In the early days of the War on Terror, back when the United States was only fighting one war, in Afghanistan, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage made a bold statement: “Hezbollah may be the ‘A-Team of terrorists,’” Armitage said, referring to the Lebanese-based, Iranian-controlled organization, “and maybe al-Qaeda is actually the ‘B’-Team.”
Hezbollah has certainly been killing Americans for longer than al-Qaeda has – beginning in 1983 with the truck bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut which killed 241 Marines. As recently as June 2006, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State David Satterfield told reporters that Hezbollah teams were involved in attacking U.S.-led coalition forces in Iraq.
Now, in an alarming new development, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has broken apart an international drug smuggling and money laundering ring which links Hezbollah to the Colombian cocaine cartels though a Lebanese operative named Shukri Mahmud Harb.
This is the first time the U.S. has tied a terrorist organization to a major cocaine cartel. “The profits from the sale of drugs went to finance Hezbollah,” says Gladys Sanchez, the chief investigator for the special prosecutor’s office in Bogotá. The DEA took the lead on the investigation, which went by the code name Operation Titan.
According to documents unsealed by a federal magistrate in Miami last week, Harb, who lived in Bogotá and went by the alias “Taliban,” acted as the money man between the cocaine cartels and the terror organization. Described as a “world-class money-launderer,” Harb’s illegal financial transactions have spanned the globe – from Latin America to Asia – with a cut being diverted to fund terror.
“Harb traveled frequently to Syria, Egypt, and Lebanon, and his arrest occurred when he was about to leave Bogotá for Syria,” the Miami Herald reported last weekend. Also arrested in Operation Titan were 21 individuals in Colombia and “90 others in Panama, Guatemala, Lebanon, Hong Kong, and the United States.” According to the Colombian special prosecutor’s office, investigators analyzed more than 700,000 intercepted phone conversations from 370 tapped cell phone lines. Two other Middle Eastern men were also charged – a Jordanian named Ali Mohamad Abdul Rahim and a second Lebanese national named Zacaria Hussein Harb.
This new partnership will no doubt raise complications for President-elect Barack Obama in his proposed plans to open diplomatic talks with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. “Hezbollah in Lebanon is a proxy of Iran,” says former Middle East CIA operative Robert Baer in his new book, The Devil We Know. “It follows to the letter Iranian orders.”
This means that Iran is co-sponsoring Hezbollah along with the only global organization able to consistently smuggle tons of illegal goods into every single industrialized nation in the world including America – on a daily basis. Toss the Colombian cocaine cartels’ newest mode of transport into the mix – stealthy semi-submersible submarines, or “drug subs ” – and the national security ramifications in the Iran-Hezbollah-Colombia cocaine cartel triumvirate grow exponentially.
Vice President-elect Joe Biden summed up one resulting nightmare scenario just last month. On the eve of the Senate passing legislation directed against the cartels’ “use of submarines to smuggle drugs,” the senator from Delaware, who spearheaded the bill (S.3351), said, “If smugglers can pack tons of illegal drugs into these stealthy vessels, terrorists could carry weapons of mass destruction or other threats into our country the same way.”
Which is exactly what the terrorists – ‘A’-Team and ‘B’-Team members alike – already know.