Blog Archives

Selling the Muslim Brotherhood to America

November 21, 2012
Posted by Jonathan Ward

It’s been my long held view that senior administration officials can’t so much as crap without convening a “panel of experts” to produce a detailed report providing their guidance on how best to accomplish that goal.  One such turd that has recently floated to the surface is the RAND corporation report entitled, “ The Muslim Brotherhood, It’s Youth, and the Implications for U.S. Engagement” aka “The Deception Handbook for U.S. / Muslim Brotherhood relations in a Post-American World”.

The RAND corporation’s National Defense Research Institute is a federally funded research and analysis center which is overseen by a Department of Defense advisory board in support of official administration policies and  goals.  Since my hard-earned tax dollars helped to pay for this report I was curious as to what sort of helpful advice RAND had produced as to the best way of dealing with the Muslim Brotherhood’s  ongoing threat to American interests.  After reading the study, I have got to tell you this is, without any doubt, one of the most psychologically manipulative efforts to alter the perceptions of the American public on a subject that I’ve ever heard of.

Since reading the report is an hour of your life you’ll never get back, I’ll give you a couple highlights from the reports recommendations.

Regularize and routinize engagement, including among members of Congress and FJP parliamentarians, to reduce politicization of engagement efforts. The more regular and normalized that contact becomes, the less engagement is vulnerable to becoming a target of political attacks in the United States and the more it will be viewed as the normal course of diplomacy…But trumpeting the policy is a mistake. Engagement can also be insulated from domestic political attacks by having more members of Congress, rather than just administration officials, directly meet MB members.

To improve and broaden communication and dialogue with such groups, U.S. officials can request and help facilitate American speakers for MB student union events and invite MB youth leaders to speak to American university audiences.

Promoting a strategy of engaging the brotherhood on its terms instead of our own, it melds well with the Obama administration’s policy of leading from behind in dealing with foreign policy issues. The report lives in that special liberal fantasy land where mutual engagement without any preconditions will  result in brotherhood members moderating their radical views towards western nations and those of other religious beliefs. Moreover, its focus is on changing how America views the brotherhood instead of how they conduct themselves. The authors only connection with reality is that they recognize this doomed strategy needs to be quietly hidden from the public who would be otherwise outraged.

Finally I must point out that since RAND’s research on strategic marketing for radical islamists is freely available on their website, it is also available to the brotherhood as well as every other group (i.e. Hamas, Hezbollah, ect.) who wish to be seen as legitimate political players on the world stage, all courtesy of the U.S. taxpayer and the Department of Defense.

So my question to you dear reader is this.  What came first, the chicken or the egg?  Is foreign policy following the findings presented in this report or is the report crafted to support policy already in place? I’d love to hear what you think.

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Texas (Laredo): Arrest of Would-Be ‘Zetas’ Shows Risk of US Military Infiltration

imageWritten by  Geoffrey Ramsey

United States drug enforcement agents have broken up a ring involving former and current US military personnel attempting to work for Mexico’s brutal Zetas drug cartel, illustrating the group’s alarming potential to penetrate the US military.

On March 24, First Lt. Kevin Corley (pictured, at left) and arrived with a three-man team at a warehouse in the border city of Laredo, Texas, armed with two semiautomatic rifles, a combat knife and a .300-caliber bolt-action rifle equipped with a scope. The men believed they had been hired by the Zetas to carry out a contracted killing and raid of a rival drug trafficking group’s storehouse, and had been called to receive the final details of the assignment.  What they didn’t know, however, was that they were targets of an elaborate sting operation organized by the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

For the past six months, Corley had been speaking with DEA agents posing as Zetas representatives, and had promised both to carry out “wet work” (a military euphemism for assassinations) for the cartel as well as equip and train Zetas members in military tactics. According to a federal indictment (.pdf), Corley claimed that his status as an active duty soldier made it easy for him to pilfer weaponry from his post in Colorado, and demonstrated this by providing the agents with bulletproof vests, training manuals and other stolen military equipment.

However, after receiving phony instructions from the undercover operatives in the warehouse, the four men found themselves surrounded by federal law enforcement officers. Although agents killed one of the suspects while attempting to make an arrest, the remaining three were taken into custody. Two other accomplices based in South Carolina were arrested in conjunction with the sting operation.

While the fact that six US citizens were so completely willing to work for the Zetas is disturbing, the most worrisome aspect of this case is the fact that all four members of the would-be “kill team” (with the exception of the individual killed by federal agents, who was a cousin of Corley’s) were either current or former members of the US military.

This is a troubling reminder that US military personnel are not immune to the kinds of incentives that lure their military counterparts in Mexico into joining the Zetas. The Zetas’ links to the Mexican military have been a trademark of the group since their early days working as the enforcement wing of the Gulf Cartel. Their original 31 founders were all ex-members of the Mexican special forces, and today the group is thought to have deeply penetrated the military in the states of Hidalgo, Chihuahua and Tabasco, as well as other parts of the country. As the drug gang’s trafficking networks have grown, they have expanded their recruitment pool to include members of security forces in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua.

