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?

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

The U.S. Should Recognize Israeli Sovereignty over the Golan Heights

July 19 2018

Since the 1970s, American governments have sporadically pressured Jerusalem to negotiate the return of the Golan to Syria in exchange for peace. Had Israel given up this territory, Iranian forces would now be preparing to establish themselves on its strategically advantageous high ground. Michael Doran, testifying before the House of Representatives, argues that for this and other reasons, Congress should recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan. (Video is available at the link below.)

Between 1949 and 1967, [the period during which Syria held the Golan], thousands of clashes erupted [there]. By contrast, ever since Israel took control of the Golan Heights in June 1967, they have served as a natural buffer between the two belligerents. The last 70 years serve as a laboratory of real life, and the results [of the experiment conducted therein] are incontrovertible: when in the hands of Syria, the Golan Heights promoted conflict. When in the hands of Israel, they have promoted stability. . . .

From the outbreak of the [Syrian] civil war, Iran and Russia have worked aggressively to shape the conflict so as to serve their interests. The influence of Iran is particularly worrisome because, in the division of labor between Moscow and Tehran, Russia provides the air power while Iran provides much of the ground forces. . . . Thanks to Iran’s newfound ground presence [in Syria], it is well on the way to completing a so-called “land bridge” stretching from Tehran to Beirut. There can be no doubt that a major aim of the land bridge is to increase the military pressure on Israel (and Jordan, too). . . .

Would Americans ever consciously choose to place Iranian soldiers on the Golan Heights, so that they could peer down their riflescopes at Jewish civilians below? Is there any American interest that would be served by allowing Iran to have direct access to the Sea of Galilee, Israel’s primary water reservoir? Would it ever be wise to place Iranian troops [where they could] serve as a wedge between Jordan and Israel? The answer to all of these questions, obviously, is no. And the clearest way to send that message to the world is to pass a law recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

As for the claim that the Jewish state’s seizure of the Golan in 1967 violates international law, Doran notes that Washington undermined this claim with its attempts in the 1990s to broker a deal between Jerusalem and Damascus:

The ready American (and Israeli) acceptance of the June 4, 1967 cease-fire line [as the basis for such a deal] is nothing short of startling. That line . . . leaves Syria in possession of territory along the shores of the Sea of Galilee and elsewhere that it acquired by force in 1948. In other words, to win over its enemy, [Syria], the Clinton administration dispensed with the principle of the impermissibility of the acquisition of territory by force—the very principle that the United States has remained ever-vigilant in applying to its ally, Israel.

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More about: Congress, Golan Heights, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy