State: Iran’s Proxy Hezbollah Operating Across Western Hemisphere, Including U.S.

AFP ANWAR AMRO

Breitbart, by Edwin Mora, September 20, 2018:

The “world’s preeminent state sponsor of terrorism” Iran and its proxy Hezbollah maintain an operational presence across Latin America and in the United States, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) reported this week.

For years, State and the U.S. military have warned against Iran and Hezbollah’s growing activities in Latin America, including the terrorist group’s involvement in drug trafficking and money laundering.

According to State’s Country Reports on Terrorism for 2017 released Wednesday, which tracks terrorist activities across the world, Iran is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism with a “near-global reach.”

While briefing reporters about the terrorism reports on Wednesday, Nathan Sales, the State Department’s ambassador-at-large and coordinator for counterterrorism, declared:

Iran is the world’s preeminent state sponsor of terrorism, and it brings to its terrorist activities the resources of a state. We have seen Iran’s and its proxies’ terrorist-related activities across the globe. There are active fundraising networks in places as far afield as Africa, in South America. We’ve seen weapons caches planted around the world. We’ve seen operational activity not just in Lebanon by Hizballah, but by Iran-backed terrorists in the heart of Europe. Iran uses terrorism as a tool of its statecraft. It has no reservations about using that tool on any continent.

The annual Country Reports on Terrorism for 2017 added:

Iran’s state sponsorship of terrorism worldwide remained undiminished through the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force [IRGC-QF], its Ministry of Intelligence and Security, and Tehran’s proxy Hizballah, which remained a significant threat to the stability of Lebanon and the broader region

State noted that authorities across the Western Hemisphere, including the FBI in the United States, arrested several Hezbollah (or Hizballah) operatives and disrupted various plots last year.

“As far as Iran-backed terrorist organizations are concerned, we’ve arrested a number of operatives who allegedly were casing targets in support of Iran-backed terrorist organizations, and they’re now facing charges in federal court,” Sales told reporters.

In early June 2017, the FBI arrested Ali Kourani, 32, of the Bronx, New York, and Samer el Debek, 37, of Dearborn, Michigan, on charges linked to their alleged activities on behalf of Shiite Hezbollah.

Referring to one of the defendants, State noted:

In addition to its financial and fundraising activities in the Western Hemisphere, Hizballah also maintained interest in the region during 2017. A Hizballah operative was arrested by the FBI in the United States in June 2017. Among other accusations, he was allegedly involved in surveilling U.S. and Israeli targets in Panama.

Latin American authorities also arrested several Hezbollah jihadis and disrupted some plots linked to the Shiite terrorist group last year.

DOS reported:

[B]olivian security services previously uncovered and disrupted a Hizballah cache of explosive precursors in the La Paz area. The Peruvian government’s prosecution of a Hizballah member arrested in 2015 is still ongoing, with the Peruvians successfully appealing a ruling acquitting this operative of terrorism charges.

With the help of U.S. counterparts, Paraguayan law enforcement officials arrested multiple Lebanese Hizballah-linked suspects in the Ciudad del Este area who were engaged in money laundering and drug trafficking activities, some with links to the United States.

“Panama cooperated with U.S. law enforcement on various counterterrorism cases this year, including individuals linked to Hizballah,” State added.

A local Peruvian news outlet reported in 2016 that Shiite Iran’s terror proxy Hezbollah had registered as an official political party in Peru’s Abancay province, home to the nation’s largest Muslim community.

In previous terrorism reports, State acknowledged that the socialist country of Venezuela, which is hostile to the United States, provides “a permissive environment” that benefits known terrorist groups like Hezbollah.

State reiterated in its latest report:

In May 2017, for the twelfth consecutive year, the U.S. Department of State determined, pursuant to section 40A of the Arms Export Control Act, that Venezuela was not cooperating fully with U.S. counterterrorism efforts. The country’s porous borders offered a permissive environment to known terrorist groups.

Politico found last year that former U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration “derailed” a DEA operation targeting Hezbollah’s drug trafficking activities in Latin America to secure approval of the controversial Iran nuclear deal.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration, which has taken a tough stance against Iran, pulled out of the nuclear deal and is expected to reimpose sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

Under the deal, Iran was expected to reduce its nuclear weapons activities in exchange for sanctions relief.

While financial support for Hezbollah and other Iranian proxies by the heavily sanctioned regime may be drying up, the terrorist group is believed to be generating hundreds of millions of dollars from drug trafficking.

Moreover, the terrorist group is believed to be laundering billions of dollars. Forbes this year deemed Hezbollah the richest terrorist organization with an annual income of $1.1 billion, generated primarily by “aid funding from Iran, drug manufacture and trade.”

Breitbart News has learned that Iran is operating up to 100 so-called cultural centers across Latin America manned by Hezbollah and IRGC recruiters.

Islamist Group in Arizona Hosts Supporter of Iran Regime, Hezbollah Terrorists

February 22, 200: Hezbollah militants make their way into a huge hall as thousands of mainly Shiite Muslims gather to watch a televised speech by Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Shiite Muslim Lebanese Hezbollah militant group, in Beirut’s southern suburb, ten days after the assassination of top Hezbollah commander Imad Mughnieh in a bomb attack in Damascus. (Photo: Mazen All / AFP / Getty Images)

Clarion Project, by Ryan Mauro, Justin Charters and  Alex VanNess, September 18, 2018:

A Shiite Islamist group in Arizona hosts a supporter of the Iran Regime and Hezbollah terrorists. Coming out of Mesa, Arizona, the group turned its back on Iranians protesting the theocracy earlier this month by hosting a sheikh who supports the Iranian regime and the Hezbollah terrorist group it sponsors. Online advertisements posted by the Islamic Education Foundation of Arizona shows that the group selected Sheikh Usama Abdulghani to preach to its congregation on September 8 and 9.

Abdulghani’s website hosts a shocking lecture of his titled “How to Remain on the Right Path.” In it, he teaches that Muslims should follow the Iranian Supreme Leader and Hezbollah chief into battle.

He fondly recalls learning from Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah when he was a student in Qom, Iran.

He then compares the celebration of Nasrallah’s arrival to an Islamic holiday. He says, “Normally for the students, that’s like Eid,” referring to the day that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan for Muslims.

Abdulghani continues to refer to Nasrallah’s speech, saying:

“This was years before the victory in Lebanon. He said brothers I’m going to tell you right now I’ll be frank with you–I’m paraphrasing.

He said ‘brothers if all of the ulama [body of Islamic religious scholars] go into a valley and Sayyid Ali Khamenei goes into a valley, brothers you go into that valley that Sayyid Ali Khamenei goes in.’”

Abdulghani then reiterates that Muslims should handle any confusion they have by following the teachings of Nasrallah and Supreme Leader Khamenei:

“So, brothers and sisters when times are tough—when you see that you don’t know where truth is, everybody’s talking—just remember the words of the man who was more old school than any of us. Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah, may Allah protect and preserve him…and all our leaders, especially the leader, Sayyid Ali Khamenei.”

Another unsettling feature of the sermon is its apocalyptic theme. He tells the audience that the 12th Imam will soon appear.

He says:

“Right now, brothers and sisters we are getting closer and closer to the time of the Imam. The return of the Imam is imminent brothers and sisters. It is very, very close. We don’t want to get lost now.”

According to Islamic End Times prophecies that the Iranian regime frequently references, the 12th Imam will appear during a cataclysmic war. The 12th Imam delivers a final victory for the true Muslims, ushering in global Sharia-based rule.

In another video from 2017, Abdulghani provided a voiceover describing ISIS as a plot of Israel and the West. It referred to Iran’s Supreme Leader Khamenei as “the Leader.

Abdulghani was born in Washington D.C. and moved to Qom, Iran when he was 20 years old, according to his bio. He studied at the Islamic Seminary there for another 20 years before moving back to the U.S.

He currently lives in Dearborn, Michigan. His teachings reflect the extremist education he received under the terrorism-sponsoring Iranian regime.

In July, the Clarion Project reported on three mosques in Michigan that promoted the Iranian regime’s ideology. One of them, the Zainabia Center of Michigan, had hosted Abdulghani as a guest lecturer.

The mosque posts messages from the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei, treating him as a respected religious authority who Muslims should listen to.

The hosting of a pro-Khamenei, pro-Hezbollah sheikh is a strong indication that the Islamic Education Foundation of Arizona is promoting Shiite extremism.

Another strong indication is what the organization is not doing: It is not siding with the Iranian people over the theocratic regime.

Surely, if the Arizona organization sided with the oppressed Iranians, it could find a speaker to discuss the regime’s human rights violations. It could give a platform to Shiites that oppose the Iranian regime’s Islamism. It could help mobilize Shiites on the side of the Iranian protestors or at least bring some attention to their cause.