Until now, however, there had been no hard proof evidence that the cartel was capable of hiring US-trained military professionals to carry out its work.  These arrests show that there is a very real possibility of such a trend, no doubt sounding alarm bells for US drug enforcement agents already concerned about the prospect of “spillover violence” in the American southwest.

The case is especially relevant in light of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s recent warnings that the US military is facing “significant criminal threat” from gangs within its ranks. In the 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment released in October, the FBI names some 50 criminal organizations that count both current and ex-soldiers among their members. The list includes the Zetas, as well as a handful of transnational street gangs such as Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13), Barrio 18 and Barrio Azteca. Although they represent only a tiny fraction of veterans and servicemen, the FBI cautions that many gang members enlist in order to “receive weapons and combat training that they may transfer back to their gang.” The report also notes an uptick in gang-related graffiti in military bases overseas.

This phenomenon is a threat not only to the US, but to other countries in the hemisphere as well. If enough members of transnational criminal organizations acquire military expertise in the US, there is a chance that they will share these skills with affiliate cells in other countries in the region, potentially giving them a leg up against local officials. As InSight Crime has pointed out, many gangs already have the organizational infrastructure in place to do so. Both of El Salvador’s largest “maras” (street gangs) got their start in US prisons, and still maintain a strong presence in major cities like Los Angeles and Washington, DC.

Despite these concerns, the US military is a long way from seeing the kind of criminal penetration that plagues the Mexican army. That all six members of the “Zetas” plot had been under surveillance for months and eventually apprehended is a testament to the success that US law enforcement has had in foiling such criminal endeavors. Even still, with the Zetas growing more and more sophisticated, the risk of infiltration grows greater, and the US military may need to step up its internal monitoring to prevent this.

Source

Texas (Austin): Yassine Brothers Funneled Money To Hezbollah

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Owners of some of Austin’s most lucrative nightclubs were dealing in drugs, laundering the money through the clubs then funneling it to a family member with ties to a terrorist group in the Middle East, according to federal authorities.

During bond hearings in federal court in Austin Tuesday, an Internal Revenue Service investigator said Hussein “Mike” Ali Yassine and Mohammed “Steve Austin” Ali Yassine sent money in $2,500 increments to their uncle, Mohammed Ishmael in Lebanon.

Authorities say he is associated with Hezbollah, a militant group and political party in Lebanon.  The U.S. Department of State lists Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.

The Yassines, their brother, Hadi Ali Yassine and seven business associates were arrested last week on narcotics trafficking, money laundering and firearm charges.

Yassine Enterprises owns nine nightclubs — Pure, Stack, Fuel, Spill, Kiss & Fly, Hyde, Roial, Malaia and Treasure Island.  The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission has temporarily shut down the clubs.

Tuesday Hussein Ali Yassine and Mohammed Ali Yassine were denied bond.  Four were granted bond — Hadi Yassine, Marisse “Madi” Marthe Ruales, Amar Thabet Araf and Sami Derder.  No decision has been made on bond requests for Nizar “Nino” Hakiki, Karim Faiq, Edgar Orsini and Alejandro Melendrez.

During three hours of testimony, Assistant U. S. Attorney Gregg Sofer questioned Randall Gillette, special agent with the U. S. Drug Enforcement Agency and James Neff, criminal investigator with the Internal Revenue Service.

The agents explained its undercover sting operation in which a confidential source was used to arrange two sales of cocaine between Steve Yassine and Nizar Hakiki.  The agents testified the proceeds from the deals were then funneled through Yassine`s nightclubs and Famous Vodka, owned by Hadi Yassine, the third brother.

Neff also stated in the hearing that the business was reporting income of $1 to $2 million when it actually was taking in between $7 and $10 million.

According to testimony, the Texas Comptroller‘s Office has frozen Mike Yassine’s accounts.  It was also revealed that he has bank accounts in Switzerland and Lebanon.

Several of the defendants are under investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Source

Why is Obama in bed with the Muslim Brotherhood?

Dr. Essam Abdallah, an Egyptian liberal intellectual, in an article published last October in the leading liberal pan-Arab journal Elaph, refers to certain reports coming out of Washington:

These reports reveal the depth of the below-the-surface coordination between the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), Hamas, Hezbollah, the Iranian regime and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Syria, Tunisia, Libya and Jordan. This bloc of regimes and organizations is now becoming the greatest Islamist radical lobby ever to penetrate and infiltrate the White House, Congress, the State Department and the main decision making centers of the US government. All of this is happening at a time when the US government is going through its most strategically dangerous period in modern times because of its need to confront the Iranian Mullahs regime, which is expanding in the Middle East, as well as penetrating the United States, via powerful and influential allies.

Abdallah alleged that “the popular revolts in the Arab world — and the Obama Administration’s position towards them — were determined by political battles between various pressure groups in Washington.”

He followed up with another article this month in which he asks:

[W]hy isn’t the West in general and the United States Administration in particular clearly and forcefully supporting our civil societies and particularly the secular democrats of the region? Why were the bureaucracies in Washington and in Brussels partnering with Islamists in the region and not with their natural allies the democracy promoting political forces?

Steve Emerson of the Investigative Project on Terrorism said of this article: “This is one of the most important articles I have read in years.”  He then made allegations of his own:

It was just revealed two days ago that FBI Director Mueller secretly met on February 8 at FBI headquarters with a coalition of groups including various Islamist and militant Arabic groups who in the past have defended Hamas and Hizballah and have also issued blatantly anti-Semitic statements. At this meeting, the FBI revealed that it had removed more than 1000 presentations and curricula on Islam from FBI offices around the country that was deemed “offensive.” The FBI did not reveal what criteria was used to determine why material was considered “offensive” but knowledgeable law enforcement sources have told the IPT that it was these radical groups who made that determination. Moreover, numerous FBI agents have confirmed that from now on, FBI headquarters has banned all FBI offices from inviting any counter-terrorist specialists who are considered “anti-Islam” by Muslim Brotherhood front groups.

This comes as no surprise to me.  In August of 2011, after making the case, I wrote, “To my mind, the alliance between the Obama administration and the Muslim Brotherhood is the cornerstone of Obama’s New Middle East policy.”

The most damning bit of evidence was reported by Herb London in his article, “U.S. Betrays Syria’s Opposition“:

In an effort to understand and placate Syrian opposition groups, Secretary Clinton invited them to a meeting in Washington. Most of those invited, however, have links to the Muslim Brotherhood. Missing from the invitations are Kurdish leaders, Sunni liberals, Assyrians and Christian spokesmen. According to various reports the State Department made a deal with Turkey and Muslim Brotherhood representatives either to share power with Assad to stabilize the government, or replace him if this effort fails. One organization, the Syrian Democracy Council (SDC), an opposition group composed of diverse ethnic and religious organizations, including Alawis, Aramaic Christians, Druze and Assyrians was conspicuously — and no coincidentally — omitted from the invitation list.

Caroline Glick wrote in August of last year:

What these observers fail to recognize is that Erdogan’s interests in a post-Assad Syria have little in common with US interests. Erdogan will seek to ensure the continued disenfranchisement of Syria’s Kurdish minority. And he will work towards the Islamification of Syria through the Muslim Brotherhood.

This week Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held a private meeting with these brave democrats. Why didn’t she hold a public meeting? Why hasn’t Obama welcomed them to the White House?”

Today there is a coalition of Syrian opposition figures that include all ethnic groups in Syria. Their representatives have been banging the doors of the corridors of power in Washington and beyond. Yet the same Western leaders who were so eager to recognize the Libyan opposition despite the presence of al Qaeda terrorists in the opposition tent have refused to publicly embrace Syrian regime opponents that seek a democratic, federal Syria that will live at peace with Israel and embrace liberal policies.

By refusing to embrace liberal, multi-ethnic regime opponents, the administration is all but ensuring the success of the Turkish bid to install the Muslim Brotherhood in power if Assad is overthrown.

The Syrian Democratic Coalition (SDC), above mentioned, is self-described thus:

The Syrian Democratic Coalition (SDC) is an emerging coalition of diverse Syrian organizations coming together to help bring an end to the Assad regime and promote the transformation of Syria into a secular democracy based in liberty. The coalition is founded upon a belief in the separation of religion from state and is dedicated to establishing a new constitution and transparent federal republic in Syria, based in reason that equally protects minority rights, promotes gender equality, and embraces the rights and liberties of every individual as enumerated in the United Nations Declaration for Human Rights. This growing coalition crosses all ethnic, religious and tribal lines to represent all Syrians. It currently includes members of Save Syria Now!, the Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria, the Union of Syrian Arab Tribes and the Syrian Christian Democratic Movement.

Sherkoh Abbas is secretary general of the Syria Democracy Council and president of the Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria.  I first met him when he invited me to be a director of the American Kurdish Friendship League some five years ago.

Recently, he confided in me that in all his dealings with the State Department over the last two years, no interest was shown in his coalition, and instead, he was continually pressed to support the Syrian National Council (SNC), made up of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists and Arabists.  He believes that the U.S. is working with Salafi groups, and the Turkish government, to create an opposition in Syria that is strictly Islamist.  Such an opposition would serve Turkish economic interests in Syria and keep the Kurdish issue dormant in Turkey as well as in Syria.

For the last six months at least, Obama has been cultivating a relationship with PM Erdoğan of Turkey.  The budding relationship prompted Barry Rubin to ask, “Why Is an Anti-American Islamist, Obama’s Favorite ME Leader?

According to Sherkoh Abbas, one faction of the SDC had family connections in various Gulf States at the highest level and went to them for financial support.  They were turned down, as Obama had instructed them to give money only to the SNC.

Nevertheless, the SDC is gaining traction amongst the Kurds, Druze, Sunnis, Christians, and even the Alawites.  This is so because these various minorities are beginning to think of a post-Assad Syria, and they all want a region of their own.  They have expressed their willingness to be secular, democratic, and a friend of Israel and will be asked to commit to this in writing.  They don’t want Islamism or Arabism.  They prefer peace, freedom, and prosperity.  So why isn’t Obama embracing them?

