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IBD Editorials

Iran's Hezbollah Creeping Toward Our Doorstep

Posted 09/07/2012 06:34 PM ET

National Security: With America's focus turned to elections, enemies are not resting idle. Well beneath the radar, terrorists such as Hezbollah and their anti-U.S. allies are creeping toward our border.

National Security: With U.S. focus on elections, America's enemies are not resting idle. South of our border, Marxist-Islamofascist activity is surging. From beneath the radar, the war on terror is creeping toward our border.A first clue that all is not quiet on the southern front can be found in the latest news:
— U.S. Marines are reportedly hunting for Los Zetas cartel members in south Guatemala in "Operation Martillo."
— Two CIA employees were accidentally shot by Mexican Federales at a checkpoint ahead of a drug training session in Mexico.
— Navy SEALs are reportedly on a mission to hunt down Sinaloa Cartel kingpin Chapo Guzman, who may be hiding out in Mexico, northern Honduras or the tri-corner area of Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil.

These are not ordinary law enforcement operations, like the large-scale Drug Enforcement Administration task force that destroyed Colombia's Medellin Cartel in 1993.
They are national security operations, led by the Departments of State and Defense, whose strategic statements say their first mission is to defend the U.S. and its interests.

The operations seem to have the appearance of hunting for drugs. But their real mission is to end the threat of cartels that are not only menacing small Central American states, but also acting as critical intermediaries for terror groups such as Hezbollah.

In testimony to Congress last year, Gen. Douglas Fraser noted that the Southern Command was watching for "the implications of activities of nations such as Iran in our area of responsibility."
The Iranian-linked terror organization uses cartels to run arms into the U.S. and draws backing from de facto state sponsors of terror such as Nicaragua, Cuba and Venezuela, creating an unholy triangle.
According to Jon Perdue, author of a new book, "The War of All The People," these anti-American states, the drug cartels and Islamofascist terrorists have now forged an alliance not seen since the '70s or '80s.
"Three impending events — the Venezuelan elections in October, the U.S. elections in November and what Israel discerns as the closing window of opportunity in which a strike on Iran would have a reasonable chance of success — are all increasing the pressure to know what's going on south of our border," Perdue told IBD.
"Iran's proxies have been in the region for enough time to pose a cross-border threat to the U.S. in retaliation for any Israeli strike."
U.S. officials in far-flung places are sounding the same warning of possible attacks:
"We are increasingly concerned about Hezbollah's activities on a number of fronts, including their stepped-up terrorism campaign around the world with their members' and supporters' growing involvement in large-scale, international criminal activity," said an anonymous U.S. diplomatic source in an interview last month with Lebanon Now.
"Our assessment is that Hezbollah and Iran will both continue to maintain a heightened level of terrorist activity and operations in the near future."
That makes the recent news from Israeli Radio that Iran has set up and supplied a Hezbollah training camp for 30 terrorists in Nicaragua near the Honduran border all the more significant. The base serves as a "meeting point for drug cartels" to acquire weapons and launder money, Israeli Radio says.
Incredibly, it's not the first such base in our hemisphere. Iran already has a forward operating base in north Venezuela, where a hostile, anti-American regime is a magnet for terror and drug groups.

Eighty percent of Colombian cocaine is shipped through the country, presumably with help from the Venezuelan military. The U.S. lists Venezuela's defense minister, Henry Rangel Silva, as a drug kingpin with ties to Hezbollah and FARC.

As a result, national security agencies are involved in an improbable surge of drug operations at least partly fueled by Iran's terror presence. As defense agencies move into drug cases, DEA drug ops are morphing into national security cases as well.

"Last month," according to DEA administrator Michele M. Leonhart, "DEA seized $150 million from the Lebanese-Canadian Bank after gathering evidence that the bank laundered Venezuelan- and Colombian-origin drug money on behalf of Los Zetas and Hezbollah." The bank "played a key role in facilitating money laundering for Hezbollah controlled organizations around the globe."

DEA also thwarted a plot by Iranian state agents who conspired with Los Zetas — again — to kill the Saudi Arabian ambassador in Washington, D.C., in October 2011.
"Hezbollah are absolute masters at forming close relationships with existing crime groups around the world that helps them facilitate what they need to do to move their agenda forward," Michael Braun, former DEA chief of operations, told CNS News last February. "I don't want to sound too crude, but I think there's going to be hell to pay in the not-too-distant future."

This is worth noting, because the U.S. has been caught off guard in the past. The Obama administration has already cut the military budget for these operations and is reluctant to confront Hezbollah's sponsors such as Venezuela even when the evidence of its complicity is obvious. Venezuela, President Obama has said, "is not a threat." He also leaves our border unguarded.

Iran, however, seems to be looking for a way to a wedge to project power. The mounting evidence is that as we sleep, it has found one through the rogue states and drug cartels of Latin America.

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One of the things that most people don't realize is that terror groups invariably resort to crime to finance their operations, and criminal cartels in that environment tend to become policized by the activity, because it provides them with cover (elite opinion-makers are much less likely to condemn criminal violence if it has a liberation meme attached). The Russian anarchists of the 1900s indulged in all manner of graft, extortion and robbery in order to finance themselves, and professional criminals soon found themselves in demand because of their expertise in these areas, and as they merged, the politics took a backseat to the plunder. Since then, there's been, at best, a very fine line between criminal gangs and terror groups. Today, the drug cartels in Mexico are allying themselves with Hezbollah because of similar convergences of goals and methods. This, combined with our open southern border, constitutes a genuine threat to the US.