Hizballah’s Latin American Drug and Money-Laundering Empire Stretches into the U.S.

Jan. 12 2021

In 2007, a U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) wiretap of the notorious Medellín cartel picked up a conversation in Arabic. With further investigation, the DEA discovered that the Iran-backed terrorist group Hizballah was arranging shipments of cocaine from Colombia to the Middle East. This operation turned out to be only a small part of a sprawling network of criminal enterprises in South America, writes Emanuele Ottolenghi:

Hizballah [in part] depends financially on Iranian largesse. But its growing budget—in itself a consequence of Hizballah’s expanding role in the region as an Iranian terror proxy—means that outside sources of income have become more important in the past two decades. Hizballah has financed itself not only by leveraging expatriate communities through charitable donations, but also by recruiting members of the Lebanese diaspora to build an elaborate global money-laundering operation . . . for the benefit of organized crime. Profits from such schemes help finance Hezbollah’s operations to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

Nearly a decade later, the U.S. and its European allies had managed to arrest a number of perpetrators, but Hizballah’s criminal enterprises continue:

[A few years ago], Castro-Chavista anti-American regimes that aligned themselves with Tehran were on the rise, with their influence reaching even Paraguay, a traditionally center-right conservative country. . . . Worse: some of these governments increasingly merged with organized-crime cartels to take a cut from the booming cocaine trade. Washington could go after Hizballah in Colombia all it wanted, but in many other regional capitals, its agents got the cold shoulder—Venezuela and Bolivia both DEA agents in 2005 and 2009, respectively. When the Obama White House turned its sights on a grand bargain with Iran, what was already arduous under the prevailing regional politics of the time became even more difficult.

Tellingly, some of the fraudulent transactions [conducted by Hizballah money-launderers] went through cut-outs in the United States, mimicking a pattern already seen in past investigations against Hizballah’s narcoterrorism illicit-finance networks. Given that the United States is both a profitable market for cocaine and Hizballah’s mortal enemy, it comes as no surprise that Hizballah financiers would wish to make a buck here, in the process helping cartels flood U.S. markets and pollute the financial system through laundering operations.

These vulnerabilities make it clear that . . . hundreds of companies implicated in suspicious transactions both in the U.S. and in [Latin America] continue to operate, carrying on with their trade.

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Read more at Jewish Policy Center

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

Iran’s Responsibility for West Bank Terror

On Friday, a Palestinian stabbed an Israeli police officer and was then shot by another officer after trying to grab his rifle. Commenting on the many similar instances of West Bank-based terror during the past several months, Amit Saar, a senior IDF intelligence officer, predicted that the violence will likely grow worse in the coming year. Yoni Ben Menachem explains the Islamic Republic’s role in fueling this wave of terrorism:

The escape of six terrorists from Gilboa prison in September 2021 was the catalyst for the establishment of new terrorist groups in the northern West Bank, according to senior Islamic Jihad officials. The initiative to establish new armed groups was undertaken by Palestinian Islamic Jihad in coordination with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, implementing the strategy of Qassem Suleimani—the commander of the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guards who was assassinated in Iraq by the U.S.—of using proxies to achieve the goals of expansion of the Iranian regime.

After arming Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza, Iran moved in the last year to support the new terrorist groups in the northern West Bank. Iran has been pouring money into the Islamic Jihad organization, which began to establish new armed groups under the name of “Battalions,” which also include terrorists from other organizations such as Fatah, Hamas, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. First, the “Jenin Battalion” was established in the city of Jenin, followed the “Nablus Battalion.”

Despite large-scale arrest operation by the IDF and the Shin Bet in the West Bank, Islamic Jihad continues to form new terrorist groups, including the “Tulkarem Battalion,” the “Tubas Battalion,” and the “Balata Battalion” in the Balata refugee camp.

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Read more at Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Palestinian terror, West Bank