Yet, it doesn’t. Instead, the person it brings in as a religious authority sides with the terrorism-sponsoring regime and terrorist group Hezbollah.

What does that say about the ideology of the Islamic Education Foundation of Arizona?

What Is Hezbollah?

Prager U, September 17, 2018:

When listing the world’s most notorious terrorist organizations, why is it that Al-Qaeda, ISIS and Boko Haram so quickly spring to mind, while Hezbollah is frequently forgotten? In this video, Tony Badran, Research Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, explains how the backing of Iran has served to legitimize Hezbollah on the world stage, while simultaneously making the group all the more dangerous.

EXCLUSIVE: Michigan Mosques Linked to Iranian Regime

An Iranian student shows her support for the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of the Iranian regime (Illustrative photo: ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)

Clarion Project, by Ryan Mauro and Alex Vanness, July 3, 2018:

The radical Shiite ideology of the Iranian regime is dying within Iran, as evidenced by the ongoing protests, but it is still being actively promoted by three mosques in Michigan. 

Dearborn: Karbala Islamic Education Center

In Dearborn, the Karbala Islamic Education Center is led by an imam who is openly supportive of the Iranian regime and the Hezbollah terrorist group it puppeteers to wage jihad on its enemies.

In April, Imam Husaham al-Hussainy was in Baghdad, Iraq, where he was a guest speaker for a crowd affiliated with the Iranian-backed militia Saraya Ashura. Iranian regime operatives have directly trained and armed many of its fighters. It has been described as the “military wing” of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, a pro-Iran political party.

The militia threatened to attack U.S. personnel in Iraq in November 2017. One of the militia’s commanders declared that the U.S. “has become our direct enemy” and that its military must leave Iraq because “they have now become a target for our forces.”

In February, he posted a picture exalting the Supreme Leader of Iran, suggesting that the regime is somehow democratic and has popular support. In the post, Imam al-Hussainy praised the 1979 Islamic Revolution that brought the theocratic Iranian regime to power.

In 2007, Al-Hussainy was asked about his appearances at rallies that supported Hezbollah.

When asked in a television interview if he believed Hezbollah was a terrorist organization, he responded with “No.” He then expounded: “There is a biblical meaning of Hezbollah. It is in Judaism and Christianity and Islam meaning people of God.” At the end of the interview he stated, “You know what Hezbollah means. I support the people of God.”

Al-Hussainy has also promoted anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.

In 2015, the Karbalaa Center posted a video to their Facebook page featuring Imam al-Hussainy condemning Saudi attacks on Yemen, describing [in Arabic] Saudi actions as terrorism and claiming they are “Agents of the Jews.”

Nonetheless, Al-Hussainy has participated in interfaith events both nationally and throughout the city of Detroit.

Considered by many to be a respected voice within the Islamic community of Detroit, Imam al-Hussainy was even invited to provide the invocation to the Democratic National Committee’s Annual Winter Meeting in Washington, D.C. Last year, he was invited to speak at a memorial service to remember the victims of 9/11 with Detroit community leaders, despite having as history of problematic stances on terrorism.

When he spoke at the DNC Convention, he stirred up controversy for describing the United States as an occupying force.

The Karbala Islamic Center may also be influencing other mosques and congregations. It conducts activities with nearby organizations, including the Islamic Center of America and the Islamic Institute of Knowledge.

The population of Dearborn is about 40 percent Muslim, the majority of which are Shiite.

The Iranian regime, Hezbollah and their Shiite Islamist allies are building alliances in Dearborn that can threaten the U.S., expand their jihadist network and play upon sectarian identity to overpower moderate Shiite voices.

Walled Lake: Zainabia Center of Michigan

The Zainabia Center of Michigan, also known as the Ahlebait Association of Michigan, is a Shiite mosque located in Walled Lake.

The mosque posts messages from the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei, treating him as a respected religious authority who Muslims should listen to.

In 2014, the Zainabia Center had an extremist imam, Shaykh Usama Abdulghani, as a guest speaker. He was brought in to teach about the Quran.

In 2017, Abdulghani provided a voiceover for a video describing ISIS as a plot of Israel and the West. It referred to Iran’s Supreme Leader Khamenei as “the Leader.”

While showing Hezbollah terrorists marching, the video threatened the West, saying it had “united the believers” and “led to people being trained” who are “ready to rock and roll.”

The mosque also held a candlelight vigil and protest in solidarity with a Shiite leader in Pakistan named Allama Raja Nasir Abbas Jaffri.

