FBI: 7,700 Terrorist Encounters in USA Last Year

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The jihad is crossing the southern border: a majority of encounters in Arizona were with Islamist groups.

CounterJihad, Sept. 26, 2016:

Breitbart news has received a collection of leaked documents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation that show a massive number of terrorist encounters, especially in border states.  The documents are not classified, though they are marked sensitive.  7,712 terrorist encounters occurred from July 20, 2015 and the same date a year later — last year, in short.

Some of the documents pertain to the entire U.S., while others focus specifically on the state of Arizona.  The states with the highest encounters are all border states. Texas, California, and Arizona–all states with a shared border with Mexico–rank high in encounters…. Most significantly, the map shows that many of the encounters occurred near the border outside of ports-of-entry, indicating that persons were attempting to sneak into the U.S.

Page Six shows a pie chart indicating that the majority of encounters in Arizona were with Islamic known or suspected terrorists, both Sunni and Shi’a.

That last is surprising, as one would expect drug cartels to make up the majority of such encounters.  The leak comes at a time when the FBI’s crime reporting shows an increase in violent crime across the country.

The Shiite terrorist organization Hezbollah has developed connections with the Latin American drug cartels because of its prominent role in heroin.  Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) controls the opium trade from the poppy fields in Afghanistan to the Levant, and they provide a great deal of opium to Hezbollah.  Hezbollah has a refining capacity in Lebanon that allows them to provide a substantial part of the world’s heroin.  They trade heroin to the Latin American drug cartels for other illegal money-making opportunities, forged documents, and access to the Americas.  Hezbollah’s operations produce between ten and twenty million dollars in revenue for its American operations, which are based out of a large Lebanese immigrant community in what is called the “Tri-border region,” an area between Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina.

In addition to its money-making ventures, Hezbollah provides the cartels with military training.  As one of the world’s foremost guerrilla organizations, Hezbollah finds that its military trainers are sought after commodities.  They are able to parley those connections in order to perform operations in Mexico.  Their ability to infiltrate the United States, in order to conduct terrorist violence in service to Iran, is highlighted by these leaked FBI documents.

The role of Sunni groups is less fully understood, but it was a concern for the intelligence section of the United States military’s Southern Command according to another set of leaks earlier this year.

Sunni extremists are infiltrating the United States with the help of alien smugglers in South America and are crossing U.S. borders with ease, according to a U.S. South Command intelligence report.  The Command’s J-2 intelligence directorate reported recently in internal channels that “special interest aliens” are working with a known alien smuggling network in Latin America to reach the United States….  Army Col. Lisa A. Garcia, a Southcom spokeswoman, did not address the intelligence report directly but said Sunni terrorist infiltration is a security concern.

“Networks that specialize in smuggling individuals from regions of terrorist concern, mainly from the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, the Middle East, and East Africa, are indeed a concern for Southcom and other interagency security partners who support our country’s national security,” Garcia told theWashington Free Beacon….  “In 2015, we saw a total of 331,000 migrants enter the southwestern border between the U.S. and Mexico, of that we estimate more than 30,000 of those were from countries of terrorist concern,” she said….

[T]he Southcom intelligence report revealed that the threat of Islamist terror infiltration is no longer theoretical. “This makes the case for Trump’s wall,” said one American security official of the Southcom report. “These guys are doing whatever they want to get in the country.”

Here at CounterJihad, we reported on Southern Command’s commander, Admiral Kurt Tidd, and his testimony before Congress on the threat.  Tidd reported that a number of terrorists were transiting the region who had gone to Syria and fought for the Islamic State (ISIS) and other radical groups.  Their ability to return to Latin America was smooth, given that they actually had legal travel documents.

Whether they can then pass into the United States is an open question.  The leaked FBI documents only talk about actual law enforcement encounters with people on terrorist lists.  How many are infiltrating without encountering law enforcement?

Also see:

Securing that problematic border must be a component of a larger strategy that addresses many other failures and vulnerabilities of the immigration system.

If the U.S./Mexican border had been protected by the mythical “deflector shield” from the Starship Enterprise, the terror attacks of 9/11, the attack of the Boston Marathon by the Tsarnaev brothers, the terror attack at San Bernardino, and all of the other terror attacks America has suffered would not have been prevented.

Iran’s Terror Proxy Support Openly Defies Western Pressure

Getty Images

Getty Images

by IPT News  •  Sep 12, 2016

Several high profile Iranian officials recently boasted of the Islamic Republic’s steadfast support for terrorist organizations committed to opposing Western interests and the destruction of Israel, according to the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center.

An adviser to Iran’s parliament speaker, Mansour Haqiqatpour, bragged that Iran would continue supporting the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) despite ongoing negotiations taking place with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) that seek to curb Iranian hardline behavior. Haqiqatpour referred to Hizballah and Hamas as “freedom fighter” groups, citing Islam and Islamic revolutionary ideology as primary motivations for Iran’s state sponsorship of terrorism.

Hardline Iranian factions and leaders accuse the Iranian government of preparing to offer significant concessions in return for the country’s removal from the FATF blacklist. Mohsen Kouhkan, an Iranian parliamentarian, referred to the Iran-FATF negotiations as a “Zionist–American plot.” In July 2015, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi insisted that ceasing support for Hizballah in return for an agreement was out of the question.

Since the July 2015 nuclear deal was signed, Iran has expanded its presence in regional conflicts, leading to mounting IRGC casualties. In the last two weeks, six additional IRGC fighters were killed in Syria, including a high-ranking officer. A leader of an Iraqi Shi’ite militia praised IRGC commander Qasem Soleimani’s support and confirmed that Shi’ite militias would continue their regional operations after Mosul is cleared of Islamic State fighters.

Moreover, on Sept. 1, an Iranian diplomatic delegation met with Ali Barakeh – a Hamas representative living in Beirut – to discuss Iran’s ongoing support for Hamas’ violent fight against Israel. Despite notable disagreements since the outbreak of civil war in Syria, predominately Shi’ite Iran continues to court the Sunni Palestinian terrorist organization. The relationship suggests that defeating the Jewish state remains a common objective that supersedes sectarian divisions.

Click here to read the full report outlining recent developments from the Meir Amit Center.

Proponents of the Iran nuclear deal, including many within the Obama administration, argued that the agreement would moderate Iran’s behavior. Earlier this year, senior adviser Ben Rhodes even admitted that the Obama administration misled the U.S. public to promote the nuclear deal by falsely alluding to the emergence of a more moderate Islamic Republic. On the contrary, Iran immediately enhanced its support for terrorist organizations, while extremist factions within Iran gained more ground. Though some may debate Iran’s long-run trajectory, post-nuclear deal Iran has proved to be even more emboldened to pursue its regional hegemonic ambitions, while more pragmatic Iranian leaders increasingly are silenced.

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US official: Navy aircraft threatened with shoot down by Iran

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The Terrorist “Wing” Scam

MEF, by A.J. Caschetta
Middle East Quarterly
Fall 2016 (view PDF)

Modern terrorist organizations have managed to flourish despite their enemies’ attempts to squash them and have often done so by hiding in plain sight behind a nominal disguise. The most successful groups have achieved a kind of parity with the countries they attack by masquerading as complicated and diverse establishments for which terror is but one facet of their true—and variegated—nature. Nearly all terrorist organizations operating today have learned to conduct effective subterfuge by pretending to diversify.

On the rhetorical level, the illusion is advanced when a terror organization claims for itself an ancillary “wing,” “arm,” or “branch.” Most often it is either a “charitable wing” that operates orphanages and hospitals and distributes aid to the poor, or a “political wing” devoted to achieving the group’s aims through negotiation. In reality though, the group and its newly-sprouted wings are never separate but rather integral, interdependent parts of a whole. The pose allows them to prosper by legitimizing their continued existence as aid providers or embryonic governments rather than terrorist groups.

Even if a group does not itself refer to the new organization as its wing, eager journalists, academics and politicians surely will. The illusion of segmentation is among the most effective tools in the terrorists’ propaganda kit as they cleverly play on the compassionate nature of their targets and exploit the myth that all charities are inherently good, that philanthropy is intrinsically a praiseworthy undertaking, and that freedom to practice one’s religion is a universal right even when that practice denies basic human rights to others.

Western nations are keen on rewarding those who participate in a democratic process and engage in negotiations because this is seen as the rational, civilized way to bridge differences. Mere participation in the political process becomes a desirable outcome in and of itself. Western nations also give generously to charitable causes and facilitate the work of others who do likewise.

Terrorists understand this, and so like the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing they disguise their violent nature with the cloak of legitimacy through their nonviolent wings. Only by exposing the “wing” charade can states begin to adopt policies that effectively counter this ubiquitous tactic.

The Confidence Game

In the late nineteenth century, many radical organizations reveled in their infamy and wore the label terrorist proudly.[1] But after World War II, most sought to distance themselves from the newly-stigmatized term, calling themselves instead revolutionaries, freedom fighters, or resisters to imperialism.

At the same time, however, another trend emerged in which terrorists sought to replace the notoriety of their predecessors with an appearance of legitimacy. This was a means of survival rather than an ideological shift. By transforming its image as a violent group into that of a provider of charitable services or a legitimate political player, a terrorist group gains the time and space necessary to sustain a campaign of violence.

Terrorist organizations that use this subterfuge are merely following a template perfected by other criminal organizations. For traditional criminal syndicates trading in stolen or illegal products and services, this has historically involved the creation of “dummy” or “shell” companies to hide their illicit work and profits. Likewise, criminal gangs and drug dealers have long known that distributing goods to the poor (turkeys at Thanksgiving or toys at Christmas)[2] can buy them a degree of support and silence. The most successful terrorist organizations achieve a kind of respectability either by launching quasi-political branches or by operating charities, thus purchasing the toleration and even loyalty of those in their areas of operation.

A target state that agrees to negotiate with the political wing of a terrorist organization does so largely because of a credible threat of violence. Once a state falls for the phony compartmentalization, acknowledging or negotiating with a terrorist group’s wing, the bait has been taken. The con then evolves as the political wing offers to dissuade the military wing from undertaking more violence. Similarly, a target state will often give money to the charitable wing of a terrorist group in the hope that this action will sway hearts and minds within the population from which future terrorists are likely to emerge. The opposite, though, is true. A terrorist group with a charitable wing that operates a hospital, school, or orphanage has cleared a path to hiding both money and suspects; it can handily treat wounded terrorists and inculcate new ones. Further, any outside funds that go to humanitarian initiatives run by the terror group free up money for arms or violent undertakings. Any state that criminalizes a terrorist organization’s militant wing but allows its charitable wing to continue unfettered or negotiates with its political wing merely keeps the conflict alive by perpetuating the scam.

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The Muslim Brotherhood’s “Charitable Wing”

While Sinn Féin and the IRA were founded separately and only later formed their symbiotic relationship, Hassan al-Banna originally founded the Muslim Brotherhood in 1928 as an umbrella organization with units devoted to politics (Islamism and the restoration of the caliphate) and to charity (mostly focused on poor Egyptian boys). Only later, in 1940, did a militant wing appear. Drawing recruits from his version of the Boy Scouts, Banna used graduates of the Brotherhood’s “Rover Scouts” to make up the core of an elite vanguard known as the Apparatus or the Special or Secret Apparatus (al-Jihaz or al-Tanzim al-Khass, al-Jihaz as-Sirri) willing to kill for the cause.[10] Still later, in 1944, Banna launched a medical wing that operated clinics and pharmacies, and in 1945, founded the Muslim Sisters, which ran a girls’ school.

As a result of its assassination of Egyptian prime minister Mahmud Fahmi Nokrashi on December 28, 1948, the Brotherhood was forced to go underground although its charities, hospitals, schools, social clubs, and youth groups remained intact for a time and continued to provide shelter, support and, most importantly, new recruits to the cause.

After an attempt on President Gamal Abdel Nasser’s life in 1954, however, all known Muslim Brotherhood leaders in Egypt were rounded up and either executed or imprisoned. The organization might have withered to nothingness had it not been for Zaynab Ghazali’s Muslim Women’s Association (Jama’at as-Sayyidat al-Muslimat), which had pledged allegiance to the Muslim Brotherhood and managed to provide

food, medical care, and other support to … help reconstitute the organization, serving as a liaison among dispersed members andsympathizers, and conducting seminars on Islam with activists in her home.[11]

Over the next six decades, the legal status of the Brotherhood in Egypt seesawed between outright banning, to sporadic, intense repression, to a begrudging but limited acceptance, to a brief spell in power under Mohamed Mursi’s presidency. The organization has regularly franchised student, charitable, and even media wings throughout its sphere of influence while successfully camouflaging its relationship to these organizations.[12] From the beginning, its “method was to employ flexibility [muruna] and concealment [taqiyaor kitman] in order to spread Islam,”[13] especially in the West, and this wing charade was perpetuated either covertly or openly in every country to which the Brotherhood spread. In Jordan, for instance, the Muslim Brotherhood is a legal group that participates in politics through its “political wing,” the Islamic Action Front, while its connections to Hamas account for its militant wing.[14] The Pakistani terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba, itself a Brotherhood offshoot, retains a subsidiary called Jamaat-ud Dawa (JuD) as its charitable wing. Alongside supplying medical relief and establishing emergency clinics, JuD publishes a decidedly political weekly (Jarrar) and runs more than three hundred seminaries inculcating the Brotherhood’s Islamist message.[15]

