Latin American drug money financing Iran-backed Hezbollah’s terrorist operations
The United States and Argentina are to work together to cut off Lebanese terrorist outfit Hezbollah’s funding networks in Latin America. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Argentinian Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie declared their intention to cooperate in this regard during a press conference in Buenos Aires on Sunday.
Argentina is home to a large Lebanese expatriate population and U.S. authorities believe that the Iranian-backed terrorist group has been raising funds for it activities through organised crime in the region, including drug trade.
The latest announcement comes on the heels of President Donald Trump’s decision to pass tough sanctions against Hezbollah. The sanctions are aimed at businesses in Sierra Leone, Ghana, and Liberia, which the Treasury Department believe “sit at the nexus of Hezbollah’s cash flows.”
These recent measures are in sharp contrast to President Obama’s approach to turn a blind eye to Iran-backed Hezbollah’s global terror network. According to an investigative report published by Politico in December last year, Obama administration blocked the U.S. law enforcement plans to dismantle Hezbollah’s drug-running operations on American soil to avoid annoying the Iranian regime ahead of the nuclear deal. [We covered Politico‘s investigative report]
Israeli TV network Arutz Sheva reported the detail of the agreement reached between the U.S. and Argentinia:
The United States and Argentina will work together more closely to cut off the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah’s funding networks in Latin America, both nations’ top diplomats said Sunday, according to AFP.
Argentina has a large Lebanese expatriate population and U.S. authorities suspect groups within it of raising funds through organized crime to support the Iranian-backed Hezbollah.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was in Buenos Aires for talks with his Argentinian counterpart Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie, and afterwards they confirmed that the issue had come up.
“With respect to Hezbollah, we also did speak today in our discussion about all of the region about how we must all jointly go after these transnational criminal organizations — narcotics trafficking, human trafficking, smuggling, money laundering — because we see the connections to terrorist financing organizations as well,” Tillerson was quoted as having said.
“And we did specifically discuss the presence of Lebanese Hezbollah in this hemisphere, which is raising funds, obviously, to support its terrorist activities. So it is something that we jointly agree we need to attack and eliminate,” he added.
Crippling Hezbollah’s terror financing activities in South American comes at a crucial time for the Iranian-backed terrorist group. The Lebanon-based Shi’a Islamic militia overstretched its operational capabilities by entering the Syrian conflict seven years ago. So far, the terrorist group lost around 1,500 fighters in an attempt to keep the Iranian-backed dictator Bashar al-Assad in power, with no end to the conflict in sight.
Iranian regime, which increased the funding for the terrorist group up to a billion dollars a year following the Obama-Kerry nuclear deal, is itself facing a sever financial crunch at home — fuelling massive anti-regime protests at home.
While the measures taken by the Trump administration severely impact Hezbollah’s ability to generate funds in the U.S. and South America, the group continues to raise money and operate freely in most of the European countries under the façade of its ‘political wing’. The EU only lists Hezbollah’s ‘military wing’ as a terrorist group, leaving its ‘political wing’ off the hook.
In contrast to the US and Argentine officials below , @GermanyDiplo @BMI_Bund permits 950 Hezbollah operatives to legally operate on its soil and won’t outlaw the entire terrorist entity Hezbollah. https://t.co/g5dMyTIiDd
— Benjamin Weinthal (@BenWeinthal) February 6, 2018
According to German investigators, Arab migrant gangs involved in organised crime have been laundering money on behalf of Hezbollah. In 2016, German police busted a nationwide Hezbollah-run money laundering ring. A part of the proceeds from the operation was going to South American drug cartels, German media revealed. A similar case was reported in France as well.
Trump administration’s decision to curb Hezbollah’s terror financing network in South America would certainly impair Hezbollah’s ability to carry out terrorist activities across the Middle East. But for this to be a decisive blow, the EU and the European countries, too, must take similar steps against the terror group on their soil. It makes no sense for the European countries to harbor a foreign terrorist organization masquerading as a ‘political wing’. Besides, Hezbollah itself makes no distinction between its ‘military’ and ‘political’ wing.
While the Trump administration takes clear and moral stance against international terrorism, it is painful to watch European politicians make such fine distinctions in dealing with a terrorist organization that targets innocent civilians indiscriminately.
Video: Ex-DEA official on Obama-Hezbollah report
[Cover image via YouTube]
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