The leader of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, met with Jaffri in 2012. Nasrallah praised Jaffri and called on Shiites and Sunnis in Pakistan to unite against U.S. influence in their country, similar to how Hezbollah fought the Israelis in Lebanon. Nasrallah claimed that Jaffri’s organization informed him that they have the same goals.

Another radical speaker that the Zainabia Center has given a platform to is Shaykh Ahmed Haneef, who preached there in 2009.

Haneef spoke at the “Imam Khomeini Conference” in England in 2013. He often appears on the Iranian regime’s propaganda television network. In one episode, he and his guest claimed anti-Semitism is not real. His guest railed against “Jewish hegemony.”

The mosque hosted Dawud Walid, the leader of the Michigan branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which the Justice Department has identified as an “entity” of the Muslim Brotherhood’s pro-Hamas network in America.

Walid provided updates in 2010 about the death of the radical Imam Luqmaan Abdullah from Detroit, who was killed during an FBI raid where he and his extremist colleagues opened fire on the agents and killed one of the agents’ dogs.

Abdullah was part of an anti-American extremist group named Ummah that prepared for violent jihad against the U.S. government. CAIR and other Islamists have consistently portrayed the imam as an innocent Muslim who was murdered by bigoted FBI agents.

Dearborn Heights: Islamic House of Wisdom

In 2013, the Clarion Project published our analysis of grants distributed by the Alavi Foundation, a known front for the Iranian regime that was used to finance its nuclear program and promote its radical ideology.

The Washington Post, in 2009, reported U.S. officials’ claims that the Alavi Foundation “promotes Tehran’s views on world affairs.” Hamid Azimi, communications director for the Iranian-American Community of Northern California, says the foundation is part of the regime’s “propaganda machine.”

The Alavi Foundation’s publicly-available declarations showed that it sent $43,700 to the Islamic House of Wisdom between 2004 and 2009.

You can see why the Iranian regime front felt that the Islamic House of Wisdom is worthy of its investment. The mosque’s website teaches about jihad by referencing Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the theocratic regime, giving him the respected title of “imam.”

The spiritual leader of the Islamic House of Wisdom is Imam Mohammad Ali Elahi. According to his bio, he began studying at an Islamic seminary in Iran at age 12. He was arrested by the shah of Iran’s security services in 1978. After the Islamic Revolution brought the theocratic regime to power, it appointed him as “an Islamic ethics teacher at the Iranian Naval Academy, a position he held for five years.”

In 1988, he founded the Cultural Research Center in Tehran, “which focused on the Iranian sacrificial motivation to defend Iran for eight years against Saddam Hussein’s aggression.”

In other words, the regime allowed him—and probably helped him—to idolize “martyrs” who die fighting for the country. One former CIA case officer described this culture as a “fraternity of death” where “many of these folks lived to die.”

The “sacrificial motivation” during the Iran-Iraq War included human waves with many child soldiers. The children were even given keys before battle to symbolize how their deaths in jihad would earn them entry into paradise. Young boys were roped together to prevent any from retreating as they threw their bodies into minefields to clear the way for the military.

He moved to Dearborn in 1992, leading the Islamic Center of America, another mosque in Michigan that has been supportive of Hezbollah figures and Louis Farrakhan in recent years. Imam Elahi then established the Islamic House of Wisdom in 1995.

Elahi appears on Iranian state-controlled propaganda TV to parrot the Supreme Leader’s lines, such as claiming that Iran is being falsely accused of seeking nuclear weapons.

He equates Israel and ISIS and instigates terrorism against Israel with inflammatory condemnations and accusations that any trusting listener would interpret as warranting jihad. His statements do not condemn Hamas and its terrorism but instead paint the group essentially as freedom-fighters engaged in legitimate jihad.

Elahi’s preaching sides with the Syrian regime and its Iranian, Hezbollah and Russian backers, as seen in his outrage over the killing of the Russian ambassador in Turkey. His statement accused Assad’s opponents of being “puppet terrorists” of Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Conclusion

Videos are being published on the Internet every few hours showing Iranians protesting the regime. These demonstrators have seen the results of the Iranian regime’s theocratic Islamic Revolution and are rejecting it.

Yet, while these Iranians strive for international recognition and support, Shiite Muslims in America are failing to rally to their side. Why?

Our findings regarding the above three mosques provide part of the answer.

The Iranian regime and Shiite Islamists are controlling the platforms necessary to rally support for a cause. As a result, these Iranian protestors—most of them Shiite—are abandoned by the Shiite Islamist leaders in America.

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.