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?