For years I have been blogging on Iran’s presence in Latin America, which includes Hezbollah’s influence in the tri-border area of Paraguay-Brazil-Argentina.
Most readers probably consider this an abstraction of sorts, things happening far away that have no bearing in their lives.
In fact, this is a matter of national security important to the USA. Mitchell Silber, director of intelligence analysis for the New York City Police Department, explains why in today’s Wall Street Journal,
The Iranian Threat to New York City
As the West’s conflict with Iran over its nuclear program heats up, New York City—with its large Jewish population—becomes an increasingly attractive target.
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.
And, for what it’s worth, Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi is wanted by Interpol for being behind the 1994 AMIA bombing in Buenos Aires.
Cross-posted in the Green Room.
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