A new congressional report from the House Homeland Security Committee Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations and Management ties Middle East terror organizations to Mexican drug cartels.
The report, released Thursday, is titled “A Line in the Sand: Countering Crime, Violence and Terror at the Southwest Border.” It found that the “Southwest border has now become the greatest threat of terrorist infiltration into the United States.” It specifically cites a “growing influence” from Iranian and Hezbollah terror forces in Latin America.
“The presence of Hezbollah in Latin America is partially explained by the large Lebanese diaspora in South America,” the report reads. “In general, Hezbollah enjoys support by many in the Lebanese world community in part because of the numerous social programs it provides in Lebanon that include schools, hospitals, utilities and welfare.”
The congressional report, prepared by the subcommittee’s chairman, Texas Republican Rep. Michael McCaul, argues that the “explanation for Iranian presence in Latin America begins with its symbiotic relationship with Hezbollah.”
“United in their dedication to the destruction of Israel, Iran has helped Hezbollah grow from a small group of untrained guerrillas into what is arguably the most highly trained, organized and equipped terrorist organization in the world,” the report reads. “In return, Hezbollah has served as an ideal proxy for Iranian military force – particularly against Israel – which affords Iran plausible deniability diplomatically. Hence wherever Hezbollah is entrenched, Iran will be as well and vice-versa.”
McCaul’s report goes on to argue Iran’s increased presence in Latin America is because of the nation’s close relationship with Venezuela – which recently re-elected socialist leader Hugo Chavez.
The report found that Hezbollah’s “relationship with Mexican drug cartels,” has been “documented as early as 2005.”
Quoting former Drug Enforcement Administration executive Michael Braun, the report argues these ties are troubling. “Operatives from FTOs (foreign terrorist organizations) and DTOs (drug trafficking organizations) are frequenting the same shady bars, the same seedy hotels and the same sweaty brothels in a growing number of areas around the world,” Braun said in a statement quoted in the report. “And what else are they doing? Based upon over 37 years in the law enforcement and security sectors, you can mark my word that they are most assuredly talking business and sharing lessons learned.”
In October 2011, Iran apparently tried to exploit its ties to the drug cartels to conduct its eventually foiled assassination attempt on the Saudi ambassador to the United States.
“According to a federal arrest complaint filed in New York City, the [Iranian] Qods Force attempted to hire a drug cartel (identified by other sources as the Los Zetas) to assassinate Saudi Ambassador Adel al-Jubeir for a fee of $1.5 million,” the report reads. “The terror attack was to take place at a popular restaurant in Washington, D.C. without regard to collateral deaths or damage.”
“The Qods Force made this solicitation because it knows drug traffickers are willing to undertake such criminal activity in exchange for money,” the report continues. “Moreover, if this terror attack had been successful, the Qods Force intended to use the Los Zetas for other attacks in the future. Had it not been for a [Drug Enforcement Agency] DEA informant posing as the Los Zetas operative, this attack could have very well taken place.”
In a previous report, McCaul’s subcommittee documented “the emerging power and influence of the Mexican drug cartels along the Southwest border.”
“The report elaborated on the increasing cooperation between the drug cartels and prison and street gangs in the United States to facilitate the trafficking and sale of illicit drugs along with the enforcement of remunerations,” the recently-released report says of the previous report. “Those cartels diversified into other areas of criminality such as human smuggling and arms trafficking.”
In a statement, McCaul said that “Middle East terrorist networks that continue to plot against the United States are expanding their ties to Mexican drug trafficking organizations, better positioning themselves for a possible attack on our homeland.”
“This report documents the increased presence of Iran and Hezbollah in Latin America and addresses the growing concern that terrorist organizations will exploit burgeoning relationships with Mexican drug cartels to infiltrate the Southwest border undetected,” McCaul said.
The subcommittee is planning a Friday hearing to further discuss the report’s findings.