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.

You have 2 free articles left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Read more at Weekly Standard

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

Syria’s Downing of a Russian Plane Put Israel in the Crosshairs

Sept. 21 2018

On Monday, Israeli jets fired missiles at an Iranian munitions storehouse in the northwestern Syrian city of Latakia. Shortly thereafter, Syrian personnel shot down a Russian surveillance plane with surface-to-air missiles, in what seems to be a botched and highly incompetent response to the Israeli attack. Moscow first responded by blaming Jerusalem for the incident, but President Putin then offered more conciliatory statements. Yesterday, Russian diplomats again stated that Israel was at fault. Yoav Limor comments:

What was unusual [about the Israeli] strike was the location: Latakia [is] close to Russian forces, in an area where the IDF hasn’t been active for some time. The strike itself was routine; the IDF notified the Russian military about it in advance, the missiles were fired remotely, the Israeli F-16s returned to base unharmed, and as usual, Syrian antiaircraft missiles were fired indiscriminately in every direction, long after the strike itself was over. . . .

Theoretically, this is a matter between Russia and Syria. Russia supplied Syria with the SA-5 [missile] batteries that wound up shooting down its plane, and now it must demand explanations from Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. That won’t happen; Russia was quick to blame Israel for knocking over the first domino, and as usual, sent conflicting messages that make it hard to parse its future strategy. . . .

From now on, Russia will [almost certainly] demand a higher level of coordination with Israel and limits on the areas in which Israel can attack, and possibly a commitment to refrain from certain actions. Syria, Iran, and Hizballah will try to drag Russia into “handling” Israel and keeping it from continuing to carry out strikes in the region. Israel . . . will blame Iran, Hizballah, and Syria for the incident, and say they are responsible for the mess.

But Israel needs to take rapid action to minimize damage. It is in Israel’s strategic interest to keep up its offensive actions to the north, mainly in Syria. If that action is curtailed, Israel’s national security will be compromised. . . . No one in Israel, and certainly not in the IDF or the Israel Air Force, wants Russia—which until now hasn’t cared much about Israel’s actions—to turn hostile, and Israel needs to do everything to prevent that from happening. Even if that means limiting its actions for the time being. . . . Still, make no mistake: Russia is angry and has to explain its actions to its people. Israel will need to walk a thin line between protecting its own security interests and avoiding a very unwanted clash with Russia.

You have 1 free article left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Russia, Syrian civil war