M.E. Times: Hezbollah in Latin America

The following article from today’s Middle East Times, “U.S. Officials: Hezbollah Gaining in Latin America” is worth a read. 

“The United States is stepping up scrutiny of Iranian security and military personnel in the Lebanese communities of Latin America, even as its proxy, Hezbollah, gains new momentum and strength there, U.S. officials said.

“Part of Hezbollah’s alarming expansion is being fueled by narco-dollars coming from Latin American drug cartels, and American concern stems from the possibility that al-Qaida and Hezbollah, both of which have contacts with wealthy and powerful Latin American drug organizations, could use the area to stage attacks on U.S. interests in the region or at home, these officials said.

The complete article is available, here.  

Suspicions of Hezbollah activity in the Western Hemisphere are not a new phenomena.  It, and others, have been sowing hate in the region since before September 11, 2001.  What caught my attention in this particular article was the following comment from a former intelligence official:

“The whole issue of Hezbollah expansion down there is overblown … [i]t’s total bull – just another way for neocons to beat the Iranian fear drum so that we’ll join Israel in a nice little war with Tehran.”

Where can one start to pick apart that statement?  Rational minds can differ on the scope and purpose, but flippant, yes flippant comments such as that one are somewhat irresponsible in today’s world.  It may garner invitations for paid interviews on CNN, but it fails to add value to the overall discussion on a serious issue, albeit maybe not as pressing as some others in the Americas.

There is plenty of information in the public domain about Middle Eastern terrorism in the Americas, and I have posted on some of it in the past, but some highlights are worth noting:

  1. Iran and Hezbollah bombed the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1992.  29 people were killed, hundreds injured.
  2. Iran and Hezbollah have been linked to the 1994 terrorist attack on the AMIA Jewish community center in Argentina.  85 people killed, hundreds injured. 
  3. A few days after the 1994 AMIA bombing, a Panamanian commuter jet was blown up by a group calling itself, Ansar Allah.  21 people killed.
  4. Activity by Iranian, Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, and other operatives has been an issue of concern in the Tri-Border area of South America since at least the early 1990s.  There is a good summary of this issue published by the Library of Congress, here.
  5. It is a fact that Iranians can travel virtually undetected from Tehran to Latin America through countries such as Venezuela, Brazil, Nicaragua, Brazil, Bolivia, and Ecuador. 
  6. In Nicaragua, Iranian nationals have recently been granted access to Nicaraguan national identity cards, allowing Iranian nationals to further embed themselves in the grid.
  7. 09/11/01 hijackers used or violated U.S. laws to gain entry to our country and took advantage of a weak homeland security infrastructure to plot and scheme.
  8. The growing instability in Mexico that has resulted in thousands of deaths, beheadings, and mutilations of civilians and government officials alike, is a vector of instability that may be exploited by radical Islamists for whole host of reasons.
  9. There are Hawala networks in the Americas that are known to funnel aid to terror networks.
  10. And there is much more.

Analysts like Mr. Larry Johnson can choose to ignore or downplay these and other activities by our enemies, but why do so?  Only they can answer that question.  The fact remains that Iranian adventurism in the Americas may have not have been a pressing issue for U.S. policymakers before the September 11, 2001 attacks, but that is no longer the case. 

In large measure, such a myopic view of the world, or clinging to traditional notions of what is and is not taking place in the world, laid the foundation that led to the most significant breakdown in our national security possibly ever in our history.   In many ways, given the scope, nature, and devastating nature of the September 11 attacks, radical Islamist activity in the region requires more attention, not less.

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