The Obama administration is totally in sync with the Muslim Brotherhood.  At the renowned Herzlia Conference this year, I met Salman Shalkh, one of the speakers from Qatar.  We had a long conversation in which he kept pushing for the Saudi Plan to be embraced by Israel.  This is the plan that Obama is committed to — i.e., ’67 borders with mutually agreed-upon swaps.

Shalkh argued that Israel should talk to Hamas, and I countered, “What’s the point?  We have nothing to offer to them.”  Shalkh was also an apologist for the Muslim Brotherhood.  These arguments should be expected from someone from Qatar.  Unfortunately, the same arguments are being made by the White House.  It is instructive to note that Shalkh is director of the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar, the Arab offshoot of the Brookings Institute that has so much influence with the State Department.  He told me that he was one of the people who drafted the Roadmap on behalf of the State Department.  I told him that it didn’t surprise me and suggested that he probably drafted the Saudi Peace Plan for them as well.

What is going on now in American foreign policy is not so much a product of the Islamist lobby fueled by both the Muslim Brotherhood and the gulf states as it is a product of a strategic alliance that has existed between the U.S. and the gulf states led by Saudi Arabia since before Israel declared her independence.  Unfortunately, President Obama, with his overt outreach to Islam, Muslims, and the Muslim Brotherhood, has taken it to another level.

It would appear that the ideas expressed by Mearsheimer and Walt in their book, The Israel Lobby, are being embraced by both the State Department and the White House.  These include the idea that the Israel lobby is too strong for America’s good and that Israel is a liability to America.

But the truth is otherwise, as John R. MacArthur pointed out in 2007, in “The Vast Power of the Saudi Lobby“:

Somehow, though, I can’t shake the idea that the Israel lobby, no matter how powerful, isn’t all it is cracked up to be, particularly where it concerns the Bush administrations past and present. Indeed, when I think of pernicious foreign lobbies with disproportionate sway over American politics, I can’t see past Saudi Arabia and its royal house, led by King Abdullah.

This article is a classic and should be read in full.

Obama has decidedly moved from an alliance with Israel to an alliance with the Islamists.

MK Aryeh Eldad, in a speech given in the fall in the U.S., when Israel was intending to act against Iran militarily, said word came down from the White House that “if you act alone, you will remain alone.”  Because Israel is so dependent on the U.S. for resupply of weapons and munitions in a prolonged war, this threat changed the calculus immediately.  It is true that when Mahmoud Abbas was threatening to go to the U.N. for recognition, the Obama administration lobbied around the world for negative votes.  But at the same time, Obama threatened Netanyahu that Obama would withhold his veto if Israel took punitive action against the PA by annexing some of the territories or by withholding funds.  Finally, he used the same threat to get Israel to instruct AIPAC to lobby Congress not to punish the PA by withholding U.S. funds.

Over the last six months, Israel has been warned by a succession of senior military and administration officials not to attack Iran, at this time, all in the name of giving sanctions a chance.  But who believes that sanctions will stop Iran?  And who believes that that the U.S. will in the end attack Iran to stop them?

So while Obama is supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, he is keeping Israel under his thumb.

Isi Leibler takes exception to all this and reminds everyone:

[T]his organization [The Muslim Brotherhood]  represents one of the most fanatical and dangerous of the radical Islamist groups in the region, with a dark record of violence and terrorism imbedded in its DNA. It is rabidly anti-Western, anti-Christian, antisemitic, committed to imposing sharia law and a global Caliphate – and willing to employ any means to further its objectives.

Many would argue that Obama is also “anti-Western, anti-Christian[, and] antisemitic.”  Judging by his policies, they would be right.

Source

Hezbullah Charged with Laundering Money in the U.S.

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Complaint against Lebanese financial institutions with alleged ties to Hezbullah over a massive money laundering scheme.

By Elad Benari

Several Lebanese financial institutions with alleged ties to the Hezbullah terror organization were part of a massive scheme that funneled hundreds of millions of dollars in criminal proceeds through the United States, prosecutors charged on Thursday.

AFP reported that a criminal complaint in a New York federal court targeted the Lebanese Canadian Bank and two Lebanon-based houses, the Hassan Ayash Exchange Company and Ellissa Holding, in the scheme to launder profits from narcotics dealing and other criminal activities.

The U.S. Attorney’s office is alleging that “funds were wired from Lebanon to the United States to buy used cars, which were then transported to West Africa,” according to a statement quoted by AFP.

“Cash from the sale of the cars, along with proceeds of narcotics trafficking, were then funneled to Lebanon through Hezbullah-controlled money laundering channels,” said the statement.

AFP noted that all of the financial institutions allegedly involved in the scheme are linked to Hezbullah, which is considered a terrorist organization by Washington.

The statement added that federal authorities are seeking the assets of the three institutions, some 30 U.S. car dealers and a U.S. shipping company. They are also seeking civil money laundering penalties totaling $483.1 million, which allegedly represents the total of money laundered.

Attorney Preet Bharara told AFP that the scheme “reveals the deviously creative ways that terrorist organizations are funding themselves and moving their money, and it puts into stark relief the nexus between narcotics trafficking and terrorism.”

Bharara added, “Today, we are putting a stranglehold on a major source of that funding by disrupting a vast and far-flung network that spanned three continents.”

Thursday’s complaint comes after earlier in the week, U.S. authorities indicted a Lebanese national allegedly tied to Hezbullah on drug and money laundering charges.

The indictment against 47-year-old Ayman Joumaa, who is currently at large, alleges he led a conspiracy that, among other activities, sold nearly 100 tons of Colombian cocaine to the Zetas drug cartel in Mexico between 2005 and 2007 that was ultimately smuggled into the United States.

Earlier this year, the Treasury Department designated Joumaa as a drug trafficker and said Hezbullah profited from his network.

More on this topic

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New Nexus Of Narcoterrorism: Hezbollah And Venezuela – Analysis

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Written by: FPRI
December 22, 2011
By Vanessa Neumann

Press stories, as well as a television documentary, over the past two months have detailed the growing cooperation between South American drug traffickers and Middle Eastern terrorists, proving that the United States continues to ignore the mounting terrorist threat in its own “backyard” of Latin America at its own peril. A greater portion of financing for Middle Eastern terrorist groups, including Hezbollah and Al Qaeda, is coming from Latin America, while they are also setting up training camps and recruiting centers throughout our continent, endangering American lives and interests globally. Some Latin American countries that were traditional allies for the U.S. (including Venezuela) have now forged significant political and economic alliances with regimes whose interests are at odds with those of the U.S., particularly China, Russia and Iran. In fact Iran and Iran’s Lebanese asset, “the Party of God,” Hezbollah, have now become the main terror sponsors in the region and are increasingly funded by South American cocaine.

Venezuela

Venezuela

Venezuela and Iran are strong allies: Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad publicly call each other “brothers,” and last year signed 11 memoranda of understanding for, among other initiatives, joint oil and gas exploration, as well as the construction of tanker ships and petrochemical plants. Chávez’s assistance to the Islamic Republic in circumventing U.N. sanctions has got the attention of the new Republican leadership of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, resulting in the May 23rd, 2011 announcement by the US State Department that it was imposing sanctions on the Venezuelan government-owned oil company Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) as a punishment for circumventing UN sanctions against Iran and assisting in the development of the Iran’s nuclear program.

Besides its sponsored terrorist groups, Iran also has a growing direct influence in Latin America, spurred by three principal motivations: 1) a quest for uranium, 2) a quest for gasoline, 3) a quest for a base of operations that is close to the US territory, in order to position itself to resist diplomatic and possible military pressure, possibly by setting up a missile base within striking distance of the mainland US, as the Soviets did in the Cuban Missile Crisis. FARC, Hezbollah and Al Qaeda all have training camps, recruiting bases and networks of mutual assistance in Venezuela as well as throughout the continent.

I have long argued that Latin America is an increasing source of funding for Middle Eastern terrorism and to overlook the political changes and security threats in the region with such geographic proximity to the US and its greatest source of immigrants is a huge strategic mistake. It was inevitable that South American cocaine traffickers and narcoterrorists would become of increasing importance to Hezbollah and other groups. While intelligence officials believe that Hezbollah used to receive as much as $200 million annually from its primary patron, Iran, and additional money from Syria, both these sources have largely dried up due to the onerous sanctions imposed on the former and the turmoil in the latter.

A recent New York Times front-page article (December 14, 2011) revealed the extensive and intricate connections between Hezbollah and South American cocaine trafficking. Far from being the passive beneficiaries of drug-trafficking expats and sympathizers, Hezbollah has high-level officials directly involved in the South American cocaine trade and its most violent cartels, including the Mexican gang Los Zetas. The “Party of God’s” increasing foothold in the cocaine trade is facilitated by an enormous Lebanese diaspora. As I wrote in my May 2011 e-note, in 2005, six million Muslims were estimated to inhabit Latin American cities. However, ungoverned areas, primarily in the Amazon regions of Suriname, Guyana, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and Brazil, present easily exploitable terrain over which to move people and material. The Free Trade Zones of Iquique, Chile; Maicao, Colombia; and Colón, Panama, can generate undetected financial and logistical support for terrorist groups. Colombia, Bolivia, and Peru offer cocaine as a lucrative source of income. In addition, Cuba and Venezuela have cooperative agreements with Syria, Libya, and Iran.

Some shocking revelations into the global interconnectedness of Latin American governments and Middle Eastern terrorist groups have come from Walid Makled, Venezuela’s latter-day Pablo Escobar, who was arrested on August 19, 2010 in Cúcuta, a town on the Venezuelan-Colombian border. A Venezuelan of Syrian descent known variously as “El Turco” (“The Turk”) or “El Arabe” (“The Arab”), he is allegedly responsible for smuggling 10 tons of cocaine a month into the US and Europe—a full 10 percent of the world’s supply and 60 percent of Europe’s supply. His massive infrastructure and distribution network make this entirely plausible, as well as entirely implausible the Venezuelan government did not know. Makled owned Venezuela’s biggest airline, Aeropostal, huge warehouses in Venezuela’s biggest port, Puerto Cabello, and bought enormous quantities of urea (used in cocaine processing) from a government-owned chemical company.

