum of our actions is that we are directly aiding Iran in most theaters. Unlike Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq, Iran is the one country in the Middle East that poses a direct threat to our interests. And if the Iranians are allowed to continue expanding their wealth and reach, they will succeed in threatening our homeland, just like North Korea.

More worrisome is that fact that Hezbollah, in its own right, poses a greater homeland security threat than the major Sunni terror groups, because it has a vast network inside our country and in Latin America. Several operatives have been arrested in recent months. Why in the world would we help them in the Middle East on numerous fronts, arm them … and then fight against them on other fronts?

Caroline Glick: McMaster’s Policies Completely Contradict Trump’s, Natural Continuation of Obama’s

AP/Getty

Breitbart, by John Hayward, Aug. 11, 2017:

Jerusalem Post contributor Caroline Glick criticized National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster’s leadership of the National Security Council on Friday’s Breitbart News Daily with SiriusXM host Alex Marlow.

Glick said the problem with McMaster is that “in key issue after key issue, particularly in relation to the Middle East,” he “opposes the things that the president ran on and that he was elected on.”

She quoted Ayaan Hirsi Ali, one of the world’s leading activists against Islamic supremacism, writing in the Wall Street Journal that “President Trump, during the campaign, insisted that it was necessary to go after the political ideology of radical Islam, and he’s just completely stopped.”

“She called on Congress to pick it up and take it on since the president seems to have lost interest in it,” Glick said of Ali’s article. “Whether it’s Iran and countering Iranian influence and rising hegemony in Syria and in Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, Bahrain, and, of course, Iran’s nuclear weapons program, these are very, very key issues for the United States and for all of its allies in the Middle East. And on all of these issues, in practice, we see that the policies that the National Security Adviser, H.R. McMaster, is pushing are at loggerheads with – completely contradict – the policies that President Trump ran on and continues to say that he wants.”

“For instance, I wrote in my column in the Jerusalem Post this morning, the United States special forces are fighting side-by-side with the Lebanese armed forces, which are controlled by Hezbollah, to the side of Hezbollah, which is a global terrorist organization, against ISIS,” she said.

“This is President Obama’s policy, was to try to get the United States to help Iran to take over Syria, without allowing the American people to know that, by saying, ‘Well, we’re fighting ISIS in Syria,’” she explained. “Allow Iran and Hezbollah to take over Syria and present an existential threat to Jordan and a massive strategic threat to Israel and to U.S. interests, in the name of fighting ISIS.”

“This, we see, is a policy that President Trump continues to implement,” Glick said with dismay. “It’s a very, very troubling thing.”

Glick was further troubled by the way Western media is allowing McMaster supporters, “from the Council on American Islamic Relations to the Anti-Defamation League” to frame coverage of his move away from President Trump’s policy agenda.

She further implicated “Soros-funded groups that are working day and night to undermine and subvert, with the hope of destroying this president.” These forces have conspired to forge a media narrative that claims people only oppose McMaster because they are “racist or Islamophobic or what have you.”

“In other words, they’re turning this into the same thing that the left always turns their policy disputes into, which is the good guys against the racists, and everyone who opposes them is essentially a non-person, and we mustn’t listen to them,” said Glick.

“It’s even worse in a way than just saying this is a partisan squabble and this is domestic politics,” she said. “What they’re trying to do is dehumanize the people who oppose McMaster, in order not to have a substantive discussion. That’s what we see the left doing everywhere, all the time, throughout the United States and throughout the Western world. You don’t win by substance because your substance is antithetical to what most people want, so what you do is you say that anyone who opposes you is a racist. Anybody who opposes you is the enemy of the good, and, therefore, all right-thinking people have to be on your side, against their side.”

“It’s interesting that this is the dynamic that’s taking place around McMaster. It would seem to me that, particularly for the president himself, who knows these things, this should be just a glaring red light. The fact that yet again yesterday he embraced McMaster, sitting next to Vice President Pence at his golf club in Bedminster, is an indication that something is awry, and I don’t really know what it is,” she said.

“Again, it’s very troubling because the problem here is not whether H.R. McMaster has a temper or is just the nicest person in the whole world. The problem is that he is pushing and getting implemented a policy, in relation to Israel in particular – and Israel as an American ally in the Middle East, no less Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Jordan, Egypt, and so on and so forth – that is a natural continuation of Barack Obama’s policy of realigning the United States away from its allies in the United States and in favor of Iran and Hezbollah,” she charged.

LISTEN: