El Nuevo Herald reports (link in Spanish) that Ghazi Nasr al Din, in charge of all Hezbollah operations in Venezuela, served as business attache in the Venezuelan embassy in Syria. Nicolas Maduro, now president of Venezuela, was his contact, and allegedly provided Nasr al Din’s cover.
A 2008 US Treasury report stated that Nasr al Din was a Hezbollah agent who used his post as a Venezuelan diplomat to carry out essential fundraising efforts for Hezbollah.
The Herald’s sources indicated that Nasr al Din reported directly to then-Vice-president Maduro, bypassing the minister for Middle East affairs, and arranged travel to Iran for training.
In related news, Roger Noriega, a former United States ambassador and assistant secretary of state for western hemisphere affairs, has alleged that
Iran has illegally laundered billions of dollars through the Venezuelan financial sector and is currently stashing “hundreds of millions” of dollars in “virtually every Venezuelan bank today,”
Although the United States tightened security at airports and land ports of entry in thewake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the U.S.-Mexico border remains an obvious weak link in the chain.
Despite the near doubling of Border Patrol personnel, the Government Accountability Office found that only 44 percent of the Southwest border was under operational control.
In 2012, National Guard presence on the Southwest border was reduced to 300 soldiers.
Since October 2008, 138 Customs and Border Protection officers or agents have been arrested or indicted on corruption related charges.
The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) reports that there have been 58 incidents of shots fired at Texas lawmen by Mexican cartel operatives since 2009.
Experts believe the Southwest border has become the great threat of terrorist infiltration into the United States.
Iran and Hezbollah have a growing presence in Latin America.
Hezbollah has a significant presence in the United States that could be utilized in terror attacks intended to deter U.S. efforts to curtail Iran’s nuclear program.
Latin America has become a money laundering and major fundraising center for Hezbollah.
Hezbollah’s relationship with Mexican drug cartels, which control secured smuggling routes into the United States, is documented as early as 2005.
If Iran’s assassination plot against the Saudi Arabian ambassador in Washington, D.C. had been successful, Iran’s Qods Force intended to use the Los Zetas drug cartel for other attacks in the future.
A spokesman for Mexico’s ambassador to the United States, Arturo Sarukhán, told The Daily Caller his country’s government disputes a recent House GOP report alleging that Iranian and Hezbollah terror operatives are using Mexican drug cartels as a conduit to infiltrate the United States.
As Matthew Boyle points out, on October 11 last year, two men were arrested in New York and charged with taking part in an Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the US. You can read the full details of the plot in the Department of Justice’s report.
While its government denies these findings, Mexico is the deadliest country on earth for journalists.
If you were wondering how Hugo Chávez has been putting to use the billions of dollars Russia’s been lending him, wonder no more:
He was on TV bragging that the gun factory’s now working at full capacity, producing a rifle named Catatumbo, and a “grenade, unique in the world,” for the AK-103 automatic weapon, “produced with the help of the Russian government,”
Here’s the Catatumbo, and the cartridge for the AK-103, made with Russian cooperation; the bullet-proof vests are a joint enterprise with China, according to the video,
The following video was produced by the Maracay Services and Production Unit of the Venezuelan Military Industries Corporation (Unidad de Producción y Servicios Maracay de la Compañía Anónima Venezolana e Industrias Militares – Cavim):
President Hugo Chavez said Wednesday that Venezuela has begun to assemble Kalashnikov assault rifles with assistance from Russia and started producing surveillance drones.
Venezuela has spent billions of dollars for Russian arms and military aircraft since 2005, including 24 Sukhoi fighter jets, dozens of attack helicopters and 100,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles.
“We are a free and independent country,” Chavez said.
Army Gen. Julio Cesar Morales Prieto, president of Venezuela’s state-run arms producer, said 3,000 AK-103 assault rifles have been assembled since Venezuela and Russia signed the 2005 agreement for the construction of a Kalashnikov assembly factory.
The factory has begun production, but construction of the facility has not yet been completed, Morales Prieto said.
The factory eventually will have the capacity to produce 25,000 rifles annually.
Chavez, a former paratroop commander, said that Venezuela has also started making grenades, ammunition and surveillance drones for its military. Three drones has been built so far, he said.
“We do not have any intentions of attacking anybody,” he said. “These projects are for defense, for peace.”
En noviembre de 2011, la Fuerza Aérea Venezolana mostró uno de los ejemplares adquiridos, un pequeño modelo bautizado como ANT-1X, e indicó que también se contaba con otro modelo no especificado. Se trata del Sant Arpía, nombre local para el «Mohajer» iraní, que Teherán también ha vendido a Hizbolá. Su uso es de vigilancia, aunque también puede guiar armamento hacia objetivos mediante láser.