After his arrest and incarceration in the Colombian prison La Picota, Makled gave numerous interviews to various media outlets. When asked on camera by a Univisión television reporter whether he had any relation to the FARC, he answered: “That is what I would say to the American prosecutor.” Asked directly whether he knew of Hezbollah operations in Venezuela, he answered: “In Venezuela? Of course! That which I understand is that they work in Venezuela. [Hezbollah] make money and all of that money they send to the Middle East.” A prime example of the importance of the Lebanese diaspora in triangulating amongst South American cocaine and Middle Eastern terrorists, is Ayman Joumaa, a Sunni Muslim of the Medellín cartel with deep ties with Shiites in the Hezbollah strongholds of southern Lebanon. His indictment made public on Tuesday “charges him with coordinating shipments of Colombian cocaine to Los Zetas in Mexico for sale in the United States, and laundering the proceeds” (NY Times, Dec. 14, 2011).

The growing routes linking South American cocaine to Middle Eastern terrorists are primarily from Colombia through Venezuela. According to an April 2011 report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is the most prominent country of origin for direct cocaine shipments to Europe, with the cocaine coming mainly from Colombia, primarily the FARC and ELN terrorist groups. Shipments to Africa, mostly West Africa, gained in importance between 2004 and 2007, resulting in the emergence of a new key trans-shipment hub: centered on Guinea-Bissau and Guinea, stretching to Cape Verde, The Gambia and Senegal, thus complementing the already existing trafficking hub of the Bight of Benin, which spans from Ghana to Nigeria. As the cocaine is transported through Africa and into Europe, its safe passage is guaranteed (much as it was in Latin America) by terrorist groups—most prominently, Al Qaeda and Hezbollah. The cocaine can also travel from Latin America’s Tri‐Border Area (TBA)—bounded by Puerto Iguazu, Argentina; Ciudad del Este, Paraguay; and Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil—to West Africa (particularly Benin, Gambia and Guinea-Bissau, with its poor governance and vast archipelagos) and then north into Europe through Portugal and Spain or east via Syria and Lebanon.

Hezbollah’s traditional continental home has been the TBA, where a large, active Arab and Muslim community consisting of a Shi’a majority, a Sunni minority, and a small population of Christians who emigrated from Lebanon, Syria, Egypt and the Palestinian territories about 50 years ago. The TBA, South America’s busiest contraband and smuggling center, has long been an ideal breeding ground for terrorist groups, including Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah and Al Qaeda—the latter since 1995 when Osama bin Laden and Khalid Sheikh Mohammad first visited.

Hezbollah is still active in the TBA, according to Argentine officials. They maintain that with Iran’s assistance, Hezbollah carried out a car‐bomb attack on the main building of the Jewish Community Center (AMIA) in Buenos Aires on July 18, 1994, protesting the Israeli‐Jordanian peace agreement that year. Today, one of the masterminds of those attacks, the Iranian citizen and Shia Muslim teacher, Mohsen Rabbani, remains not only at large, but extremely active in recruiting young Brazilians, according to reports in Brazilian magazine Veja. This region, the third in the world for cash transactions (behind Hong Kong and Miami), continues to be an epicenter for the conversion and recruitment of a new generation of terrorists who then train in the Middle East and pursue their activities both there and in the Americas.

According to Lebanon’s drug enforcement chief, Col. Adel Mashmoushi, as cited in The New York Times, a main transportation route for terrorists, cash and drugs was aboard a flight commonly referred to as “Aeroterror,” about which I wrote in my May 2011 e-note for FPRI. According to my own secret sources within the Venezuelan government, the flight had the route Tehran-Damascus-Caracas-Madrid, where it would wait for 15 days, and flew under the direct orders of the Venezuelan Vice-President, according to the captain. The flight would leave Caracas seemingly empty (though now it appears it carried a cargo of cocaine) and returned full of Iranians, who boarded the flight in Damascus, where they arrived by bus from Tehran. The Iranian ambassador in Caracas would then distribute the new arrivals all over Venezuela.

I wrote in my May 2011 e-note that reports that Venezuela has provided Hezbollah operatives with Venezuelan national identity cards are so rife, they were raised in the July 27, 2010, Senate hearing for the recently nominated U.S. ambassador to Venezuela, Larry Palmer. When Palmer answered that he believed the reports, Chávez refused to accept him as ambassador in Venezuela. Thousands of foreign terrorists have in fact been given national identity cards that identify them as Venezuelan citizens and give them full access to the benefits of citizenship. In 2003, Gen. Marcos Ferreira, who had been in charge of Venezuela’s Department of Immigration and Foreigners (DIEX) until he decided to support the 2002 coup against Chávez, said that he had been personally asked by Ramón Rodríguez Chacín (who served as both deputy head of DISIP—Venezuela’s intelligence service, now renamed SEBIN—and Interior Minister under Chávez) to allow the illegal entry Colombians into Venezuela thirty-five times and that the DISIP itself regularly fast-tracked insurgents including Hezbollah and Al Qaeda. The newly-minted Venezuelan citizens during Ferreira’s tenure include 2,520 Colombians and 279 “Syrians.” And that was only during three of the past twelve years of an increasingly radicalized Chávez regime.

While Chávez has done more than anyone to strengthen these relationships with Middle Eastern terrorists, in an attempt to use what he calls “the International Rebellion” (including Hezbollah, Hamas and ETA) in order to negotiate with the US for power in Latin America, the coziness of the seemingly strange bedfellows dates back to the fall of the Soviet Union, when the USSR abandoned Cuba. At the Sao Paulo Forum of 1990, prominent Venezuelans and international terrorists were all in attendance, including: then-Venezuelan President Carlos Andrés Pérez (against whom Chávez attempted a coup in 1992); Alí Rodríguez, then-President of PDVSA (Petróleos de Venezuela, the government-owned oil company); Pablo Medina, a left-wing Venezuelan politician who initially supported Chávez, but has now moved to the opposition; as well as Fidel Castro, Moammar Qaddafi and leaders of the FARC, Tupamaros and Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path). The extent to which these alliances have deepened and become institutionalized is exemplified by the Continental Bolivarian Coordinator, the office that coordinates all the Latin American terrorists. According to a well-placed Venezuelan military source of mine, they are headquartered in the Venezuelan state of Barinas—the same state that is effectively a Chávez family fiefdom, with their sprawling family estate, La Chavera, and their total control of local politics. Their extreme anti-Semitism is not ideological, but simply out of convenience: to court and maintain Iranian support.

According to the Congressional Research Service, with enactment of the sixth FY2011 Continuing Resolution through March 18, 2011, (H.J.Res. 48/P.L. 112-6) Congress has approved a total of $1.283 trillion for military operations, base security, reconstruction, foreign aid, embassy costs, and veterans’ health care for the three operations initiated since the 9/11 attacks: Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) Afghanistan and other counter terror operations; Operation Noble Eagle (ONE), providing enhanced security at military bases; and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF).

Yet for all this massive spending on fighting terrorists and insurgents in the Middle East, we are leaving ourselves vulnerable to them here, on a number of fronts. First and foremost, the United States is under territorial threat through its Mexican border. Hezbollah operatives have already been smuggled, along with drugs and weapons, in tunnels dug under the border with the US by Mexican drug cartels. Only a week after my October 5th interview by KT McFarland on Fox, where I specifically warned of a possibility of this resulting in a terrorist attack carried out inside the US with the complicity of South American drug traffickers, the global press revealed a plot by the elite Iranian Quds Force to utilize the Mexican gang Los Zetas to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington in a bombing that would have murdered many Americans on their lunch hour.

Second, American assets in Latin America are under threat. Embassies, consulates, corporate headquarters, energy pipelines and American- or Jewish-sponsored community centers and American citizens have already been targeted by terrorist groups all over Latin America for decades: FARC in Colombia, Sendero Luminoso and Tupac Amaru in Peru and Hezbollah in Argentina. Al Qaeda is also rumored to have a strong presence in Brazil.

Third, while American soldiers give their lives trying to defeat terrorists and violent insurgents in the Middle East, these same groups are being supported and strengthened increasingly by Latin America, where they receive training, weapons and cash. This makes American military engagement far more costly by any metric: loss of life and financial cost.

Indeed over the last decade, Latin America is a region spiraling ever more out of American control. It is a region with which the United States has a growing asymmetry of power: it has more importance to the United States, while the United States is losing influence over Latin America, which remains the largest source of oil, drugs and immigrants, both documented and not. Latinos now account for 15 percent of the US population and nearly 50 percent of recent US population growth, as well as a growing portion of the electorate, as seen in the last presidential elections. The discovery of huge new oil reserves in Brazil and Argentina, that might even challenge Saudi Arabia, and the 2012 presidential elections in Venezuela, make Latin America of increasing strategic importance to the U.S., particularly as the future political landscape of the Middle East becomes ever more uncertain, in the wake of the Arab Spring and the political rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in previously secular Arab governments. The growth of transnational gangs and the resurgence of previously waning terrorist organizations pose complicated new challenges, as violence and murder cross the U.S. border, costing American lives and taking a huge toll on U.S. law enforcement. The United States needs to develop a smart policy to deal with these challenges.

So while the US is expending vast resources on the GWOT, the terrorists are being armed and reinforced by America’s southern neighbors, making the GWOT far more costly for the US and directly threatening American security. Even though Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez may be removed from the presidency either through an electoral loss in the October 7, 2012 presidential elections or through his battle with cancer, certain sectors of the Venezuelan government will continue to support international terrorism, whose activities, bases and training camps have now spread throughout this region. By understanding the dynamics of the increasingly entrenched narcoterrorist network, the U.S. can develop an effective policy to contend with these, whether or not President Chávez remains in power.

Author:
Vanessa Neumann
is a Senior Fellow of the Foreign Policy Research Institute and is co-chair, with FPRI Trustee Devon Cross, of FPRI’s Manhattan Initiative.

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Bank ledgers reveal Hezbollah drug racket

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Jo Becker, Beirut
December 15, 2011

LAST February, the Obama administration accused one of Lebanon‘s famously secretive banks of laundering money for an international cocaine ring with ties to the Shiite militant group Hezbollah.