In the aftermath of 9/11, some of the Brotherhood’s secretive doings and strategic imperatives have begun to be uncovered by U.S. and European authorities. A document dated December 1, 1982, which came to be known as “The Project” was discovered in a 2001 raid on the home of Youssef Nada, the director of the at-Taqwa Bank of Lugano, Switzerland. In it, Muslims worldwide are exhorted to set up dawa (proselytization) groups in the form of charities and other religious, cultural, and political organizations, which can operate out in the open expressly for the purpose of providing cover for violent jihad.[16]

“An Explanatory Memorandum on the General Strategic Goal for the Group in North America” dated May 19, 1991, is another document that came to light that elaborates on the concept of wings, arms, and branches in the Brotherhood. Written by Muhammad Akram (a senior official of both the Brotherhood and Hamas) it calls for the destruction of American society through “civilizational jihad” modeled on the actions of the prophet Muhammad:

our prophet Muhammad … placed the foundation for the first civilized organization, which is the mosque, which truly became “the comprehensive organization.” And this was done by the pioneer of contemporary Islamic dawa, Imam martyr Hasan Banna … when he and his brothers felt the need to “reestablish” Islam and its movement anew, leading him to establish organizations with all their kinds: economic, social, media, scouting, professional, and even the military ones.[17]

Akram concluded that America was “a country which understands no language other than the language of the organizations, and one which does not respect or give weight to any group without effective, functional and strong organizations” and cited as tools for the overall objective of overthrowing the United States a list of twenty-nine Brotherhood organizations including the Islamic Society of North America, the Muslim Students Association, the Islamic Circle of North America, the Muslim American Society, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and the Occupied Land Fund (aka Holy Land Foundation).[18]

Although these documents and their implications are in the public domain and were widely reported on in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, over time these wings have been treated by reporters and pundits as moderate organizations largely because they have not been involved in acts of violence. The Muslim Brotherhood itself received a tremendous boost to mainstream acceptance by none other than U.S. president Barack Obama who pushed to have its leadership invited to his now-infamous Cairo speech of June 4, 2009. The Obama administration has not only supported the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and abroad but has also served the group’s interests domestically, treating the organization as a moderate ally, even hiring Brotherhood activists for important posts influencing foreign policy.[19] In the latest wrinkle to this stratagem, many of the original twenty-nine front groups listed in the explanatory memorandum have coalesced into an American Muslim Brotherhood political PAC called the U.S. Council of Muslim Organizations,[20] in essence becoming the political wing of the charitable wing of a terrorist organization.

Read more

A.J. Caschetta is senior lecturer at the Rochester Institute of Technology and a Shillman-Ginsburg fellow at the Middle East Forum.

SOUTHCOM Raises Alarms on Sunni Extremists Infiltrating U.S. Southern Border

3688885704Center for Security Policy, by Dr. Luis Fleischman, Sept. 6, 2016:

On August 21st the United States Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) confirmed what the Menges Hemispheric Security Project has been warning about for a long time: the susceptibility of our Southern border to the infiltration of Middle East Terrorism. Most recently we warned that ISIS has the potential to operate in Latin America.

Reporting on cooperation between Iran or Iran’s proxy groups like Hezbollah and countries in Latin America such as Venezuela as well as drug cartels has been extensive. However, this time SOUTHCOM (which is responsible for all military activities in South and Central America) has explicitly talked about the infiltration of Sunni extremists from the Middle East, from the Afghanistan-Pakistan region and from East Africa broaching our southern border.

These infiltrations, which are carried out with the help of professional smugglers trained in smuggling illegal immigrants from Latin America, represent a major problem given the threat of the Islamic State. What is more interesting is that neither the media nor even the Donald Trump campaign raised public concern over this report. It is particularly worrisome given the fact that Southern Command reported the infiltration of 30,000 individuals from the Middle East, which is the equivalent of 10% of the total illegal smuggling coming from the southern border.

It is obvious that the problem of our southern border remains a very serious issue that requires a solution as soon as possible. The security of our borders should be resolved before any other issue is resolved, whether the next president is Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.

But for this to happen it is also imperative to look at the Western Hemisphere and Latin America not only in economic terms but also as a region that poses serious security challenges.

We have extensively covered all these challenges but with the rise of ISIS it is important to look into why the region is a fertile area for ISIS. First, the proximity of Latin America to the United States makes us vulnerable and provides easy access to those wishing to cross over our rather porous southern border.

Secondly, the northern states of Mexico as well as Central America constitute anarchical areas, territories without effective government. Ungoverned territories are fertile ground for terrorist activities. Third, corruption prevails. It is extremely easy to bribe judges, police, governors, and public officials as drug cartels have widely proved. By the same token, cooperation between ISIS and drug cartels should not be ruled out. After all, such cooperation has taken place between cartels and the Shiite Hezbollah. Drug cartels provide logistics and know the territory extremely well.

By the same token, there have been countries in the region that sold passports in exchange for money like Venezuela, whose embassy in Baghdad sold passports to whomever paid for them. Given the intense activity of ISIS and Sunni extremists in Iraq, it should not be surprising that some of these passports were sold to ISIS members or individuals associated to ISIS. Likewise, small Caribbean countries associated directly or indirectly with Venezuela and the ALBA coalition have been involved in the selling of passports raising eyebrows about the possibility that ISIS may have been one of the beneficiaries of such transactions.

It is also worthwhile to point out that Tareq Al Assami, currently the governor of the Venezuelan state of Aragua and a former Minister of interior was in charge of providing visas and passports. He is known for his connections with Iran and Hezbollah and his father was a former Secretary of the Iraqi Baath party in Venezuela. Former members of Sadam Hussein’s Baath party now constitute an important presence in the ranks of ISIS.

By the same token it should not be ruled out that with the recent peace accord agreed upon by the government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) there could be a number of guerillas that refuse to accept the binding power of the agreements. If those dissidents from the FARC join forces with ISIS as they have done in the past with Hezbollah, it could have disastrous consequences for the security of the region.

Finally, it is important to point out that Latin American countries are not paying due attention to terrorism and less to Islamic terrorism as we have already pointed out. For example, 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 does not consider Hezbollah, Hamas, or even the familiar Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) as terrorist entities. This hopefully will change with the new interim government in Brazil or if a new government is elected as a result of Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment.

Therefore, the next president of the United States will need to take this issue very seriously. Failing to do so could place American lives at risk.

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.”

Iran Expanding Terror Network in Latin America

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

U.S.-Backed Kurds to Assad Forces: ‘Surrender or Die’

DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP/GETTY

DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP/GETTY

In a critical battle, Washington’s most effective allies in Syria turn their attention away from fighting ISIS and toward the militias of Bashar al-Assad.

The Daily Beast, by Wladimir Van Wilgenburg, Aug. 23, 2016:

HASAKAH, Syria – U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters have Syrian President Bashar Assad’s militias under siege in the northern Syrian city of Hasakah, and they are leaving them two options: “Surrender or die.”

In a conflict where alliances shift kaleidoscopically and the potential consequences of unwanted clashes are apocalyptic, this battle has raised the possibility Washington will be drawn into a direct conflict with the Syrian regime even as the Obama administration continues to focus its war effort on the forces of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS.

The Americans’ key allies in the Syrian theater, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, are now very clearly fighting both ISIS and Assad. The lines of demarcation are increasingly hard to draw in Hasakah — and above it.

On Thursday, U.S. planes scrambled over the region when Syrian Air Force SU-24 attack planes launched strikes near the city.

A Defense Department spokesman, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, suggested that “coalition personnel” were on the ground there. He did not get into specifics, but as we have reported previously, numerous American and European advisors are very close to the action in Syria.

“We view instances that place coalition personnel at risk with the utmost seriousness,” Davis added, “and we do have the inherent right of self-defense when U.S. forces are at risk.”

Davis said this is the first time U.S. planes have been scrambled in response to Syrian bombing, and pointed out that the coalition has never before seen the Assad regime take such action against the mainly Kurdish YPG.

Only a few days ago, these Kurdish forces—in alliance with some Arab contingents backed by U.S. airstrikes and supported by U.S. and other Western special forces—played a major role taking the strategic city of Manbij away from the fighters of the so-called Islamic State.

Now very confident, seasoned and well armed, the Kurds appear about to achieve a victory not just over Assad’s beleaguered partisans in Hasakah, but by extension against his strategic backers from Iran, Lebanese Hezbollah—and Russia.

All the parties understand what a crucial turning point this represents.

Previously, the Assad regime and its supporters had acquiesced in the Kurdish operations against ISIS. Damascus was aware that the Kurds’ goal is to establish a federal autonomous (if not indeed independent from Damascus) region called Rojava along the northern Syrian frontier. That’s no secret.

But Damascus clearly thought it could address other threats first, putting its priority on crushing any remotely credible opposition, then perhaps turning on ISIS, which it initially helped foster, then taking care of the Kurdish problem one way or the other.

The Hasakah fighting has brought that tacit agreement to an end.

Moscow, hoping a deal might yet be made for a truce, sent a delegation last week to try to broker a ceasefire, but there was none to be had.

