Brazil and Paraguay Are Letting Hizballah Operate Unhindered in Their Territory

Feb. 27 2018

Following a series of social-media postings commemorating the recent death of a Hizballah operative in Syria, Emanuele Ottolenghi finds evidence of its activities in South America’s tri-border area where Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay meet. This region, with its weak border control and law enforcement, has a sizable population of south Lebanese origin, among whom are many Hizballah operatives involved in money laundering, drug running, and other activities that finance the terrorist group. Ottolenghi explains why the Hizballah favors the area:

Countries like Brazil and Paraguay . . . do not seem interested in acting on U.S. terror-finance designations. . . . The lack of interest in enforcement is aggravated by the unusually low threshold for acquiring citizenship in both countries. . . . [H]aving multiple passports facilitates the efforts of these operatives to move seamlessly across borders in pursuit of their goals. And their unfettered presence, as citizens, in countries with weak law enforcement, corrupt political elites, and rampant organized crime enhances their ability to conduct business and raise money for their cause. . . .

[T]he Paraguay-Brazil boundary is largely fictional. Of the numerous individuals whose business activities the United States targeted with terror-finance designations in 2004 and 2006, most have residences on both sides of the border, hold both citizenships, bank in both countries, and play each jurisdiction’s weaknesses to their own advantage.

Unlike the United States, neither Brazil nor Paraguay has designated Hizballah as a terrorist organization, although both have antiterrorist legislation in place which would allow them to do so. If Brasília and Asunción chose to designate Hizballah, they could revoke citizenships, seize assets, and preemptively detain the group’s operatives. The United States would not be the only beneficiary of such moves, since Hizballah operatives were arrested in 2014 and 2017 for scouting high-value targets in Latin America. Clearly the region remains vulnerable to attacks, despite a long period of quiet since the 1994 bombing of the AMIA building in Buenos Aires, which bore Hizballah’s fingerprints. . . . Yet not even Buenos Aires has designated Hizballah a terror entity.

While encouraging greater vigilance from its South American partners, the United States cannot afford to turn a blind eye to the shortcomings of its own enforcement efforts. . . . As part of its efforts to target global terror finance, over a decade ago, . . . the Drug Enforcement Agency launched . . . Project Cassandra to dismantle Hizballah drug-trafficking networks across the globe, many of which emanated from Latin America. Project Cassandra initially scored some important victories but its success was short-lived. . . . [W]ith the Obama administration aggressively pursuing a nuclear deal with Iran, many investigations were downgraded, slowed down, put on ice, or simply nixed so as not to upset the Iranians.

Read more at Weekly Standard

More about: AMIA bombing, Barack Obama, Brazil, Hizballah, Latin America, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy


The Danger of Hollow Fixes to the Iran Deal

March 20 2018

In January, the Trump administration announced a 120-day deadline for the so-called “E3”—Britain, France, and Germany—to agree to solutions for certain specific flaws in the 2015 agreement to limit the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. Omri Ceren explains why it’s necessary to get these fixes right:

[Already in October], the administration made clear that it considered the deal fatally flawed for at least three reasons: a weak inspections regime in which the UN’s nuclear watchdog can’t access Iranian military facilities, an unacceptable arrangement whereby the U.S. had to give up its most powerful sanctions against ballistic missiles even as Iran was allowed to develop ballistic missiles, and the fact that the deal’s eventual expiration dates mean Iran will legally be allowed to get within a hair’s breadth of a nuclear weapon. . . .

A team of American negotiators has been working on getting the E3 to agree to a range of fixes, and is testing whether there is overlap between the maximum that the Europeans can give and the minimum that President Trump will accept. The Europeans in turn are testing the Iranians to gauge their reactions and will likely not accept any fixes that would cause Iran to bolt.

The negotiations are problematic. The New York Times reported that, as far as the Europeans are concerned, the exercise requires convincing Trump they’ve “changed the deal without actually changing it.” Public reports about the inspection fix suggest that the Europeans are loath to go beyond urging the International Atomic Energy Commission to request inspections, which the agency may be too intimidated to do. The ballistic-missile fix is shaping up to be a political disaster, with the Europeans refusing to incorporate anything but long-range missiles in the deal. That would leave us with inadequate tools to counter Iran’s development of ballistic missiles that could be used to wipe Israel, the Saudis, and U.S. regional bases off the map. . . .

There is a [significant] risk the Trump administration may be pushed to accept the hollow fixes acceptable to the Europeans. Fixing the deal in this way would be the worst of all worlds. It would functionally enshrine the deal under a Republican administration. Iran would be open for business, and this time there would be certainty that a future president will not act to reverse the inevitable gold rush. Just as no deal would have been better than a bad deal, so no fix would be better than a bad fix.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Donald Trump, Europe, Iran, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy