Op-Ed

Jihad in our hemisphere

FERRÉ
FERRÉ

Two weeks ago, Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, stood before the United Nations expressing his country’s concern over the spread of global terrorism, words that were well-received by many countries, including the United States. The United States certainly needs the support of Arab nations as it proceeds with airstrikes in Iraq. But this necessitates turning a blind eye toward Iran’s hypocrisy.

The United States and most of the world have known, or at least should know, that Iran has been an active participant in global terrorism for years, and there is growing evidence that Iran has established a lucrative financial network in Latin America. And Iran is not alone; Hezbollah is also mining the region for funds and recruits right in the United States’ backyard.

The news for most Americans is that this has been going on for years.

One of the most notorious terrorist attacks in South America occurred in 1992 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, when a bomb was detonated at the Israeli embassy. The attack killed 29. Two years later, a Jewish community center was bombed resulting in the deaths of 85 innocent people. The Argentine special prosecutor who investigated this case, Alberto Nisman, concluded in a 500-page report that Iran was responsible for both bombings. Further, Nisman’s report says that Hezbollah works as a surrogate for Iran.

Many analysts agree that Iran has been active in Latin America since the 1980s and that its influence is expanding. It has been setting up intelligence operations through its embassies, and Hezbollah, a Shiite Lebanese terrorist group, is colluding with drug cartels for financial support. They reportedly are also involved in money laundering, piracy and counterfeiting that, according to the U.S. Naval War College, has proved quite profitable. A 2004 War College study concluded that these operations along the border of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay netted Hezbollah $10 million a year.

In 2009, the RAND Corporation doubled that estimate to $20 million; today the estimate has risen to $100 million.

Although making money is part of their mission in Latin America, Iran and Hezbollah also find the region fertile ground for recruiting Lebanese immigrants, particularly in Argentina and Brazil, which have the largest Muslim populations in the region..

The Venezuelan government has been found to have issued at least 173 legal passports and visas for the purpose of placing Islamic extremists in Canada. These are the findings of a disturbing report, “Canada on Guard,” by the Center for a Secure Free Society. The report highlights the findings of Sebastian Rotella, a senior investigative reporter of ProPublica, who reveals a scheme of organized crime and, possibly, terrorist operatives between Venezuela and Iran. Cuba is involved as well, working with Venezuela through the 50,000 government agents that “advise” the Nicolás Maduro regime.

Last week, J.D. Gordon, a former Pentagon spokesman and now senior fellow at the Center for a Secure Free Society, briefed the staff of the House Foreign Affairs Committee about these concerns.

“The No. 1 security threat in the hemisphere is radical Islam, and it is a two-headed threat. The first is from Iran and its terror proxy, Hezbollah, of the Shiite branch, and the second is from radical Sunni terror groups like al Qaida and Khorasan, both groups [that] want to wipe Israel off the map and drive the U.S. out of the Middle East,” Gordon told me in an interview from Washington D.C.

Venezuela and Cuba, among others, have created a subversive criminal-terrorist immigration pipeline taking full advantage of Canada’s more open immigration policies and cultural, soft-power initiatives. Caution! — 21st-century terrorist groups work in cells throughout transnational environments. They are everywhere, including in the United States. In 2011, for example, an Iranian plot to kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States in a restaurant in Washington D.C., was foiled. One of the men apprehended was Manssor Arbabsiar, a naturalized U.S. citizen who held both U.S. and Iranian passports.

Arbabsiar had approached a man in Mexico he knew to be a member of a criminal cartel and offered to pay him $1.5 million to kill the Saudi ambassador. It turned out that the man in Mexico was an informant for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.

Venezuela and Cuba also are aiding jihadists in our hemisphere. It’s clear that the war against Muslim extremists is already being fought within our borders. Americans just don’t know it yet.

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