The Kurds now reject any form of agreement and demand regime forces leave the province of Hasakah altogether, giving the YPG and its political arm, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), complete control.

Note that Hasakah province is rich in oil and gas resources. Prior to the Syrian war, nearly half of Syria’s oil came from here. If Rojava is to survive, that oil and gas will be an important source of income, and the Kurds are not inclined to give it up.

The Assad regime “is increasingly weak and the regime’s external supporters have little ability to support the regime’s armed forces there,” Michael Stephens, the head of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in Qatar, told The Daily Beast. And the events of the last couple of days would seem to bear that out.

When the Russian-brokered truce failed, even as the Syrian regime jets started to hit Kurdish positions and American or other coalition aircraft took to the air to warn them off, the Kurdish offensive continued.

Here in Hasakah, it’s clear the fighting between the YPG and the regime forces is much more intense than skirmishes in April. This time the battle has gone on for six days.

YPG officials say there are only a few pockets of Syrian government control left in a municipality that used to have a population of 200,000 people, and those holdouts are low on supplies.

“They used to say we are friends with the regime, but we are not a friend, we are supported by the people,” local commander Loqman told me before manning a heavy machine-gun on a pick-up truck and blasting away at government positions.

On television Sunday, the exhausted looking Syrian governor of Hasakah, Mohammad Za’al Ali, desperately pleaded with the Kurds to stop the fighting.

“Kurds in Hasakah are Syrians and cannot operate without the government,” he insisted on Kurdistan24, one of the few local TV stations operating in northern Syria. “Kurds cannot impose their control by force.”

But local commander Loqman said that the Kurds would not stop the fight. “What’s the job of the regime here? They have killed thousands of people, made millions of people homeless,” he said. “We should kick them out, that is my view.”

He also complained about the presence of foreign Shia militia fighters backed by Iran. These Syrian lands are his home, he said. “What is the work of Hezbollah here; what is the work of Russia here to kill civilians by airstrikes in Aleppo?”

In Hasakah’s dusty streets, local fighters wearing black scarves were keeping their heads down.

The town has a large Christian population, and one of the fighters, a Kurd with green eyes, wore a defiant white t-shirt: “Blasphemer,” it said. He also wore several crosses around his neck as he moved toward the front line. Christians fleeing the city center had given crucifixes to fighters, a local commander said.

Sniper fire is a major concern, and there’s a common belief the sharpshooters are foreigners.

“Iranian snipers hit civilians, no matter if they are Kurdish or Arabs,” says a 22-year-old Arab who goes by the pseudonym Adam. “There are Iranians, Afghans, Iraqis, Lebanese from Hezbollah, and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard,” he said, although I was not able to confirm this on this ground.

Dozens of Arabs from Hasakah and other towns have joined the Kurdish forces, but often won’t talk on the record for fear of government reprisals against their families in areas still controlled by the regime.

“I joined to protect our honor, because the Syrian regime is oppressing the people, killing civilians, and hitting them with air strikes,” Adam said.

On Sunday afternoon there were no Syrian airstrikes and fighting slowed down, with occasional sniper and heavy machinegun fire. “From yesterday until now the airstrikes did not hit us,” said Loqman.

“The fighting stopped now because there are civilians; we most stop the war because there are civilians,” said Saydo, the other local commander, who speaks English. “But in the night the fight will begin again,” he said as we talked near the city’s central market.

Hussam Hassan, 50, a Kurdish civilian who was wearing a pink towel on his shoulders to deal with the sweat from the blazing heat, said he hoped to return to his house again soon.

“We flee because of the security,” he said near a Kurdish police checkpoint. “We are afraid, and I have children. There are airstrikes, artillery, and bullets.” He left by taxi to a village 15 kilometers away.

Sihanouk Dibo, a Kurdish official of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) accused the Syrian government of attacking the Kurds in agreement with Iran and Turkey, which opposes the declaration of a federal system for the Kurds and is hostile to the YPG/PYD, which is very closely allied with the insurgents of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) operating insider Turkey.

“They don’t want a democratic federal region from Qamisli until Afrin,” Dibo said, referring to two major towns in northern Syria. They don’t want us to cut all the roads for terrorists,” Dibo said, noting that many ISIS recruits from abroad initially came into Syria through Turkey.

On Sunday evening, as predicted, heavy fighting resumed again in the city center and continues now, with the Kurds steadily advancing against Syrian government fighters.

“The regime has only a few points left, and is running out of water and food,” Ismael Resho, a YPG commander told The Daily Beast.

The battle may be ending for now, but the kaleidoscope continues to turn, and the war goes on.

Southern Command Warns Sunni Extremists Infiltrating From South

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ISRAEL’S NEXT HEZBOLLAH WAR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, not quite everything.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Israeli-Saudi Ties Warming; Hizballah and Iran Livid

Image Courtesy of Shutterstock

Image Courtesy of Shutterstock

PJ MEDIA, BY P. DAVID HORNIK, AUGUST 7, 2016:

The Israeli society that I encountered embraces a culture of peace, has accomplishments it wants to (protect), wants coexistence, and wants peace.

Those words weren’t spoken by an enthused congressman after a trip to Israel. They were spoken to BBC Arabic by Abd al-Mujid al-Hakim, director of the Middle East Center for Strategic and Legal Policy in Jedda, Saudi Arabia, and a member of a Saudi delegation that recently visited Israel.

The delegation, which included academics and businessmen, was led by Dr. Anwar Eshki, a retired Saudi general and former top adviser to the Saudi government. About a year earlier Eshki had shaken hands and shared a stage in Washington with Israeli Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold—seen as a major breakthrough at the time. But a public visit to Israel of this kind, which could only have been carried out with the approval of the highest level of the Saudi government, is a historical first and still has a taste of the surreal to it.

During the visit Eshki met again with Gold; with Maj.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai, responsible for Israeli administration of the territories; with Palestinian officials in Ramallah; and with opposition Members of Knesset.

One of those opposition MKs, Issawi Frej of the far-left, mostly Jewish Meretz Party, said:

The Saudis want to open up to Israel. It’s a strategic move for them. They want to continue what former Egyptian president Anwar Sadat started (with the 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty). They want to get closer with Israel, and we could feel it clearly.

What’s going on?

Israeli commentator Yossi Melman, while noting that the visit marks a new plateau in the increasingly overt Israeli-Saudi ties, points out:

[O]n a covert level, according to foreign reports, the ties being cultivated are even more fascinating. Intelligence Online reported that Israel is selling intelligence equipment, as well as control and command centers, to the Saudi security forces. Previously, it had been reported in the foreign media that the heads of the Mossad, the organization responsible for Israel’s covert ties, met with their Saudi counterparts. Media outlets affiliated with Hezbollah even reported that officers from the two countries’ armies had met.

What’s going on, in other words, is that Israel and Saudi Arabia have common enemies in the region, and with American power withdrawing, Israel’s power constantly growing, ISIS threatening, and the Obama administration having paved a path to nuclear weapons for Iran, the Saudis—like Egypt, Jordan, and other Sunni states—are casting their troubled gaze toward Jerusalem.

Or as Melman puts it:

Israel and the Saudis share a fear for Iran’s nuclear program and Tehran’s efforts to increase its influence in the region. They also both have an interest in weakening the standing of Hezbollah, “the forward headquarters” of Iran on Lebanon’s Mediterranean coast. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks often of Israel’s ties with the “Sunni Bloc,” and hints that the Saudis are included in this group.

It appears that he need hint no more.

Last week’s Saudi visit to Jerusalem—a dramatic, even stunning confirmation of Israel’s cooperation with that bloc—did not go unnoticed, of course, by the rival Shiite bloc. And they’re not happy about it.

Hizballah chief Hassan Nasrallah accused the Saudis of “normalizing for free, without receiving anything in return…. It seems the future of Palestine and the fate of its children have become a trivial matter for some Arab states recently.”

The Saudi visit, he said, “couldn’t have taken place without the agreement of the Saudi government. We know how things work there. In Saudi Arabia a person will be lashed for so much as tweeting.”

But if Nasrallah is not pleased with this development, his boss—Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei—is even less thrilled.

As Khamenei tweeted on Monday: “Revelation of Saudi government’s relations with Zionist regime was stab in the back of Islamic Ummah.”

None of this means that the Sunni Arab part of the Ummah is ready to warmly embrace Israel. While in Israel last week, Dr. Eshki—like Egyptian and Jordanian officials before him—said that real “normalization” would have to await a resolution of the Palestinian issue. It’s code for: “We’re not really ready to accept a Jewish state in our midst.”

Still, considering that Israel and Sunni Arab states used to fight wars every few years, a reality of nonbelligerency and pragmatic ties is a major improvement for Israel. Whoever is the next U.S. president might want to cooperate with the Israeli-Sunni alliance against Iran instead of giving the mullahs a “sunset clause” leading to nuclear night.

Homeland Security Advisory Council: Covering for the Enemy Threat Doctrine

Terror Trends Bulletin, by Christopher W. Holton

America is at war and we continue to be prevented from identifying and understanding our enemies as a result of influence operations targeting our bureaucratized counterterrorism apparatus.