(Rough translation – if you use it, please link to this post and credit me) On November 2011, the Venezuelan Air Force showed one of the purchased items, a small model named ANT-1X, and stated that it had another unspecified model. It’s a Sant Arpía, the local name for the Iranian “Mohajer”, that Teheran also sold to Hezbollah. Used for surveillance, it can also deliver laser-guided weapons.
UN sanctions clearly ban “all of Iran’s arms exports”; yet here we have it, right in our hemisphere.
Time to worry?
Upon a second review of the Noticias 24 article, I realized I left out the following information:
The calibers of the Venezuelan rifles produced are 7.62x39mm, with a range of 400 meters,
7.62x51mm, range of 800 meters,
7,62x64mm, range unspecified, but “better than a Dragonov”
They’re also planning an anti-vehicle weapon.
The cartridges for the AK-103 are “95% polymer”.
Chavez also specified his intention to sell all these “to other Latin American countries.”
Martin Arostegui, reporting for the Miami Herald, writes on Latin America’s school for dictators in Bolivia where the Iranians, Cuban, Russians, and Hezbollah meet the leftist governments of Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and now, possibly, Argentina (emphasis added)
A year ago this month, Bolivian President Evo Morales inaugurated the College for Defense of the Bolivarian Alternative of the Americas (ALBA) with a speech in which he called for the expulsion of U.S. intelligence agencies, a new military doctrine based on “asymmetrical war” against “imperialism” and the “abolition” of the U.N. Security Council. He also attacked the press, calling CNN a “tool of capitalism”,
Morales spoke in the presence of Iran’s defense minister, Gen Ahmed Vahidi, who had to be rushed from the ceremony when it was learned that Argentine prosecutors were issuing an international arrest warrant over his alleged role in the 1994 Hezbollah bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people.
ALBA is a Venezuelan-led association of anti-U.S. governments which also includes Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua and some Caribbean island states dependent on Venezuelan oil subsidies. The fledgling alliance has been given little importance by U.S. intelligence analysts, who tend to dismiss it as a purely ideological entity.
Its 5,000-square-meter military facility outside the city of Santa Cruz, built at the cost of $2 million, remains empty, according to Bolivian defense spokesmen who say that they are awaiting “input” from other member states. One Bolivian army officer ventures to say that it is on “standby,” pending the elections in Venezuela.
Despite ALBA’s vacant real estate, it is becoming increasingly clear that member governments are in the process of forming a military and intelligence network aided and influenced by Iran that could leverage events in the hemisphere, in the absence of effective U.S. leadership.
Thousands of Cuban security advisors have played a critical role in consolidating the regime of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela and have similarly assisted leftist governments in Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and now, possibly, Argentina.
A Pentagon report released in 2010 also warned about the growing presence of Iranian elite Revolutionary Guard Al Qods officers in Latin America. Small Iranian advisory teams are operating with the security services of Venezuela and other ALBA nations, according to U.S. State Department officials speaking off the record.
Bolivia’s ex-defense minister, Maria Chacón, has said that the ALBA school seeks to form leadership cadres for civilian militias. The strategy of “people in arms” has long been promoted by Fidel Castro and Chávez for the ostensible purpose of resisting a U.S. invasion.
But a more immediate role for politically directed paramilitary organizations like Venezuela’s growing Bolivarian Militia may be keeping hard-line factions in power should internal struggles result from an opposition election victory or Chávez’s much anticipated death from cancer.
A Venezuelan official blacklisted by the U.S. government as a member of Hezbollah, Ghazi Nasr Al Din, directed Circulos Bolivarianos teams that disrupted opposition rallies, in many cases shooting government opponents, prior to assuming diplomatic postings in Lebanon and Syria.
The interface between ALBA and its Middle Eastern allies is such that Cuba has used its Russian-built electronic listening station to jam satellite broadcasts by U.S.-based Iranian opposition radio stations.
Iran has a proven record of using its official presence in a foreign city to coordinate attacks, which are then carried out by Hezbollah agents from abroad, often leveraging the local community—whether wittingly or not—as facilitators. Most notable are the 1992 and 1994 bombings of Israeli and Jewish targets in Argentina, which killed 29 and 85 people, respectively. The New York City Police Department, where I work as director of Intelligence Analysis, sent a team to Argentina to study the modus operandi of those attacks and to meet with Argentine security officials who worked the investigations. Coupled with open source information, this is what the NYPD learned:
Iranian agents were sent to Argentina years before the attacks, where they integrated into society and became Argentine nationals. Mohsen Rabbani is believed to have been in charge of coordinating the 1994 attack and is subject to an Interpol arrest warrant for his involvement. He first came to Argentina in 1983, where he subsequently became the main imam at At-Tauhid, an Iranian-funded mosque in Buenos Aires.
