Lebanon Is Protecting Hizballah’s Cocaine Trade in Latin America

June 22 2018

To finance its activities, Hizballah conducts lucrative cocaine and money-laundering operations in Latin America, based primarily in the area known as the Triple Frontier, where the borders of Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina meet. Lebanon, where the Iran-backed terrorist group is headquartered, has consistently provided shelter to these activities, as Emanuele Ottolenghi explains:

U.S. policy toward the Lebanese militant group continues to be incoherent. By flexing its muscles against Hizballah while supporting Lebanese state institutions that it has heavily penetrated or fully controls, the White House ends up undermining its own pursuit of the group’s illicit sources of finance.

This contradiction at the heart of American policy is now playing out in Paraguay, where the Lebanese embassy is attempting to block the extradition [to the U.S.] of the alleged Hizballah financier Nader Mohamad Farhat. . . . On May 17, while the U.S. Treasury was announcing new Hizballah designations, Paraguayan authorities raided . . . a currency-exchange house in Ciudad del Este . . . and arrested Farhat, its owner, for his role in an alleged $1.3 million drug-money-laundering scheme. Farhat is alleged to be a member of . . . the branch of Hizballah’s External Security Organization in charge of running overseas illicit-finance and-drug trafficking operations. . . .

On May 28, the Lebanese chargé d’affaires in Asunción, Hassan Hijazi, sent a letter to Paraguay’s attorney general intimating that she should reject the U.S. request to extradite Farhat. Hijazi is clearly entitled to look after the interests of a Lebanese national. He could do so by offering consular services to the detainee while publicly distancing his country from this type of financial crime. . . . Interfering in the legal process of his host country, however, is an infringement of diplomatic protocol and a sure sign that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beirut is prioritizing Hizballah’s interests over those of Lebanon.

Washington should not let this slip quietly, and neither should Paraguay. Asunción should declare Hijazi to be persona non grata and unceremoniously dispatch him back to Lebanon. . . . The United States should give reassurances to Paraguay that punishing the envoy and extraditing the culprit is the right course of action. Farhat’s money laundering scheme is the tip of Hizballah’s criminal iceberg in the Triple Frontier. . . . Washington, [moreover], needs to recognize that Lebanese institutions are not a counterweight to Hizballah, but its enablers.

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Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Hizballah, Latin America, Lebanon, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy

 

Will Tensions Rise between the U.S. and Israel?

Unlike his past many predecessors, President Joe Biden does not have a plan for solving the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Moreover, his administration has indicated its skepticism about renewing the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. John Bolton nevertheless believes that there could be a collision between the new Benjamin Netanyahu-led Israeli government and the Biden White House:

In possibly his last term, Netanyahu’s top national-security priority will be ending, not simply managing, Iran’s threat. This is infinitely distant from Biden’s Iran policy, which venerates Barrack Obama’s inaugural address: “we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

Tehran’s fist is today otherwise occupied, pummeling its own people. Still, it will continue menacing Israel and America unless and until the internal resistance finds ways to fracture the senior levels of Iran’s regular military and the Revolutionary Guards. Netanyahu undoubtedly sees Iran’s growing domestic turmoil as an opportunity for regime change, which Israel and others can facilitate. Simultaneously, Jerusalem can be preparing its military and intelligence services to attack Tehran’s nuclear program, something the White House simply refuses to contemplate seriously. Biden’s obsession with reviving the disastrous 2015 nuclear deal utterly blinds the White House to the potential for a more significant victory.

To make matters worse, Biden has just created a Washington-based position at the State Department, a “special representative for Palestinian affairs,” that has already drawn criticism in Israel both for the new position itself and for the person named to fill it. Advocated as one more step toward “upgrading” U.S. relations with the Palestinian Authority, the new position looks nearly certain to become the locus not of advancing American interests regarding the failed Authority, but of advancing the Authority’s interests within the Biden administration.

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Read more at 19FortyFive

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran, Joe Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship