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Why Hasn’t the U.S. Cracked Down on Hizballah in Latin America?

April 17 2018

The Iran-backed Lebanese terrorist organization Hizballah maintains an extensive network in South and Central America, where it plans attacks, engages in money laundering, and, most importantly, runs a major drug-smuggling operation that it uses to finance its military operations. During the Obama administration, a major American effort to unravel Hizballah’s illicit activities in the Western hemisphere was rolled back, most likely in pursuit of accommodation with Iran. Emanuele Ottolenghi argues that Washington must get tough with the jihadist group:

The White House has to show that it is prepared to take the lead by designating Hizballah . . . a Transnational Criminal Organization under U.S. law. . . . Although the Hizballah International Finance Prevention Act of 2015 required that the White House determine whether Hizballah meets the criteria for [this] designation, the Obama administration declined to do so. Both the House of Representatives and the Senate have passed legislation seeking to spur the executive branch into action, while giving its agencies sharper tools to go after the terror group. Yet the administration has not acted. . . .

To date, no Latin American country has designated Hizballah as a terrorist organization. . . . However, the United States can achieve much of the same effect [merely] by persuading other countries to recognize Hizballah as a narco-trafficking threat under their own laws. Yet for that request to be credible, the U.S. must do so first. . . .

[Take, for example, the] Ayman Joumaa network in Colombia, which laundered drug proceeds through a complex scheme involving used-car businesses in the United States and customers in West Africa. The Eastern District of Virginia indicted Joumaa in 2011 based on Drug Enforcement Agency evidence, but he remains at large. Even after the Joumaa case uncovered the prominent role of used-car sales, they remain an important part of Hizballah’s money-laundering schemes through West Africa. . . .

[T]he evidence accumulated over a decade of investigations in the United States and abroad makes a damning case for passing tougher legislation against Hizballah’s terror-crime nexus, and an even more compelling one for a Transnational Criminal Organization designation. What is President Trump waiting for?

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Drugs, Hizballah, Iran, Latin America, U.S. Foreign policy

What U.S. Success in Syria Should Look Like

April 26 2018

Surveying the history of the Syrian civil war, Jack Keane and Danielle Pletka explain that Bashar al-Assad’s brutal rule and vicious tactics have led to the presence in his country of both Shiite terrorists, led by Hizballah and backed by Iran and Russia, and Sunni jihadist groups like Islamic State (IS) and al-Qaeda. Any American strategy, they argue, must bear this in mind:

The best option is a Syria without Assad, committed to a future without Iranian or Russian influence. This is not a Pollyanna-like prescription; there are substantial obstacles in the way, not least those we have encountered in Iraq. . . . [But] only such a Syria can guarantee an end to Iranian interference, to the transshipment of weapons for Hizballah, and to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction of the kind we saw used at Douma. (Iran has been instrumental in Syria’s chemical-weapons program for many years.) And, most importantly, only such a Syria can disenfranchise the al-Qaeda and IS affiliates that have found a foothold by exploiting the Syrian people’s desperation.

How do we get there? The United States must first consolidate and strengthen its position in eastern Syria from the Euphrates river to the eastern Syrian border. This involves clearing out the remnants of Islamic State, some several thousand, and ultimately eliminating pockets controlled by the Assad regime and Iranian forces in northeastern Syria. This would enable the creation of a control zone in the eastern part of the country as a base from which to build a credible and capable partner that is not subordinate to the Kurdish chain of command, while effectively shutting down Iran’s strategic land bridge from Iran to the Mediterranean. A regional Arab force, reportedly suggested by President Trump’s new national-security adviser, would be a welcome addition. But we should seriously doubt [the Arabs] will participate without American ground leadership and air support.

In western Syria, the United States should rebuild a Syrian opposition force with advisers, weapons, and air power while upping the pressure on Assad and his cronies to select a pathway to a negotiated peace. Pursuing a settlement in Geneva without such leverage over the Assad regime is pure fantasy. Finally, the United States and other Western powers must impede Iran’s and Russia’s ability to be resupplied. Syria’s airfields must be destroyed, and Syria’s airspace must remain clear.

Read more at National Interest

More about: Hizballah, Iran, ISIS, Politics & Current Affairs, Russia, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy