Iran in Latin America

 

iran latin america

 

For decades, Latin America has been utilized by Iran as a hotbed for generating terrorist activities to facilitate Tehran’s political aims. Some areas in Latin America remain ripe with drug trafficking, cartel operations, and other illicit activities. 

These loosely controlled areas with inconsistent or corrupt political control, in combination with sympathetic Shiite populations in regions such as in Columbia, provide grounds for Iran to carry out their foreign policy aims against their ideological opponents. This list of opponents includes a number of Western entities, but the United States and Israel have been Iran’s primary targets. Latin America also provides Iran with a region to carry out terrorist plots with a smaller chance of large-scale retribution from their ideological adversaries. Despite this history, terrorist activity in Latin America does not receive significant public attention.

Back in 2020, the United States carried out an airstrike that killed Iran’s top general, Qassem Soleimani. Soleimani was the architect behind many Iranian-sponsored terrorist plots and human-rights abuses in the Middle East and abroad. At the time, Iran had been launching rocket attacks and other operations against United States forces in Iraq. In response to the death of Soleimani, Iran and Hezbollah promised retribution

Over the past couple of years, Iran has attempted to carry out terrorist attacks, but these attacks were foiled and failed to come to fruition. These planned attacks were to be carried out against U.S. and Israeli targets. The targets included prominent U.S. and Israeli businessmen and their families, diplomats, embassies, and other interests. Iran and Hezbollah have well-developed networks within Latin America and the Middle East. Using these networks, Iran can continue to both recruit for, and resource future terrorist plots.

A number of these intended attacks were to take place in Latin America and Columbia, according to monitoring organizations such as the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. In one case, Hezbollah operatives involved had previously been expelled from Columbia but were able to return. Drug trafficking operations have been used to facilitate transferring money, personnel, and storing weapons caches for Iranian operatives. 

These operations are at times aided by a number of Shiite mosques in Latin America, many of which are under the influence of Hezbollah and Iranian friendly religious leaders. Often the corruption-ripe justice systems of Latin American countries enable terrorists to avoid prosecution, with terrorist agents being sent back to Iran or other countries instead, as reported by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

There has been a long history, especially active in recent years, of Iranian-sponsored terrorist activity in Latin America. These terrorist activities target U.S. and Israeli interests. With this in mind, it is increasingly likely Iran will attempt further terrorist attacks in the near future, with United States and Israeli personal and interests as the prime targets. These Iranian terrorist plots tend to receive minimal media attention compared to terrorist activities in other regions, which helps keep Latin America a desired area for continued Iranian involvement.  Latin America will serve as Iran’s ideological warzone in the years to come. 

Washington’s Negotiation with Iran: Rejoin the JCPOA?

President Joe Biden and Tehran have already begun negotiations to determine the path forward regarding Iran’s nuclear ambitions. The negotiations center around the expiring Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) deal reached under the Obama administration. Previously, Biden expressed his desire to return to the 2015 JCPOA. Some of the JCPOA’s original authors from the Obama-era are back to work again inside Biden’s executive administration. However, if the Biden administration is serious about reigning in Iran’s desire to develop nuclear weapons, the United States needs to reject re-entering into the JCPOA. Returning to the terms outlined in the JCPOA will ultimately lead to Iran acquiring nuclear weapons.

If the United States decides to revive the dying JCPOA, the Obama-era agreement will do little to deter Iran. The JCPOA is set to expire soon, and organizations such as the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies point to limitations inherent to the JCPOA. The JCPOA’s restrictions on Iran’s nuclear weapons program are set to expire, even if the deal is re-entered. The hoped-for modernization of Iran that was supposed to occur as a consequence of the JCPOA agreement did not bear fruit, nor would it be likely to in the future. Additionally, United Nations-sponsored asset-freezes intended for supporters of Iran’s nuclear program are set to expire soon as well. Any plan to re-enter the agreement would not achieve anything beneficial to the United States or its allies.

It has already been revealed that Iran probably intends to maintain a secret nuclear weapons program, regardless of any agreement or treaty. Despite the JCPOA’s intentions, Tehran violated the agreement’s restrictions many times. Reports from Leading foreign policy think tanks such as the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies indicate these violations included prohibited ballistic missile tests, importing illicit missile equipment, exporting weapons to militias in Iraq and Yemen, and other violations. Based on Iran’s behavior, it seems clear that Tehran did not intend to fully honor the JCPOA regardless of the international community’s disposition towards the agreement.

In response to the sunsetting nature of the JCPOA, Iran’s violations of the agreement, and other shortcomings, the Trump administration had re-postured the United States to a more restrictive and tougher stance toward Iran. This tougher stance included sanctions toward those who would help enable Iran’s procurement of nuclear weapons and related military equipment.

As the JCPOA currently stands, it is a good deal for Iran. It allows for nuclear weapons procurement in the near future and the easing of sanctions and restrictions. The deal provided Iran with financial relief for its struggling economy. The Trump administration’s maximum pressure campaign has been mitigating the Iranian regime’s ability to function as an effective government and may be able to produce significantly tangible benefits if it is maintained by the new president. According to policy institutes promoting the defense of democracy around the world, the best deal for the United States and its allies is to keep the pressure on Iran. Pushing forward existing stations will create further leverage over Tehran needed to negotiate the end of Iran’s nuclear ambitions and human rights abuses.

Keeping the pressure on Iran will require diplomatic effort. Rebuilding effective relationships in Europe and elsewhere in the world will enable a more effective and toughened stance on Iran. Biden’s administration has an opportunity to demonstrate to the rest of the world that the United States will maintain its disposition of serious intent toward stopping Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons capabilities. This effort would be a difficult but necessary undertaking. As the provisions under the JCPOA approach their sunset, the Biden administration needs to take action to halt Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions.

Title: Israel’s Missile Defense Tests Affirm Advanced Systems and Send Clear Messages

Rafael Advanced Systems recently led testing for Israel’s missile defense systems to coordinate with Israel’s Navy and Air Force with resounding success. The productive tests augment Israel’s overall strategic and operational abilities by delivering interoperability. The complex functions required and successfully carried out by both people and systems result in their preparedness to mitigate current and future threats.

 

Israel leveraged RAS to test the following systems:

 

  • Arrow: Intercepts long-range missiles
  • David’s Sling: Targets medium-range missiles
  • Iron Dome: Defends against rocket fire

 

The Brigadier General who oversees Israel’s Air Force defense program, Ran Kochav, highlighted the live drill simulation’s complexity. His comments on the intricacy of the human and technological decision-making required to complete the task point to integrating artificial intelligence in their advanced defense systems. Cruise missiles, in particular, present a challenge to intercept as they are maneuverable at high, fast speeds, but the tests accomplished this task simultaneously along with others. In addition to cruise missiles, the defense system protects against various weapons, including unmanned aerial vehicles and ballistic threats. Analysis by think tank Foundation for Defense of Democracy suggests the tests send a clear message to Israel’s foes that they are equipped and prepared to combat a range of attacks and to retaliate against attacks.

 

Israel—With the U.S. as Ally—Faces a Variety of Threats

 

Israel faces threats from various sources, including Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip, Iranian-proxy Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Iran itself. For its part, Iran is currently limited to short and medium-range missiles. However, a leading author on Iran and other experts express concern that they may develop long-range ones. Hezbollah will likely attempt to import guided missiles if they are not available to develop their own. The combination of guided missiles and Israel’s enemies in proximity to them creates the possibility of precision-attacks on multiple targets in Israel.

 

In addition to the threat facing Israel, Iran also presents a clear and present threat to the U.S. in the Middle East. General Frank McKenzie, commander of the U.S. Central Command, cited an Iranian ballistic missile inventory of 2,500-3,000. While Iran does not yet possess intercontinental ballistic missiles, their current supply of short and mid-range missiles, PGMs, and combat drones can strike with precision in their surrounding area, including targets in Iran and U.S. personnel and military assets in Iraq and other areas. The “Fotros” long-range attack drone, for example, can fly for 30 hours and has a range of 1,250 miles.

 

leading bi-partisan research institution notes Iran and its proxies have escalated rocket attacks against U.S. targets in Iraq since Mary of 2019. One attack, occurring on January 8, 2020, led to the downing of a Ukraine civilian airliner. The attack came on the heels of the U.S. execution via drone strike of IRGC’s top general, Qassem Soleimani. More recently, they targeted the U.S. embassy in Baghdad.

 

Successful Missile Defense Tests Send a Strong Message

Not only are Israel’s successful tests indicative of an advanced, multilayered defense system with interoperability, but they also send a clear message to Israel’s foes. The Israel Defense Forces regard Iran’s nuclear program as its number one threat and Hezbollah’s precision-guided munitions as number two. Thus, the live test results communicate a clear message to both groups that Israel is prepared to defend against such attacks and willing to both intercept and retaliate. To that end, Benjamin Netanyahu signed off on the recent National Security Strategy, which communicates that Israel can be prepared to target terrorists, even if those targets reside in key places in Tehran and Lebanon.

A national security research fellow, along with other foreign policy experts, maintains that recent strides in peace-making efforts in the Middle East support stability in the region. While it remains unclear whether Israel will share advanced weapon defense with its new partners, such as the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, what is certain is the vested interest those countries share. A Biden administration would be well-served to support those countries’ ongoing partnerships in the region rather than revisiting deals with Iran.

Iran Regime Still Trying to Buy Nuclear Enrichment Equipment and Weaponry

Iran’s intent on getting nuclear weapons is relentless, and every international diplomacy and international military affairs expert knows this. They are fully aware that this current Iranian regime has absolutely no intention of giving up its long-term plan to become a nuclear power, even if it means the potential demise of its leadership infrastructure hierarchy.

Iran has never honored any agreement made with the international community to cease and desist its nuclear weapons program. Iran has never come clean with all its nuclear weapons research or locations of all its facilities. Rather, inspectors, spy agencies, and resellers of dual-purpose (dual-use) technology and equipment have given us clues and the proof needed to state this fact.

Nothing will stop Iranian’s leadership from seeking the bomb, not a threat of economic collapse, or even a global pandemic which is wreaking havoc on their political establishment. In fact, during this pandemic, Iran has continued its nuclear shopping spree. The mainstream media is aware that the JCPOA deal is dead, and that Iran has procured almost all that’s needed to make and build a bomb, and that their uranium enrichment is all but there now. Yet, the global mainstream media is busy covering the CoronaVirus Pandemic and has made little to no mention of it.

It looks as if Iran is pretending to semi-comply with some of the international nuclear agreements it has made while continuing full-speed ahead to make a nuclear weapon. It appears they will try to do what North Korea did, withdraw from the international agreement framework and then do a nuclear test. Once that happens the cat is out of the bag and the whole scenario changes. Iran has asked for a $5 billion loan to help with problems from the Covid-19 (CoronaVirus) outbreak there, but many worry they will merely use that money to finally complete their project to make a nuclear weapon, as they almost have enough enriched uranium now.

Iran has been buying aluminum oxide and other materials needed to finish the final touches on their nuclear weapons project from sources in Bosnia and other places. They’ve then been moving those purchases through Pakistan and/or Turkey, allowing them to work around sanctions. The Iranian regime knows how to get whatever dual-use nuclear equipment and material it wants using economic sanction loopholes. After all, it’s been doing it for two decades now.

Should the West help with Covid-19 Pandemic Aid to Iran? The International Community is ready to respond, report Iranian foreign policy experts at the Atlantic. The U.S. has offered medical pandemic aid, but the Iranian Regime has turned it down citing a rumor that the U.S. may have caused the outbreak in the first place. Instead, the Regime has asked for a $5 billion loan from the IMF. Giving money might be a mistake, giving aid would be a wise choice, suggest well-informed foreign policy thinkers. Why? It’s simple really, giving humanitarian aid shows empathic intent; we are all in this together.

Iran has taken a big hit by the Covid-19 outbreak, it has been ravaging their society, and it’s doubly worse as Iran’s economy was in free-fall prior to the outbreak, due to economic sanctions note those with expertise on diplomatic policy in the Middle East and Iran. Of course, the gesture might be short-lived. The Iranian Regime also probably doesn’t want U.S. marked aircraft delivering medical supplies, as that might hurt their ‘evil U.S.’ blame-game narrative.

Still, the world wants to help where it can, and NGOs are in action mode. It’s their mission to help, and Iran definitely needs some assistance with the Covid-19 crisis, as they are getting hit as hard as New York City, Paris, Italy, and Spain say non-profit foreign policy think tanks like the FDD. The question still remains, how do you get help into a country that lacks trust in the International Community, and blames the U.S. for the Covid-19 pandemic?

If there is a window of opportunity to unite everyone under a common cause, this global pandemic is it. Unfortunately, that window of opportunity is rapidly closing according to reports and information from leading diplomatic researchers. And, even if aid is given and accepted by the regime, there is probably no chance they will slow their nuclear weapons program in the interim, nor can you expect them not to go back to the same old games after the pandemic crisis is over.

Will Iran Make Nuclear Weapons – Is the JCPOA Dead?

JCPA or JCPOA stands for The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. In Persian, it’s known as BARJAM or barnāmeye jāme’e eqdāme moshtarak. The Obama Administration called it the Iran nuclear deal or Iran deal, and that is pretty much what it is called today by everyone except international diplomacy experts and those who negotiated the agreement. If it dies, the agreement calls for reverting back to 2005 level sanctions. Is it going to die?

Well, just because the United States under the Trump Administration exited the agreement, it doesn’t make the agreement null and void. Remember there are many other parties to this agreement. The UK, France, Germany, China, Russia, and others as a signer. Thus, theoretically, the agreement is in full force and effect, right? Well, yes and no. You see, since the U.S. redrew from the agreement and implemented economic sanctions, Iran’s leadership has blown past their enrichment limits and purposefully violated other terms.

One could argue that Iran never fully complied with the nuclear agreement from the beginning, and there is now proof that they had lied about their nuclear weapons ambitions. So, perhaps the JCPOA wasn’t worth the paper it was written on, and the Trump Administration got it right and unilaterally took action.

Why Did the U.S. Withdraw from the JCPA or JCPOA?

It wasn’t just one thing or one reason. There were many reasons such as Iran’s meddling in the U.S. Military’s mission in Syria, Iraq, and the funding of proxy terrorist organizations throughout the region. President Trump made a campaign promise to get out of the Iranian Nuclear Deal if elected and to renegotiate a better deal. He still may do that.

Will the Trump Administration honor a deal made by the remaining parties of the agreement? Yes, if it meets his additional terms regarding ballistic missiles, proxy terrorist support, free trade, and commerce movement in the Persian Gulf in addition to better checks and verifications on nuclear weapons-grade uranium enrichment.

What Are the Other Parties to the JCPOA Doing About the Situation? 

Germany and France have invoked a clause in the Iran Nuclear Agreement that calls for dispute resolution. This had slowed down the game a little and has given everyone time to pause and consider the ramification of a potential war. Now that the UK has completed its BREXIT with the EU, the UK is looking to make a favorable trade deal with the U.S. and it’s possible the UK could follow the U.S. and call to end the Iran Nuclear Agreement.

The problem in the meantime is that Iran is continuing to enrich uranium to 5% and some believe they are well on their way to getting enough nuclear material to make a nuclear bomb according to recent reports from The Atlantic. Once they get to 5%, getting to 20% is a lot less work and from there to the 98% needed a hop, skip and a jump.

What Was the Original Intention of the JCPOA – Iran Nuclear Deal?

Originally, one of the Obama Administration’s goals in the deal was to keep Iran from ever getting closer to a year from having enough enriched uranium material to make a bomb says policy analysts at the think tank, FDD. The problem is that since the U.S. withdrew from the agreement, Iran which is suffering greatly under economic sanctions has chosen to use it as an excuse to further violate the terms of the agreement.

What Happens Next?

Iran is now using extortion tactics to persuade France and Germany to intervene and help with economic relief and bring the U.S. back to the table, as indicated by leading foreign policy analysts.

It turns out that this move by Iran may have been a severe miscalculation, along with their attacks on oil assets in the Persian Gulf, shooting down of an American Drone, planning attacks on U.S. Embassies in the Middle East, attacking a couple of U.S. Military Bases, and shooting down a civilian airliner, note researchers at one of the leading foreign policy think tanks. The Trump Administration is in control, economic sanctions are working and Iran is on its last leg.

Some experts on diplomacy and foreign policy suggest that timing is everything and the Trump Administration has perfectly played its cards. Iran appears to be about 5 to 10 months away from getting enough enriched uranium to make a couple of bombs, and they appear to have the technological know-how to build warheads and they’ve demonstrated their ballistic missile technology, but time is running out for the regime. Their main proxy terrorist chief Solemani has been snuffed out by a U.S. drone strike and their ability to pull a last-minute strike like a cornered tiger is going to be a lot harder to pull off now.

Meanwhile, the political wheels in the U.S. are turning as it is an election year, and the Democrats want to try to limit Trump’s war powers against Iran. This is no time to pull-back, it’s time to get tougher. So, the plot thickens to this very critical set of circumstances.

Hezbollah Global Finance

History of Hezbollah

Hezbollah first came into existence in 1985 with the official, objective, of expelling Americans and other Western powers from Lebanon. Thanks to a large part, in training, from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Hezbollah’s military strength has grown to surpass the scale, and power of the Lebanese Army. Such extreme control, in addition to the widespread support of Hezbollah’s power, has led many to describe Hezbollah as a “state within a state”. With the ability to collect taxes within their region, as well as exert influence over local radio and TV stations, and provide fully funded social services – Hezbollah has managed to stand apart from various extremist groups in the region, as a form of self-governance.

However, despite Hezbollah’s high regard amongst Lebanese citizens, it is undeniably a lawless terrorist organization with a record rivaling AL Qaeda. Such attacks included frequent truck and suicide bombings. The targets have included the U.S. and French military and government forces, but have largely been focused on civilian Jewish communities ranging from Europe to Southeastern Asia and to South America. To understand how Hezbollah accomplishes its missions, it’s important to see where the money for training, and supplies, flow from.

Iran

For years Hezbollah has claimed to earn most of its revenue through donations from private citizens, as well as earnings through various investments, but Western intelligence agencies dispute these claims. Evidence suggests that, since its formation, Hezbollah has been dependent on Iran for the majority of its training, weapons, and financial aid to carry out all its operations. Some experts speculate that Iran provides Hezbollah up to $100 million a year or more.

In exchange, Hezbollah acts as Iran’s proxy in their conflict with Israel. The conflict between the Jewish nation and Palestine has long been stoked by outside forces and Hezbollah is often the primary party responsible. To get a sense of the extent of Iran and Hezbollah’s ties one only needs to look at Hezbollah’s formation when Iran provided the initial training necessary to get Hezbollah’s forces into fighting shape.

In light of Iran’s blatant aggression towards the West through its partnership with Hezbollah, many experts believe sanctions shouldn’t be lifted until the terms of a nuclear agreement that prohibit such financing are set into place. The past deal signed into law, by then, President Obama, and was lifted this year, by president Trump; called for the dissolution of Iran’s nuclear program – but had no such language regarding the extremist faction. Click here to read more.

Even more alarming, than the faulty nuclear agreement, is the recent allegations that the US made payments as high as 33.6 billion to the Iranian government, as a form of economic relief. Mark Dubowitz, from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, recently spoke on Fox News about the nature of these payments and their potential consequences. Click here to watch Mark Dubowtiz on YouTube.

Donations

Beyond Iran’s considerable financial involvement, Hezbollah earns a great deal of money from other sources and is in no way dependent on the Middle Eastern power. Every year Hezbollah manages to raise millions of dollars from private donors all throughout the world, mostly from wealthy Lebanese expatriates living in Africa, and South America. In one instance reported by Israeli intelligence, a transfer of $2 million was carried out by a human courier in Senegal (the second-highest rate of Hezbollah fundraising in Africa) made up entirely of donations by Lebanese business groups. The group claimed the money exchange was intended to avoid taxes.

Charities

To hide their fundraising activity, Hezbollah uses various charities to obscure the sources and eventual destination of money raised. The AL-Aqsa International Foundation, a terrorist financing scheme banned by the United States, Germany, and Great Britain raised funds for Hezbollah as part of a joint money laundering operation with the Palestinian group Hamas.

The “Martyr’s Organization” supplies finances to the family of suicide bombers. Many other charities donate to the group out of ideological motivation. Such tactics allow money to travel to Hezbollah from Western nations without financial institutions being aware of the deceit.

Criminal Enterprises

Thanks to its wide criminal network and well-trained operatives Hezbollah has found great success raising money through criminal means, such as diamond smuggling, money laundering, various types of fraud and electronic finance schemes, and drug production. These groups operate all over the world and have an elaborate system of transportation and money management built to avoid detection. Members of U.S. law enforcement agencies have stated that there is significant money moved out of the United States for terrorist operations each year. As much as $30 million dollars is generated from illicit scams in the United States alone.

Terror in The West

According to the Foreign Policy and the Observer Piece written by Emanuele Ottolenghi (FP) and Bridget Johnson (Observer)… Terror is in the West. Iran and Hezbollah have been generating a great influence in Latin America, with what can be seen as diplomatic gestures. In reality, Iran and Hezbollah are utilizing these foreign connections to strengthen their illegal activities. Alberto Nisman, an Argentinian prosecutor was murdered in 2015 during his attempt to expose the Iran connection between the “bombing of the AMIA Jewish Community center in Buenos Aires,” that occurred in 1994, Johnson states. This bombing killed 85 innocent people and when it came time for an investigation, former Argentine President, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, decided to let the Islamic Republic investigate this crime on its own.

Johnson accuses Kirchner of being fully aware of the crime, stating that “Iran and its partners were behind the bombing.”But she signed off on the agreement anyway. Nisman began investigating the officials who signed the truth commission while Kirchner was busy firing the people involved in the investigation. The day Nisman was going to present his 288-page report to the federal judge charging those involved with an obstruction of justice and aggravated cover-up, he was found murdered with a shot to the head. Nisman’s report included findings discussing how “Argentia would profit from oil and grain deals while the Iranians wanted for the bombing would get off the Interpol Red Notice,” according to Johnson. And this is just the beginning.

Mark Dubowitz of Foundation for Defense of Democracies discusses this topic here. FDD’s Toby Dershowitz and Serena Frechter wrote in a policy brief that Hezbollah is currently on trial in Paris for their criminal activity in South America and the laundering of millions in euros in this area — similar to the situation between Hezbollah and the U.S.

It’s no secret that Latin America’s Triple Frontier (the border area shared by Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil) plays an important role in illicit activity. United States policymakers have neglected the Triple Frontier for over a decade, but recent federal investigations have brought to light multi-billion-dollar schemes run by Hezbollah. Earlier in the year, the Trump administration decided to pull away from the Iran nuclear deal and days after doing so, Washington “ramped up sanctions against Hezbollah,” Ottolenghi states. However, many are confused about where the U.S. stance and their policies currently lie. For example, the United States is against Hezbollah but supports “Lebanese State Institutions.” Because Lebanese State Institutions are run almost entirely by the Hezbollah, Ottolenghi believes that the “White House ends up undermining its own pursuit of the group’s illicit sources of finance.” This clear contradiction is being displayed in Paraguay now.

Ottolenghi states that there is evidence Hezbollah is “sending senior officials to the Triple Frontier to coordinate these activities” and that even “local operatives are involved in the local boom of cocaine trafficking.” While the U.S. Treasury was busy announcing the new Hezbollah sanctions, “Paraguayan authorities raided Unique SA, a currency exchange house”, Ottolenghi states. Farhat, the owner of this currency exchange house, was arrested for laundering $1.3 million in drug money. Farhat is said to be a member of the “Business Affairs Component”, Hezbollah’s External Security Organization. This organization is responsible for overseeing illicit finance and drug trafficking “overseas,” Ottolenghi explains .U.S. authorities are seeking to extradite Farhat, a sign that his actions have impacted the U.S. bank system. However, the Lebanese government is doing its best to prevent this from happening.

Hezbollah has chosen to push back by leveraging local influence through the Lebanese Embassy, Ottolenghi informs. Unfortunately, the Lebanese Embassy is considered a “state institution” one Washington looks forward to using as a “counterweight,” Ottolenghi explains. In May 2018, Hassan Hijazi, “the Lebanese charge d’affairs” in Asunción, sent a letter to Paraguay’s attorney general asking her to reject the request. Paraguayan authorities are apparently cooperative with the U.S., but they are also experiencing pressure from Lebanese Hezbollah.

An article in Foreign Policy states that for businesses like this to run smoothly, “such schemes rely on the complicity of local authorities, who rarely check incoming and outgoing merchandise that traverses the Triple Frontier weekly,” including through Ciudad Del Este’s Guaraní International Airport “by cargo plane from Dubai and the United States.” Just last year, Paraguay extradited a Lebanese drug trafficker to Miami who had ties to Hezbollah and was caught with shipping cocaine. Authorities found that in this case, the suspect was conspiring to ship “100 kilograms of cocaine a month to a Houston business associate by air cargo,” Ottolenghi states. Another similar case, also in Miami, had been investigated by the local FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, “mentions a weekly Miami-Ciudad Del Este cargo flight as the conduit for delivery of counterfeited electronics,” Ottolenghi continues. All at the same airport.

There is a fear that Farhat won’t be convicted if tried domestically, because of the history of “lost opportunities to go after Hezbollah in Paraguay.” Two Hezbollah criminals escaped a Paraguay penitentiary during a transfer between prisons last December. This, along with Asunción’s failure to enforce the “decade-old U.S. sanctions against Triple Frontier-based Hezbollah operatives, many of whom continue to live and trade on the Paraguayan side of the border” seems to lessen Ottolenghi’s confidence in them bringing these culprits to justice.

Ottolenghi believes the U.S. should send a clear message to Hezbollah, Hijazi, and Gebran Bassil- the Lebanese Foreign Minister. The message being: “You can get U.S. aid or you can do Hezbollah’s bidding. But you cannot do both at the same time and get away with it.” Ottolenghi also believes that the U.S. needs to give Paraguay some sort of reassurance, “ that punishing the envoy and extraditing the culprit is the right course of action.”

Ottolenghi knows that Washington will work with the Paraguayans to “bring Farhat to justice” and hopes that it inspires more dismantling of any other large schemes supporting Hezbollah’s finances in this particular region. In the end, Ottolenghi calls on Washington to recognize the Lebanese institutions as enablers, not counterweights.

 

References

Johnson, B. (2017, December 26). Western Shame: Tolerating Terrorists for Political Expediency. Retrieved November 8, 2018, from https://observer.com/2017/12/what-iran-and-hezbollah-want-with-latin-america/ 

Ottolenghi, E. (2018, June 15). Lebanon Is Protecting Hezbollah’s Cocaine Trade in Latin America. Retrieved November 8, 2018, from https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/06/15/lebanon-is-protecting-hezbollahs-cocaine-and-cash-trade-in-latin-america/