Monday, August 29, 2016

Reports: Iran Recruiting Jihadists, Sponsoring Terror Through Latin American Embassies - Breitbart: "Iran is seeking to recruit potential jihadists in Latin America to attack the United States and is using its embassies in the region as intelligence centers that promote terrorism, according to an expert on the Islamic Republic’s presence in the Americas and an anonymous congressional source."

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"Iran is seeking to recruit potential jihadists in Latin America to attack the United States and is using its embassies in the region as intelligence centers that promote terrorism, according to an expert on the Islamic Republic’s presence in the Americas and an anonymous congressional source."

Global Terrorist, Criminal Networks Southcom’s Biggest Threat > U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE > Article

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WASHINGTON, March 11, 2016 — Global terrorist and criminal networks are U.S. Southern Command’s biggest threat, corrosively affecting the stability and security of the United States and every country they infect, Navy Adm. Kurt W. Tidd told a Senate panel yesterday.
The Southcom commander, testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee for the first time since taking command in January, also discussed how the fiscal year 2017 DoD budget request affects Southcom.
“No two networks are alike,” Tidd said. Some are international criminal enterprises focused on transporting any illicit cargo for the right price, he said, while others are small operations that smuggle desperate migrants.
Other networks support terrorist organizations through financing and the spread of violent extremist ideology, he told the panel.
Global competitors also threaten the region, the admiral said.
Global Challenges
“They operate deliberately in the Western Hemisphere as part of their broader global strategies. The most concerning of them is Russia, which portrays the United States in our theater as unreliable and as withdrawing from this pivotal region,” Tidd said.
Security in the Western Hemisphere connects directly to other parts of the world, the admiral said.
“Smuggling networks run through South America directly into our homeland [and] foreign terrorist fighters flow from the Caribbean to Syria and to Iraq,” Tidd added.
As part of its global strategy, he said, Russia tries to discredit U.S. reliability as a trustworthy partner in the United States’ own region.
“These issues transcend artificial boundaries and demand a transregional, united response,” the admiral said.
Colombia and FARC
Also in Southcom’s area of responsibility is Colombia, Tidd said, a country where the United States has worked for decades to help countering narcotrafficking and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarios de Colombia, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, called the FARC.
Yet, hard work remains to done in Colombia, the admiral said, including extending government influence into dangerous criminal-controlled territory, confronting the persistent threat of cocaine production and trafficking, and securing peace after more than 50 years of conflict.
“With the blood and treasure that they have already sacrificed,” Tidd said, “with all that they continue to do to export security across the region, the Colombian people have more than earned our sustained support.”
Central America
Regarding Central America, the admiral said Southcom recognized during the 2014 migrant crisis -- when nearly 500,000 Central American and Mexican migrants were apprehended on the U.S. border -- that what happens on the streets of San Salvador and Tegucigalpa has a direct impact on the streets of Tucson and Providence.
“Our Central American partners are doing all they can to win their countries back from vicious gangs and narcotraffickers, but they cannot do it alone. And because we remain the No. 1 world's consumer of illicit drugs, we owe it to them to do our part,” Tidd said.
Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, also in Southcom’s area of responsibility, the admiral said, “is where we conduct the most principled, humane detention operations anywhere in the world, and we will continue to do so until the very last detainee steps on an airplane and departs the island.”
Limited Resources
In response to a question about whether the fiscal year 2017 DoD budget request has adequate resources for Southcom, Tidd said it does not.
“I do not have the ships, I do not have the aircraft to be able to execute the detection-monitoring mission to the level that has been established for us to achieve,” he said.
Southcom’s U.S. partners in the region, including the Navy in the Caribbean and the Pacific, who coordinate with the law enforcement arm of the Coast Guard, need resources too, Tidd said.
“It is very much a team sport. The activities orchestrated by our Joint Interagency Task Force South in Key West, Florida, involve the efforts of all of the federal law enforcement agencies, [and] the Coast Guard, plays a very significant role,” the admiral said.
In the Southcom region, he added, the adversary is flexible and agile.
“It's like squeezing a balloon,” Tidd said. “When we squeeze in one place if we are not able to apply pressure across the entire breadth of the network they will adapt and move to the area that they think they can get into.”
Zika Outbreak
On the regional outbreak of Zika virus that began in Brazil, Tidd described Southcom’s role in such epidemics.
In May, the Pan American Health Organization issued an alert about the first confirmed Zika virus infection in Brazil. That outbreak, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, led to reports of Guillain-Barre syndrome and women giving birth to babies with microcephaly and other birth defects and having “poor pregnancy outcomes.”
During the 2014-2015 Ebola outbreak, Tidd said that a large interagency network was formed and Southcom was a key participant, and the group was re-energized with the Zika outbreak.
“We remain postured to respond to requests for assistance from our partner nations in Southcom. We have put out specific guidance to the men and women who are part of our command operating in that region,” the admiral told the panel.
Zika and Service Members
Protective measures that impact service members, he added, are the same measures that have been in place to protect them from exposure to dengue fever, chikungunya and other mosquito-borne illnesses.
To date, the only two male service members who have been diagnosed with Zika have recovered and returned to duty,” Tidd said.
One military family member, a pregnant female, has taken advantage of a policy that allows a return to the United States, Tidd said. The family already had been scheduled to return to the United States, so hers was a slightly accelerated return, he added.
“We're working with the countries, primarily on training in the mosquito eradication programs,” he said. “Their militaries are very heavily engaged in those activities, so that's where we stand, right now.”
The admiral said that the U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit No. 6 in Peru, part of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch, has been doing work in the development of experimental vaccines and disease-detection methods related to mosquito-borne diseases like Zika.
(Follow Cheryl Pellerin on Twitter: @PellerinDoDNews)
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Joseph Humire: Iran's Embassies in Latin America Function More as Intelligence Centers

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The executive director at the Center for a Secure Free Society (SFS) Joseph Humire
Coinciding with the Iranian Foreign Minister’s visit to South America, analysts specializing in security affairs and the fight against terrorism said that the consolidation of relations with Iran is an extension of the terrorist Lebanese group Hezbollah’s might in the continent.
In an exclusive interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, the executive director at the Center for a Secure Free Society (SFS) Joseph Humire revealed the reality of the Lebanese Hezbollah’s activities in Latin America and how Iran is using its embassies there as intelligence centers.
How does Hezbollah operate in Latin America?
Hezbollah operates on two levels in Latin America – on a licit and illicit level. Firstly, on the illicit level, Hezbollah operates through a variety of front companies and illicit businesses used to launder money and move drugs from Latin America to Africa and the Middle East. Operation Titan, a two year case that Colombian and US agents worked on, uncovered a multi-ton, multi-million dollar cocaine trafficking ring in 2008 that led to the arrest of 130 individuals, namely Ayman Joumaa who is designated as a Hezbollah kingpin. More recently, the DEA identified more individuals and entities within Hezbollah’s business and banking network through Project Cassandra. The bottom line is that Hezbollah is intricately involved in the illicit (human, arms, narcotics) trafficking networks of Latin America.
Secondly, on the licit level, Hezbollah is present in various Islamic communities throughout the region, namely Syrian and Lebanese communities, where they establish themselves through Islamic centers and mosques. The Yousseff and Barakat brothers from the Tri-Border Area are examples of this, and they both exported their networks to other countries (i.e. Chile and Brazil, respectively). These networks have now spread as far north as El Salvador and Mexico. Through these communities they raise money for Hezbollah proper in the homeland (Lebanon) and establish logistical networks for sleeper cells strategically placed throughout the region. These communities are also how Hezbollah communicates and cooperates with Iran in Latin America.
How long have they been in Latin America?
Hezbollah has been in Latin America since it was founding in the early 1980s, and was originally in the Tri-Border Area (Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina) and surrounding cities in the Southern Cone of South America. Over time, it steadily spread north into Central America and the Caribbean and now has a presence in Mexico as well. Hezbollah has been in Latin America for more than 30 years.
Which countries are they in?
Hezbollah is in practically every country throughout Latin America. It would be easier to name the countries Hezbollah is not operating in but that might be because I simply don’t know of their particular presence in that country, not necessarily because they are not there. The northern Caribbean (Dom Rep, Puerto Rico, Haiti, etc.) is an area where I have not detected a heavy Hezbollah presence, although they are in Cuba. Their heaviest presence I would say is in Venezuela, Panama, Colombia and Brazil, while still maintaining a significant presence in the TBA, namely Paraguay.
How does Iranian terrorism operate in Latin America?
Iran sponsors terrorism in Latin America by supporting Hezbollah and other terrorist groups through its various embassies throughout the region. Iran’s embassies in Latin America function more as intelligence centers than diplomatic outposts, which provide command and control over some of the Hezbollah networks in the region. The tactical playbook for the AMIA attack in 1994 in Argentina is the best example of how this network operates, and how Iran and Hezbollah coordinate to conduct terrorist attacks. What you learn from studying the AMIA case is that the Iranian embassies use cultural and commercial exchange with Latin American countries to insert its intelligence (MOIS) and military (IRGC) operatives who then augment Hezbollah networks with increased logistical and financial support.
As an example, prior to the AMIA attack in Argentina extending to the current day in Brazil, Iran exploits one of their most important and only legitimate commercial links in the region: the beef trade. By introducing the Halal (permissible) process in Latin America, Iran established the perfect cover for its undercover operatives.
According to Islamic law, all meat imported to Iran must be Halal certified, thus, Iran created Halal certification companies in Argentina to send inspectors who turned out to be intelligence operatives that prepared the AMIA attack. Mohsen Rabbani, the infamous Iranian cleric accused of being the mastermind of the AMIA attack in Argentina, initially entered the country as a Halal beef inspector.
In Brazil, SFS researched this network of Halal beef businesses extensively and found a phantom Iranian “consulate” that was officially registered in São Paulo but did not provide any consular services. This consulate was registered at the same address as several Iranian Halal certification companies, which led us to believe that the same kind of cultural-commercial-diplomatic nexus used prior to the AMIA attack in Argentina is currently active in Brazil. Today, similar activity is taking place in Colombia and Peru.
Are some Latin American counties supporting this terrorism? Why? Which countries?
Iran has made significant inroads in the countries that belong to the Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas (Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, El Salvador, and some Caribbean countries). These countries provide state support to Iran’s network, both their formal networks and their clandestine ones. More than 75% of the bilateral agreements Iran has signed with Latin America are with these specific countries, and three of these countries stood up a new Iranian embassy within the last decade.
With regards to terrorism, these countries have their own proxy networks (i.e. Cocaleros in Bolivia, Colectivos in Venezuela, etc.) that have benefited from Iran’s expertise in this area. For instance, Iran’s Basij militia helped train the Venezuelan colectivos on clandestine communication prior to their repression of student movements in 2014. In return, these ALBA countries provide several benefits to Iran, most notably immigration services. Again, Venezuela is a case in point.
From 2008 to 2012, our research at SFS identified at least 173 individuals from Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, or Jordan who received fraudulent passports, visas or birth certificates from Venezuela. This means that these ALBA countries have created an intelligence and immigration pipeline that provides cover and concealment for some Iranian and Hezbollah operatives to move freely and undetected throughout the region.
Beyond terrorism, these ALBA countries have also established military ties with Iran. In Venezuela, Iran has important strategic mil-mil programs with Venezuela’s military industry (CAVIM). In Bolivia, Iran helped fund the ALBA regional defense school in Warnes, near Santa Cruz. In Ecuador, they established a banking network that is closely tied to that country’s central bank. In Nicaragua, Iran is present within military circles and in Cuba, they have their most longstanding relationship in Latin America with the Castro brothers. I believe Iran’s presence in Latin America has moved beyond supporting terrorism (although that is still a concern) and has entered a new phase of military and paramilitary engagement.
Should the non-ALBA counties be scared of the relationship between Iran and ALBA?
Yes, but not just because of Iran’s relationship with ALBA but also because Iran has focused on the non-ALBA countries as their primary target in recent years. Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina, being the largest countries in the region in terms of GDP would be Iran’s geopolitical prize in Latin America and as such the Islamic Republic has focused on these countries. Moreover, Colombia, Chile, and Peru, have also been a focus for Iran because of their status as members of the Pacific Alliance.
The relationship Iran has with ALBA countries is a major factor as to why Iran has been able to exponentially expand its regional presence. Iran can easily use their ties to the ALBA as a proxy or surrogate force in Latin America to do its bidding. In this sense, Iran’s activity in Venezuela can prove very destabilizing to Colombia who already has tensions on the border with that country.
In Bolivia, Iran’s activity could heighten tensions with Chile over access to the ocean. These types of proxy conflicts is how Iran leverages its control in the region. No different than how it operates in the Middle East, subverting the governments in Iraq, Syria, Turkey, and increasingly Bahrain, then using those governments to carry out actions favorable to Iran’s strategic interests.
Iran’s use of proxy networks in Yemen is another example of a different method of population control it has specialized in. These same methods and same specialities is why Iran has seen so much success in Latin America, and most regional governments don’t even realize they are doing this.
In essence, as Iran gains more global legitimacy it becomes easier for it to infiltrate and subvert targeted countries around the world. The nuclear deal with the P5+1 has provided this legitimacy and it is now capitalizing on this in Latin America with the current visit of Iranian FM Zarif to ALBA countries and Chile. Iran has already proven to be capable of doing this in the Middle East, it is now showing that it is capable of doing this in Latin America.
How do the drug cartels operate with Hezbollah? What other activities do they undertake in Latin America?
The drug cartels depend on Hezbollah to transport their products through Africa into Europe and the Middle East. While not exclusive to Hezbollah, the Lebanese terrorist group has dominated certain routes that make it essential for drug cartels to get their products in eastern markets. Hezbollah has also established an impressive business and banking network that can launder massive sums of money that is useful for the drug cartels in the region.
Does Hezbollah get protection from some Latin American countries? Can it use this protection to strengthen and attack other countries?
Yes, although it is not clear to what extent. It is clear that Venezuela has provided state support in terms of immigration and banking to Hezbollah but it is not clear in what other areas. It is also clear that Hezbollah has established “safe zones” in places like Margarita Island and Ciudad Bolivar. The Venezuelan government has repeatedly denied these claims, but over time more evidence has been publicly revealed of Venezuela’s support to Hezbollah. The most significant, in my opinion, is the immigration services the Venezuelan government has provided for Hezbollah and Iran. For any foreign terrorist organization or intelligence service, having the ability to change or conceal your identity through a legitimate cover provided by a partner nation is a dream come true. Venezuela has provided this service to Hezbollah as the top regional partner of Iran. Bolivia is another country of concern in this regard, but it is not clear to what extent. Nor has much evidence been made public in regard to Bolivia’s support to Hezbollah.


Iran Masked with Diplomacy to Support Its Nuclear Production in South America

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Caracas- It looks like Iran has been roving freely in the U.S. backstage, after it has become unsatisfied with only intervening in the Arab and regional internal affairs. The visit of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to five nations of Latin America on August 21, leaked by the ministry…
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Iran Deepens Political, Religious Split in South America

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Lima- Peruvian media outlets were lately busy with Iran’s political and religious activities in Peru, particularly following a decision taken by some nationals to converted to Shi’ism and establish a political entity in the country under the name of “Hezbollah” similar to the so-called Lebanese Hezbollah. The Peruvian young men…
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Latin America Takes Action to Control Hezbollah’s Activities

Latin America Takes Action to Control Hezbollah’s Activities

Buenos Aries- Mexican intelligence, in cooperation with Canadian intelligence services, has recently revealed activities for the Lebanese Hezbollah under Iranian support being detected in Latin America, at Venezuela, Mexico, Nicaragua, Chile, Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador, in addition to the zone between the Paraguay, Argentine, and Brazil border triad. George Shea, expert…
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Reports: Iran Recruiting Jihadists, Sponsoring Terror Through Latin American Embassies

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by Edwin Mora29 Aug 2016Washington, D.C.7


Iran is seeking to recruit potential jihadists in Latin America to attack the United States and is using its embassies in the region as intelligence centers that promote terrorism, according to an expert on the Islamic Republic’s presence in the Americas and an anonymous congressional source.