The latest evidence of this long-standing and, unfortunately, very effective influence campaign comes from the revelation that the “Countering Violent Extremism Subcommittee” of the Homeland Security Advisory Council to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has issued a recommendation that urges rejecting use of Islamic terms such as “jihad” and “shariah” in communications about the threats that we face….

http://freebeacon.com/national-security/homeland-security-report-calls-rejecting-terms-jihad-sharia/

This is nothing new. We have heard CIA director John Brennan reject the term “jihadist” and the State Department under Condoleezza Rice rejected the use of the term as well.

We have covered the damaging efforts by our enemies to prevent the actual correct use of the term “jihad” extensively here on Terror Trends Bulletin in the past…

https://terrortrendsbulletin.com/2013/01/13/cairs-new-disinformation-campaign-on-jihad/

But the effort to suppress even mere mention of the word “shariah” is actually much more damaging than the suppression of the word “jihad.” That’s because shariah is THE enemy threat doctrine.

To understand our enemies, their motivations, their intentions and their strategy, one must study shariah. Shariah is everything to the jihadists. It is the code that they follow and its full implementation is their goal.

Forbidding the use of the term shariah, much less suppressing study of shariah in the present conflict is the equivalent of forbidding intelligence agencies from studying Mein Kampf in World War II or the works and words of Marx, Lenin, Stalin and Mao during the Cold War.

Anyone who would recommend that we avoid studying and talking about shariah simply must have a nefarious purpose.

By way of review, shariah is Islamic law. The terms shariah and Islamic law are completely interchangeable; they refer to exactly the same thing. Shariah is an immutable theo-political-legal-military code derived from the Islamic doctrinal trilogy, made up of the Quran, the Sirah (the biography of the prophet Mohammed) and the Hadith (traditions, sayings and stories compiled about the life of Mohammed).

Every single Jihadist terrorist group in the world–without exception–has as its stated goal the imposition of shariah: the Islamic State, Al Qaeda, HAMAS, Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood, Lashkar e Taiba, Abu Sayyef, Jemaah Islamiyah, Boko Haram, the Taliban, Al Shabaab–all of them.

So, while the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will be carefully avoiding the use of the term shariah, our enemies have been using it quite commonly, frequently and prominently, as if to illustrate the absurdity of the DHS recommendation.

What follows is a compilation of quotes from jihadi leaders and Al Qaeda and Islamic State documents that reveal the central importance of shariah to their movement. This is why Americans must familiarize themselves with shariah.

SHARIAH ACCORDING TO THE JIHADISTS THEMSELVES

• The sharia has forbidden us from taking infidels as confidants, inducting them into our secrets.
• The sharia forbids us from appointing infidels to important posts.
• The sharia forbids us from adopting or praising the beliefs and views of the infidels.
• The sharia forbids us from assisting infidels against Muslims; even the one who is coerced has o excuse to fight under the banner of infidels.
• The sharia commands us to battle infidels—both original infidels and apostates, as well as hypocrites. As for waging jihad against the infidels who have usurped the lands of Islam, this is a duty considered second only to faith, by ulemaic consensus.
• The sharia does not accept the excuses made by hypocrites—that they befriend the infidels because they fear the vicissitudes of time.
• We are duty-bound by the sharia to help Muslims overcome the infidels.

Ayman al-Zawahiri
Al Qaeda leader

Osama bin Laden sits with his adviser and purported successor Ayman al-Zawahiri during an interview in Afghanistan, Barack Obama

Democracy is based on the principle of the power of creatures over other creatures, and rejects the principle of God’s absolute power over all creatures; it is also based on the idea the men’s desires, whatever they may be, replace God absolutely, and on the refusal to obey God’s law. In Islam, when there is a disagreement or a difference of opinion, one refers to God, his Prophet, and the commands of sharia.

Ayman al-Zawahiri
Al Qaeda leader

Read more

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

Getty Images

Getty Images

Breitbart, by Edwin Mora, June 6, 2016:

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

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

The assessment declares:

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

[…]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Terror Threat Crosses Southern Border

Moslems-On-Mexican-Border

By CounterJihad, June 3, 2016:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tunnel Warfare

Published on Jun 1, 2016 by theunitedwest

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

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Published on Jun 3, 2016 by Stefan Molyneux

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

Also see:

Putting Hezbollah ‘out of business’

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

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

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

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more

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

Report: German Refugee Program Money Given to Hizballah Operatives

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

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

by IPT News  •  Apr 20, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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