Now, the bank’s ledgers have been opened to reveal the clandestine ways the ”Party of God” finances its operations.

Intelligence from several countries points to the direct involvement of high-level Hezbollah officials in the South American cocaine trade. On Tuesday, federal prosecutors in Virginia announced the indictment of the man at the centre of a case involving the Lebanese Canadian Bank, charging that he had trafficked drugs and laundered money for Colombian cartels and the Mexican gang Los Zetas.

US intelligence analysts believe that for years Hezbollah received as much as $US 200 million ($A198 million) annually from its main patron, Iran, along with additional aid from Syria. But that support has diminished as Iran’s economy buckles and Syria’s government battles rising unrest.

”The ability of terror groups like Hezbollah to tap into the worldwide criminal funding streams is the new post-9/11 challenge,” said Derek Maltz, a Drug Enforcement Administration official.

US Treasury officials said senior bank managers had helped a handful of account holders in a scheme to wash drug money by mixing it with the proceeds of used cars bought in the US and sold in Africa.

In all, hundreds of millions of dollars a year sloshed through the accounts, held mainly by Shiite Muslim businessmen in the drug-smuggling nations of West Africa.

Many of these were known Hezbollah supporters, trading in everything from rough-cut diamonds to cosmetics and frozen chicken.

Founded three decades ago as a guerilla force aimed at the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon, Hezbollah has never before had such a prominent place in the country’s official politics. Yet much of its power derives from its status as a state within the Lebanese state. In South America and in Europe, prosecutors began noticing Lebanese Shiite middlemen working for drug cartels. But the strongest evidence of an expanding Hezbollah role in the drug trade comes from the two investigations that ultimately led to the Lebanese Canadian Bank.

The trail began with a man known as ”Taliban”, overheard on Colombian wiretaps of a Medellin cartel.

In reality he was a Lebanese transplant, Chekri Mahmoud Harb, and in June 2007, he met in Bogota an undercover agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration and sketched out his route.

The undercover agent casually remarked that he must have Hezbollah connections. Mr Harb smiled and nodded, the agent reported. Agents had known that there was a major money launderer whose phone sat in Lebanon.

Now they had a name: Ayman Joumaa, owner of the Caesars Park Hotel, Beirut.

Eventually, an American team sent to look into Joumaa’s activities uncovered the used car operation.

The administration decided to invoke a rarely used provision of the Patriot Act. Since the bank had been found to be of ”primary money-laundering concern”, the Treasury Department could turn it into an international pariah by forbidding US financial institutions to deal with it. President Barack Obama was briefed, and in February, Treasury officials acted.

The indictment announced on Tuesday charges Joumaa with co-ordinating shipments of Colombian cocaine to Los Zetas in Mexico for sale in the US, and laundering the proceeds. The US has no extradition treaty with Lebanon, and Joumaa’s whereabouts are unknown.

Treasury’s Daniel Glaser said Lebanon’s Central Bank had shown its willingness to co-operate with the US in shutting down the Lebanese Canadian Bank and selling it to a ”responsible owner”.

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US Alleges Zetas-Hezbollah Funding Link

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Written by  Hannah Stone

U.S. authorities have accused a Lebanese man of selling Colombian cocaine to the Zetas and laundering money on their behalf, while using the profits to finance Hezbollah, a militant group based in Beirut.

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According to the latest indictment, Ayman Joumaa, aka “Junior,” (pictured) and his partners sold 85 tons of cocaine to the Zetas between 2005-2007, which was later trafficked into the U.S., and laundered some $850 million in their profits for the group, some of it through the Lebanese Canadian Bank. The latest charges do not mention Hezbollah, though Joumaa was accused earlier this year by the Treasury of being part of a drug trafficking and money laundering ring which financed the group, reports ProPublica.

According to the indictment, Joumaa’s group would charge the Zetas 8 to 14 percent for its money laundering services.

The story speaks to some of the U.S.’s worst fears about its enemies in the Middle East gaining ground in Latin America. ABC points out that

U.S. officials have long known about [Hezbollah] operating in South America’s tri-border area in Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina where the group runs drugs and large scale counterfeiting networks, according to U.S. officials. In recent years there has been more recent concern about the group establishing a footprint in Central America.

Slate looks at the other side of the deal, pointing out that Lebanon would be a good place for the Zetas to launder money, as it has highly secretive banking regulations, while there is a large Lebanese community in Mexico, with links to the Lebanese banking sector.

The case is reminiscent of a supposed plot revealed by U.S. authorities in October, which involved a representative of the Iranian intelligence service making contact with people he thought were members of the Zetas, in order to order a hit against Saudi Arabia’s ambassador in Washington. As with that case, which did not quite add up, it is worth treating with caution attempts to link Mexican trafficking groups to Muslim militants, which have often appeared to be more based on Washington’s fears than on evidence.

However, U.S. officials were cautious about asserting direct links between the two groups in the latest case, pointing out that “It’s not like there’s a sit-down between the leaders of Hezbollah and the Zetas,” as ProPublica reports.

A version of this article appeared on the Pan-American Post.

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