The expert warned that Latin America operations linked to Iran’s narco-terrorist proxy Hezbollah, a Lebanese Shiite group, have spread as far north as Mexico.


Their comments echo concerns recently expressed by the U.S. military and the State Department about Iran’s presence and Hezbollah activities in Latin America.
Video: Ash Carter tells troops in Abu Dhabi they are part of Iran deterrent
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Joseph Humire, an expert on Iranian influence in Latin America and executive director at the Center for a Secure Free Society (SFS), in a recent exclusive interview with Asharq Al-Awsat declared:
These [Hezbollah] networks have now spread as far north as El Salvador and Mexico. Through these communities they raise money for Hezbollah proper in the homeland (Lebanon) and establish logistical networks for sleeper cells strategically placed throughout the region…Hezbollah is in practically every country throughout Latin America…
Iran sponsors terrorism in Latin America by supporting Hezbollah and other terrorist groups through its various embassies throughout the region. Iran’s embassies in Latin America function more as intelligence centers than diplomatic outposts, which provide command and control over some of the Hezbollah networks in the region.
The remarks about Iran in Latin America come amid a six-nation tour in the region by the Islamic Republic’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif.
An anonymous senior congressional source recently told the Washington Free Beacon that Iran is seeking to recruit “potential terrorists who want to cause the U.S. harm.”
The source added:
[Hezbollah operatives] can travel easily to Venezuela, and once there, they can get to Nicaragua or Cuba without passports or visas, which poses a national security risk for our nation…
Just recently, a Hezbollah member was picked up in Brazil, an explosive device was found near the Israeli embassy in Uruguay, and Hezbollah members are reportedly traveling on Venezuelan passports. It was not too long ago that Venezuela offered flights to Iran and Syria, and as of last week, Hezbollah cells were found in the West Bank where Venezuela lifted its visa requirements for Palestinians.
The expert, Humire, said that Iran has established a close relationship with the left-leaning countries that belong to the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, also known for its Spanish acronym ALBA, including Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, El Salvador, and some other Caribbean nations.
He added that some Latin American governments — particularly Venezuela, which has refused to cooperate with the United States on anti-terrorism operations in the region — are providing protection to Hezbollah operatives.
The State Department has reached similar conclusions, changing its tune from 2013 when it determined that Iran’s influence in the Western Hemisphere was “waning.”
In a report released earlier this year, the department warned against Hezbollah-linked activities in Latin America, adding that the anti-U.S. Venezuelan government provides a “permissive environment” that promotes ideological and financial support for the Shiite terror group, which is engaged in the trafficking of drugs and humans in the region.
Retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, the former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), told Breitbart News Daily on Friday that the Shiite terrorist group is illegally trafficking drugs and humans into the United States.
Gen. Flynn’s comments about the threat Hezbollah poses to the United States echo the warnings by the anonymous congressional source and reports prepared by the top U.S. military leader in Latin America and the Caribbean, Navy Adm. Kurt Tidd, chief of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM).
Breitbart News learned from the U.S. military last year that Hezbollah and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) are using a rapidly growing number of Iranian cultural centers spread across Latin America to expand the Islamic Republic’s covert recruitment operations in the region.
In a statement about the Iranian foreign minister’s visit to Latin America, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R., Fla.), chair of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, said:
Iran’s latest inroads into our Hemisphere should come as no surprise in the wake of the Obama administration’s misguided nuclear deal. Flush with cash from sanctions relief and ransom payments, Zarif will no doubt seek to bolster the foothold Iran has been building in recent years, especially through its terrorist proxy Hezbollah…
Tehran’s classic playbook is to use cultural centers, new embassies or consulates, or cooperative agreements on various areas to act as façades aimed at expanding Iran’s radical extremist network. The threat to U.S. national security interests and our allies should be setting off alarm bells.
A recent Breitbart News analysis of U.S. government data found that the United States has apprehended 916 illegals from terrorism-linked countries along the Southwest border alone since 2014, including 12 Iranians. Moreover, Breitbart News found that U.S. government data shows the Muslim population in Latin America has increased 25 percent to nearly 3 million in recent years, amid U.S. military concerns of Islamic radicalization and recruitment by jihadi groups such as Hebollah in the region.

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