After traveling to Iran in August 1993 to participate in a meeting that allegedly gave the planned attack the green light, Mr. Rabbani returned to Argentina as a cultural attaché to the Iranian Embassy, conveniently providing him diplomatic immunity. Then, Hezbollah agents from abroad received logistical support from members of the local Lebanese-Shiite community and the Iranian Embassy to carry out the attack.
The Argentine attacks were by no means isolated incidents. Hezbollah has been tied to failed attacks in 2009 against Israeli and Jewish interests in Azerbaijan, Egypt and Turkey. Last month, Thai officials arrested a suspected Hezbollah militant for possibly planning attacks there or perhaps facilitating the movement of weapons through Bangkok.
In the New York-New Jersey-Pennsylvania area,
Hezbollah and its supporters have a presence in New York and the surrounding area as well. In 2008, two Staten Island men pleaded guilty to providing material support to Hezbollah. Just down the road in Philadelphia, 26 people—including a former Brooklyn resident—were indicted in federal court in 2009 for conspiring to provide material support to the terrorist group.
Lebanese-linked businesses in the tri-state area and elsewhere have been implicated in a massive money-laundering scheme benefiting Hezbollah. This scheme was revealed in a civil suit filed against several Lebanese financial institutions last December by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Meanwhile, at least 18 other Hezbollah-related cases have been brought in federal courts across the United States since 2000.
Among them, Moussa Ali Hamdan, a naturalized US citizen who lived in Brooklyn, worked in New Jersey, and is wanted in Philadelphia for exporting stolen cars to Lebanon to finance terror organizations there.
Since 2000, cultivation of coca leaves—cocaine’s raw material—plunged 65% in Colombia, to 141,000 acres in 2010, according to United Nations figures. In the same period, cultivation surged more than 40% in Peru, to 151,000 acres, and more than doubled in Bolivia, to 77,000 acres.
More important, Bolivia and Peru are now making street-ready cocaine, whereas they once mostly supplied raw ingredients for processing in Colombia. In 2010, Peru may have passed Colombia as the world’s biggest producer, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Between 2009 and 2010, Peru’s potential to produce cocaine grew 44%, to 325 metric tons. In 2010, Colombia’s potential production was 270 metric tons.
Meanwhile, Venezuela and Ecuador are rising as smuggling hubs.
Those of you who think this cocaine is only produced for consumption outside Latin America, do take note that Brazilian police say 80% of that country’s cocaine supply comes from Bolivia.
Noteworthy was a comment by Lebanon’s drug enforcement chief, Colonel Adel Mashmoushi, who stated that one path used by Hezbollah’s drug trafficking friends into Lebanon was “aboard a weekly Iranian-operated flight from Venezuela to Damascus and then over the border [from Syria].” The air bridge between Caracas and Tehran has long been a significant security concern.
Is it a coincidence that Bolivia has the largest Iranian embassy in the hemisphere, and that Ahmadinejad has visited the region five times – last week stopping in Ecuador and Venezuela?
At the same time, the investigation that led the United States to the bank, the Lebanese Canadian Bank, provides new insights into the murky sources of Hezbollah’s money. While law enforcement agencies around the world have long believed that Hezbollah is a passive beneficiary of contributions from loyalists abroad involved in drug trafficking and a grab bag of other criminal enterprises, intelligence from several countries points to the direct involvement of high-level Hezbollah officials in the South American cocaine trade.
The revelations about Hezbollah and the Lebanese Canadian Bank reflect the changing political and military dynamics of Lebanon and the Middle East. American intelligence analysts believe that for years Hezbollah received as much as $200 million annually from its primary patron, Iran, along with additional aid from Syria. But that support has diminished, the analysts say, as Iran’s economy buckles under international sanctions over its nuclear program and Syria’s government battles rising popular unrest.
Yet, if anything, Hezbollah’s financial needs have grown alongside its increasing legitimacy here, as it seeks to rebuild after its 2006 war with Israel and expand its portfolio of political and social service activities. The result, analysts believe, has been a deeper reliance on criminal enterprises — especially the South American cocaine trade — and on a mechanism to move its ill-gotten cash around the world.
Venezuela plays a part, too,
According to Lebanon’s drug enforcement chief, Col. Adel Mashmoushi, one path into the country was aboard a weekly Iranian-operated flight from Venezuela to Damascus and then over the border. Several American officials confirmed that, emphasizing that such an operation would be impossible without Hezbollah’s involvement.